What sources can traffic from Russia be redirected to?

Publication date: 15 Mar 2022

After the political and economic situation in the world changed globally in February 2022, Internet marketing faced its own challenges. Many sources of quality traffic have left the Russian space, some have been blocked or have changed the conditions for selling and buying advertising.  Where has the Russian audience gone from the blocked sources and where can the traffic be redirected to?

Data as of 14 April 2022. The information is constantly being updated! 

Russian singer Valeria will launch music social network Musicgram. According to the artist, the service will bring together representatives of the Russian creative industry. Anna, the wife of billionaire Farhad Akhmedov, has become Valeria’s partner in the project.

The short video service Coub will continue to operate under the leadership of a “new team”.  By the end of last year, the audience of the video hosting service was about 3 million people a month. The feature of embedding clips on other sites allowed the platform to gather an additional 5.5 million unique users per month.

From April 11, the music streaming service Spotify will completely stop working in Russia. The company has clarified that this is a temporary measure, but nothing is known about the timing of the return.

On 7 April, Roskomnadzor imposed a ban on the promotion of Google services and also obliged search engines to mark the company as a foreign entity in violation of Russian law.

  • !Important: Russian advertising on Google services is not banned. Only the advertising of Google services themselves is banned. Google Search, Google Play, YouTube, YouTube Music, Google Chat and Gmail services should be labelled as violating Russian legislation.

The Russian authorities do not envisage penalties for connecting to social networks. “There is no liability in the law, including criminal law, for having accounts in social networks. The purpose of the mentioned actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office is to protect the rights of citizens, and to block extremist resources, not criminal repression against Russian citizens,” Senator Andrey Klishas told the citizens.

Which traffic sources no longer work in Russia?

On 23 March, Roskomnadzor restricted access to Google.News.  The Play Store was blocked along with Google News. According to the Globalcheck platform, the play.google.com app shop website is not accessible in Russia.

Microsoft has disabled Mail. ru’s access to its servers. VK, which is developing Mail. ru, is working on a new solution with the company MyOffice.

On 21 March 2022, a Russian court ruled that the US-based Meta Platforms Inc. (it owns the social networks Instagram and Facebook as well as WhatsApp messenger) as an extremist organisation and banned its activities in the Russian Federation.

How to work with Instagram and Facebook now? 

You can:

  • Publish any information about Meta Corporation, but labelled “activities are banned in Russia”.
  • Have and maintain Facebook and Instagram accounts.
  • Use the What’s App messenger (court decision does not apply to its activities).

Not allowed: 

  • Displaying the logo of Meta Platforms, Inc. and its owned social networks Facebook and Instagram (administrative penalty up to 15 days of arrest under Article 20.3 of the Criminal Code) is prohibited. .
  • The purchase of advertisements on Instagram and Facebook, as well as trading in Meta shares, can now be regarded in Russia as financing extremism (criminal liability under Article 282.3 of the Russian Criminal Code).

 According to RBC, the number of Facebook users dropped by more than 40% and Instagram by 16% during the 10 days of the blocking. How did it all start? On 4 March, Roskomnadzor “took measures to partially restrict access in the form of slowing down traffic” to the social network Facebook due to discrimination against some official Russian media. Instagram was also restricted (hiding subscriptions of users from Russia and Ukraine, Russian language disabled).

  • Almost 99% of Russia’s largest advertisers suspended Instagram and Facebook campaigns due to the slowdown of social network traffic by Roskomnadzor.
  • At the same time, representatives of Meta said that they did not intend to disconnect Facebook and Instagram in Russia on their own.

On 11 March 2022, information emerged about a change in moderation rules: Meta allowed calls for violence against Russian citizens.  The Prosecutor General’s Office demanded that Instagram be blocked and that Meta be declared an extremist organisation. On 14 March 2022, Roskomnadzor added Instagram to its register of banned websites. Officially, the social network is blocked throughout Russia. Recall that Meta also owns the messenger WhatsApp. All of you should urgently switch to Telegram!  Roskomnadzor has said that Instagram’s access has been restricted. 

The messenger Slack has disabled some Russian customers. Users complained that their workspaces or even accounts were deleted without warning and without being able to save their data.

The short video service Coub will stop operating on 1 April. Users now have the option to download their videos from the platform. The service was launched in 2012 and allowed users to create short looped videos and post them on its platform.

On 4 March 2022, Google stopped placing and selling advertising in Russia. Restrictions affected search results, YouTube and the affiliate network. 

  • On March 10, the Google Cloud service suspended registration of new customers from Russia.
  • Even earlier, Google had banned Russian users from buying applications in Play Market. At the moment, it is only possible to use free content, all previously purchased applications will work. 
  • Google Pay payment service has stopped making payments for Russians. Read more about all payment systems: What payment systems work in Russia?

Starting March 10, 2022 YouTube stopped all monetization features for Russian users: Premium and Youtube Music subscriptions, sponsorship, superchat, superstickers and merch. Prior to that, the platform stopped showing advertisements to Russian viewers, a portion of the revenue from which was going to the authors of the videos.

On March 7, TikTok suspended the ability to upload new videos and host live broadcasts for authors from Russia. The platform itself attributed this to security concerns following the adoption of the “fake news” law.  It also emerged afterwards that Russian users could no longer access recordings from other countries, only domestic clips could be watched. Consequently, videos of Russian clients are not shown abroad either. New ad campaigns cannot be launched; all existing ones are re-moderated for the presence of political advertising.

  • How to bypass the blocking of TikTok? Some users have already found a way of bypassing: you need to connect a foreign virtual SIM card to your account instead of a Russian one.
  • In 2021, TikTok became the most visited website in the world, with an audience of more than 1 billion people. 

Access to Twitter is restricted by Roskomnadzor.  You can’t do anything: watch, read, post, buy ads. The streaming service Twitch has stopped payments to Russian streamers due to problems with payment systems amid sanctions.

Which sources continue to work and where to find an audience from Russia?

“Yandex is preparing to sell News and Zen services, with VK holding as a possible buyer. “Yandex has decided to concentrate on the development of search, technology and urban services. It is not yet known how the services will continue to operate after the sale. 

The international Internet registrar RIPE has given sanctioned Russian companies a reprieve on payments. VK Group plans to relaunch its messengers ICQ and MyTeams. The company may create its own corporate messaging service on the basis of the latter. The relaunch is scheduled for the summer of 2022. 

The Russian business network Tenchat on 16 March was ranked fifth in the social networking category of the App Store (it is also available on Google Play). The app was created for searching and placing tenders as well as was published under the name “GosTinder”. Now the creators have added a messenger, the ability to create posts and are urgently expanding the possibilities for communication and work.

The Disk-O cloud storage app from Mail.ru Cloud is temporarily free for all users. The service allows you to connect 13 different cloud storages to transfer content between them in a single click. The service supports Mail.ru Cloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Yandex.Disk and other popular clouds, as well as the WebDav protocol.  

Russian users are actively seeking replacements for familiar services and entertainment. In this regard, the audience of Yappy, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki and Rutube has grown significantly in recent days.

  • “The withdrawal of foreign platforms from Russia is a sad trend, it is a threat, but it is also an opportunity for Russian platforms”, stated Gazprom-Media. 

Data provided by Gazprom-Media (March 9, 2022), i.com and Similar Web Pro research (from 24.02 to 06.03), Romir Research Holding (from 24.02 to 10.03).

Due to the block of TikTok and Facebook in the Russian Federation, Russian users migrated to the VKontakte network. On 15 March, the social network set a record for the number of users, with more than 50 million daily visitors.

  • The number of registrations has quadrupled.
  • The number of new friendships has increased by 250%, users have been added as friends by tens of millions of times every day.
  • The number of comments under posts increased by 25%.
  • Users watched more videos – by 15.5%.
  • The number of feed views increased by 25%.

Until April 10 VKontakte will have the biggest support program for bloggers: the authors will get 100% of income from monetization tools (“Affiliate Program,” “Market Platform,” “Monetization of Video” and VK Donut). Video and audio content can be monetized in communities of 5,000 people or more.

  • By the end of the year 2021, the revenue of the platform increased by 21.9% to 27.9 billion roubles. 

The Odnoklassniki social network (VK group) increased the number of authors by 20%. According to other data, there are no particular changes in audience and time of attendance. This is one of the most stable social networks with an established micro-community, communication style, and justified audience expectations.  A record-breaking audience inflow was recorded in March, with the growth in user registrations on the social network exceeding 66%. The number of new businesses that launched promotion in their personal accounts on Odnoklassniki from March 14 to 20 tripled compared to the previous week. We are talking about personal business profiles and groups of small and medium-sized businesses. Absolute figures were not disclosed. The number of goods posted on Odnoklassniki increased six-fold during the week, to 200,000 a day. Most frequently sold goods and services are products of the following categories: “Beauty and Health” (+268%), “Construction and Repair” (+204%), “Domestic Services” (+202%), “Education and Tutoring” (+196%) and “Tourism and Recreation” (+173%).

Rutube video streaming (as an alternative to YouTube), owned by Gazprom-Media, increased the number of users by 5.5 times. It is planned that Rutube will have authorisation via State Services. The account will be able to be linked using ESIAs which will allow uploading videos without pre-moderation in the future.

Advertisers and advertising agencies surveyed by RBC do not yet see a replacement for YouTube in the advertising market. According to Alexander Papkov, Media Direction Group chief technology officer, video content from myTarget advertising network, Yandex video network and some independent players are available as an alternative, but they are unable to fully replace the total volume of YouTube video content. In addition, it will take advertisers months to develop new platforms.

Gazprom-Media also owns the short video social network Yappy (an analogue of TikTok), launched in late November 2021. By March 1, the service had already gained 1.4 million users. 

Chinese service of short videos Kwai (belongs to Chinese social networks giant Kuaishou) may also become an alternative to TikTok. The platform was launched in 2013 and initially targeted low-income users (drivers, couriers, farmers, factory workers and artisans). The service also targets markets in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Chile and Argentina.

Audiences from Twitter and Facebook have migrated to Livejournal as well: its traffic grew by 0.3 million and the number of unique users by 30%. This fact, according to analysts, also indicates that Russia is returning to earlier forms of online communication: forums, group chats and local networks. 

Telegram has become an important source of up-to-the-minute news content: following the start of social network blockades, the average time spent on Telegram increased by 20%, and the audience of news channels grew by 4 million subscribers. Russia as a whole has seen an increase in average daily Telegram outreach – by almost a third (from 18.3% to 23.2%).

  • On March 14, the messenger released an update: it is possible to manage uploads and the order of photos and videos in albums. A video streaming function also appeared.
  • On 21 March, Telegram surpassed WhatsApp in popularity in Russia for the first time. Its share of total messenger traffic increased from 48% to 63% compared to last month.

On 4 March, Yandex.Zen (where Instagram users went) changed its payment system for authors. The platform switched to a subscription model. It means that only subscribers will see the publications, and authors will receive money for interaction (likes, views, comments, increase in the number of subscribers) rather than for ad impressions. At the same time, the service promises higher daily payments.  According to Yandex.Zen’s own data, its daily audience was 22.3 million users in 2021 (up 10% year-on-year). Since February 24, the audience has grown by 0.4 million users and 1 million visitors per day.

Pinterest is a social service that allows you to post photos and links, share and/or assemble collections.


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