Russian Tobacco Media Group History
Brief History of Russian Tobacco Media Group
A website called Russian Tobacco and offering tobacco industry news and analysis appeared on the Russian internet in early 2001. Prompt work, full coverage of the entire range of industry information, and a professional team quickly earned the resource popularity, not only among industry professionals. It began to be visited by journalists, civil servants involved in regulating the industry, workers of the segment of the distribution of, and retail trade in, industry products, and even ordinary smokers. Guests attending the Russian Tobacco First Anniversary Evening already noted that no other sector in Russia had such a resource. Indeed, even retail trade, alcohol, beer, dairy, and other sectors of the Russian economy got comparable online resources only several years later.
The spring of 2002 saw the first issue of the Tabachny Magazin (“Tobacconist’s”) newspaper which was at once appreciated by all tobacco industry professionals from cigarette manufacturers to tobacco retailers. The end of the same year saw the Russian Tobacco publishing house publish the first book on the subject, “Tobacco and the Tobacco Industry: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.” The author, Igor Moiseyev, is director of Pogar Cigarette and Cigar Factory and a professor at the Moscow State University of Food Manufacturing. One year later there was a new book titled “Tobacco: What the Health Ministry Has Hushed Up.” Its author, Andrey Malinin, is one of the most consistent and tireless researchers into the history of tobacco and a lecturer at the Cigar University.
The end of the same year 2003 saw the first issue of the Nicotiana Aristocratica magazine which was intended not as much for specialists as for consumers, all lovers of tobacco in any form. The first appearance of an English-language website (at www.rustobacco.com) which took place approximately the same time resulted in a failure: after two years of promoting the project, the domain name, registered abroad and poorly protected, was stolen. It was not until 2010 that the English-speaking audience got an unlimited opportunity to get familiar with the life of the Russian tobacco industry at first hand. The new portal started at www.rustabak.com and is a much more complete and relevant resource than the first attempt to enter the global market.
The Group was developing. New books were published in 2004-2006, including in association with the US magazine Tobacco Reporter. By 2006, Russian Tobacco had reached a “cruising speed”: a book a year, a magazine a quarter, a newspaper a month, and daily news, interviews, comments, and analysis on the website. International Industry Conferences were held in 2006 and 2010. Branding, supplies of content for corporate publications, and other services were added to market research and advice to industry participants.
By 2009, the www.rustabak.ru portal had been deployed on a newer, more modern software platform, and the rebranding of the entire Group had been completed. Today, Russian Tobacco is the leader of the Russian market for industry information; the best aggregator of news, opinions, and comments on industry problems; an influential source of information for regulators and Russian tobacco market participants.
Russian Tobacco Internet Portal
The industry news agency Russian Tobacco and the online portal of the same name aggregate, verify, and disseminate specialised information for the tobacco industry. The portal’s sphere of interest is as follows: production, sale, and advertising of tobacco products; the business life of participants in the tobacco and related markets (supplies of leaf tobacco, equipment, packaging materials, filters, special technology), industry regulation, and other related issues. The focus of attention is the life of the Russian tobacco industry. The website audience are in the first instance executives and employees of tobacco companies operating in Russia and the Russian market, employees of suppliers to the industry, wholesalers and retailers, and advertising agencies, as well as civil servants involved in regulating the tobacco market. Somewhat less emphasis is placed by the portal on covering the markets for cigars, tobaccos, electronic cigarettes, smoking accessories, etc.
Whether or not to smoke is a personal matter of adult consumers, but everyone has the right to accurate information about a legally sold product and the implications of its use. That is why the editorial office believes, in particular, that it is fundamentally wrong to restrict tobacco advertising in any way, except for economic methods. The website does not propagandise the use of tobacco, but does its best to provide an unbiased and complete account of all realities, including the gist of the high-profile fight against smoking.
Objective coverage of developments in the tobacco market is the main information policy principle of the Russian Tobacco industry portal. The resource does not represent the interests of any player in the Russian or global tobacco market. While having an opinion about disputable market issues, the editorial office provides every side with an opportunity to have its say and every opinion to be voiced – as long as it is known to exist.
In 2008, Russian Tobacco migrated to a new, more reliable and faster process platform. Simultaneously, a rebranding and substantial adjustment of the structure of the website was carried out. The electronic archive of the portal stores in excess of 13,000 articles as of 1 January 2011 and is updated daily. In addition to all current Russian-language tobacco-related articles, those published in the Russian media before the appearance of the portal are also digitised and introduced to the archive.
The English version of the Russian Tobacco portal went online in 2010. It contains translations of key articles with the exception of those dedicated to events in the tobacco business outside Russia, the CIS, and Baltic states.
Russian Tobacco monitors on a daily basis all Russian-language business and socio-political media outlets, both print and online ones, aggregating news and other reports about the tobacco market, its regulation by the state, and public activity round tobacco consumption problems. Daily mailing of the monitoring results is provided for subscribers as an independent information service. A weekly media review is compiled based on the monitoring results.
Any visitor to the website can read latest free news or choose to be emailed new reports from sections they are interested in. Subscribers can also use all archives and paid sections of the portal (databases, market statistics and analysis, reference sections).
The portal hosts an online shop of books about tobacco which also sells some special market research reports. One can also take out a subscription or even get an individual article from paid sections there.
Research and Consulting
The first projects based on the online portal Russian Tobacco included research into special aspects of the tobacco market and advice to market participants on accomplishing special tasks in the area of marketing, distribution, or manufacturing technology. Specialised research concerned a wide range of problems: from the use of information technology at industry facilities to in-depth reviews of individual market segments (in particular, the market for cigarillos).
The biggest number of reports has been published about aspects of marketing tobacco products. They deal with cigarette packaging development, analyse creativity and solutions in outdoor and print cigarette advertisements, pricing, the use of state-of-the-art communication techniques, provide statistical analysis of cigarette formats, promising segments, rebranding and redesign dynamics, and many other aspects. Speaking about consulting, it is also worthwhile noting such achievements as development of new cigarette products for the leading national tobacco companies, marketing of new products, and development of marketing support programmes for clients’ products. The Group’s biggest clients in this area have included the national factories Nevo Tabak and Balkan Star (today part of Imperial TG).
Because competition is growing fiercer, research, reports, recommendations, and other products prepared at the request of concrete clients have in recent years been confidential and have not been published in the outlets of the Russian Tobacco Media Group.
Annual Awards to Industry Best
The Russian Tobacco First Anniversary Evening for the first time saw an online survey summarised and certificates handed to the best companies and industry representatives for the previous year. The award ceremonies became a tradition of the Russian Tobacco annual evenings. The number of categories in the first few years varied between ten and sixteen, but twelve certificates have been handed of late: three personal (Best Journalist, Best GR Manager, and For the Contribution to Tobacco Education) and nine corporate ones. During the voting period, some categories become the subject of a real combat. Sometimes even attempts are made to “boost” someone’s positions artificially. Nevertheless, the results as a rule reflect industry achievements of the previous year quite objectively.
The Russian Tobacco annual evenings have themselves become a tradition: it is the only regular industry-wide convention of the Russian tobacco industry, an opportunity to have an informal conversation with counterparts, competitors, clients, and suppliers. Over the ten years that the tradition has existed, virtually all market participants have sponsored these events to some or other extent, and some companies (BAT, JT International, Imperial Tobacco Group, Donskoy Tabak, and Megapolis) have acted as sponsors six and more times. In the best years, donations made it possible not only to arrange a stand-up buffet and hand certificates, but also invite popular musicians and provide gifts for the guests. Most importantly, however, it is an opportunity for friends and colleagues to meet in a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
Tabachny Magazin Monthly Newspaper
The first issue of the monthly newspaper for specialised retail trade in tobacco products, Tabachny Magazin, came out in March 2002. Since then, the newspaper has been published ten times a year, every month, taking account of the double issues in August/September and December/January. In the first few years the circulation was growing rapidly, but it stabilised in 2007-2010 at a level enabling its distribution to retail outlets dealing in tobacco products in the eighty largest cities in Russia. To many specialised tobacco shops in smaller or more distant cities and towns, as well as in other CIS countries, the publication is available on subscription. The number of subscribers has increased in recent years too, and today they account for as much as 25-30% of the average monthly circulation. Most copies are distributed free of charge now too, but without subscription it is impossible to guarantee the delivery of all issues, while each issue is valuable to the reader because it contains the most recent amendments to laws, market and company news, new product presentations, and a lot of other useful information.
A survey of the Tabachny Magazin newspaper audience carried out in the form of direct interviews in 2007 identified the following facts about the readers and their attitude towards the publication. One copy of the newspaper is read on average by 3.7 persons, two-thirds of them are women, 56% of the audience have graduated from or attended a university, and 76% of the audience are not older than 45. The following sections were considered the most useful: Law (where new laws are presented), Political Economy (where bills are discussed), and In the First Person (interviews with top managers of tobacco companies, members of parliament, and market experts). The readers mentioned New Products, History, and TobaccoCrossword among their favourite sections.
Advertisements in the Tabachny Magazin monthly over the entire nine years of its existence have been placed by virtually all cigarette manufacturers represented in the Russian market, as well as many suppliers of other tobacco products, and raw materials and technology for the industry. The communication capabilities of Tabachny Magazin are not confined to advertising proper. On account of the B2B nature of the publication, information co-operation turns out to be no less effective: presentation of new products and original technology of a company, the history of a firm and its famous products, interviews with specialists and top managers, and reports about promotional activities and events.
Separate potential is offered by the website of the Tabachny Magazin newspaper (www.tabmag.ru) which hosts an archive of all past issues of the publication, as well as announcements of the two most recent issues: as long as access to the sections of the resource is not limited in any way, subscribers to the print version have a priority in getting the information of the latest issues. The newspaper website has never been promoted as an independent media resource, yet the number of its visitors is growing rapidly and it contains unique sections (for example, the Bonus section offers some tobacco-related entertainment information) and attractive communication opportunities for tobacco manufacturers and retail trade.
The hundredth issue of Tabachny Magazin which came out in July 2010 presented the readers with congratulatory letters on the occasion of the jubilee from the largest tobacco companies (Philip Morris, JTI, BAT, Imperial Tobacco, and others) and non-profit-making organisations in the sector, in particular the Moscow Cigar Club. That was a graphic recognition of the achievements of Tabachny Magazin in developing a civilised tobacco market in Russia together with the leading participants in the market and a confirmation of the publication’s status as the main independent intermediary in the communication between the industry and the tobacco retail segment, which played not the least important role in a rise in the number of subscriptions for the next year, 2011.
Book Printing and Dealing
Book printing and dealing form one of the central lines of business of the Russian Tobacco Media Group. For the first 10 years of the Group’s existence, eight books by four authors have been prepared and published, taking no account of reissues. The catalogue of tobacco-related literature from a large number of publishing companies which the Group offers to industry professionals counts today over 30 titles of books and brochures published in different years (the catalogue is available upon request by post or on the Group’s website in e-Store).
The Group takes especially great pride in a book titled “Cigarette Product Development” by Dr Fawky Abdallah, a well-known industry adviser from the US, translated and published in 2005 (the rights were acquired from Tobacco Reporter; the Russian title is “The Cigarette: From the Lab to the Pack”). The book gives a detailed account of the technology of blending for American Blend cigarettes and a well-developed theory of product tasting (cigarettes being the concrete product used). It also describes various methods for professional testing of new product developments prior to their marketing and methods for mathematical processing of quantitative test results. The theory and presented methods turn tasting of tobacco products from a set of descriptions of subjective sensations into an objective instrument of measuring product quality.
“A Tobacco History of Russia” is another monograph valuable to any tobacco business professional. The book is a detailed history of the appearance of tobacco in Russia and development of the industry before 1917 and during the Soviet period. It is also an in-depth history of the appearance and development of the oldest Russian factories that have survived the 20th century. The book dispels many established myths, stereotypes and delusions about the role of tobacco in the life of the nation. The author of this profound work complete with detailed indexes and appendices, Andrey Malinin, is today the best Russian connoisseur of the tobacco history of not only Russia, but also the world. He constantly recreates new pages of this wonderful history, finding new facts, searching for old books about tobacco, and raking through piles of “cultural rubbish” for grains of new knowledge.
The results of this work are presented in other books by Mr Malinin: “Tobacco: What the Health Ministry Has Hushed Up,” “53 Mondays. PRO Tales about Tobacco,” and “53+. PRO Tobacco Again.” His light and fascinating narration style has brought the author numerous admirers even outside the professional community. Andrey Malinin also writes for Russian Tobacco Media Group periodicals and for the CigarInfo portal. As a tobacco expert and Vice President of the Moscow Cigar Club, Andrey Malinin gives numerous lectures by invitation and teaches at the Cigar University.
Another monograph on the history of the industry was published by Russian Tobacco in 2010: “Up to the Sky… A History of JTI.” It is a detailed history of not only the parent company, Japan Tobacco Inc., but also the famous companies that were integrated into the structure of JTI during its triumphant decade (1999-2009), namely RJ Reynolds and Gallaher Group. The second part of the book is a history of the four JTI facilities in Russia, and the last part a history of the main brands belonging to the company.
The Russian Tobacco publishing house provides services such as the publication of specialised books on tobacco-related subjects, including professional editing and, if necessary, translation, prepress, and printing.
Nicotiana Aristocratica Magazine
The Nicotiana Aristocratica magazine intended for consumers of all types of tobacco products first came out in late 2003. The magazine was innovative in many respects and set many standards for more successful projects that appeared later. It came out at once in “mini” format, then almost unheard-of and now quite habitual for many publications. Maxims and sayings by great people became the “visiting card” of the style of Nicotiana Aristocratica from the first issue, and many publications later adopted the approach for their own design. Long articles and detailed illustrated stories about celebrities and histories of great companies from around the world were the primary content of the first magazine for Russian smokers: at the time it first came out there was just one magazine with such content in Russia and now there are half a dozen of them. Nicotiana Aristocratica was distributed free of charge through restaurants, cafés, and clubs, yet it was not available to everyone who wanted to have it or was just “passing by,” but given as a present from the establishment to every guest who buys a cigar or a pack of cigarettes there. Unfortunately, the 2008 financial crisis dealt a heavy blow to the magazine: cuts in the advertising budgets of the main clients of the publication which had almost no subscribers made it unprofitable, so it was discontinued. The 14 issues of the magazine for 2003-2008 are available at www.nicotiana.ru.
The Russian Tobacco Media Group periodically holds industry conferences in association with the Asti Group exhibition company which organises the tobacco exhibitions TabakExpo and Water-pipe Hall in Russia. The core of the First International Conference in 2006 which was dedicated to the development of reduced-risk tobacco products was a two-day workshop held by the US adviser Dr Fawky Abdallah whose book “Cigarette Product Development” the Group had translated into Russian and published a year before. The conference was attended by participants from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Hungary, and Serbia. All leading multinational companies and almost all independent tobacco manufacturers from the stated countries were represented.
The 2010 Conference was dedicated to a wide range of problems associated with tobacco market security. A continuation of the theme of the First Conference was a presentation by the Italian-based SA Envitech founder and director, Ivano Aglietto, who introduced participants to a new nanomaterial, Recam, that can be used both in cigarette filters and to clear room air of secondhand smoke thanks to its unique properties of selective filtration removing carcinogens and toxins. Of interest were also: a presentation of the requirements of the new Technical Regulation on Tobacco Products which gathered representatives of suppliers of a large variety of tobacco products from cigarettes to water-pipe tobaccos and snus; the experience of the Baltic Legal Bureau in the fight against illegal manufacture of tobacco products; and many other reports delivered at the Conference.
Russian Tobacco as Think Tank
The Russian Tobacco Media Group is today firmly established as the leading think tank dealing with: information about the tobacco market; regulation of the manufacture, distribution, and consumption of tobacco; and analysis of trends of consumption of tobacco products, public movements round the problem of smoking, tobacco advertising, and other related issues. It was not at once that this role of the Group was recognised by the industry and Russian business community in general. The first references to Russian Tobacco in the Russian business press (those were Vedomosti and Kommersant newspapers) were made in 2002. The number of references continued to grow and reached almost sixty (for 2010). Russian Tobacco information is mentioned at every significant industry event and every discussion of important problems. Representatives of the Group have also been quite frequently invited to radio and television debates about tobacco problems.
As for specialised tobacco-related publications, the recognition came even earlier. About twenty references to Rustabak.ru were made in the news of the Tobacco Journal International website alone as far back as 2003.
In this connection, it is worthwhile noting the participation of Russian Tobacco in the work of the Expert Panel at the Economic Policy and Enterprise Committee of the Russian Duma along with industry associations. Some material prepared by the Group was distributed not only among the Expert Panel and the relevant Committee, but also among all Duma members. Five long exclusive interviews with State Duma members were conducted and published on the website by the Russian Tobacco Group. It is important to note that even the Duma members Nikolay Gerasimenko and Vladimir Medinsky who are so negative about the sector were willing to hold a dialogue with the publication. It is indirect, but convincing evidence of the influence of the Group’s publications and the importance of its reports for the regulation of industry-related aspects in Russia. The Russian Tobacco Media Group prepares expert opinion not only for the legislature, but also ministries and other government agencies, as well as for thematic round table discussions, meetings of working groups, and other events.