The Oban Blog

Bridge across frozen river Novosibirsk

The global digital marketing weekly: Thursday 07 August 2014

Welcome back to another weekly roundup of digital marketing news with a global slant. This week’s news takes us to Russia, the Middle East and China with the following: Russia’s telecoms regulator is threatening to block BBC Russia; Gmail is adding support for non-Latin characters; the Huffington Post is launching a local edition in Arabic; Yandex profiles Russian youth; and Weibo launches paid media feature.

Russian regulator threatens to block BBC Russia

Russia’s telecommunications regulatory authority, Roskomnadzor, has threatened to block the BBC’s Russian-language site after it published a series of “provocative” interviews with activist Artem Loskutov. In the interviews, Loskutov calls for a march supporting independence for Siberia – an action that he described as being “part parody, part provocation”. The Roskomnadzor requested the article’s removal on the basis that it “appeals to riots, extremist activities or participation in mass public activities conducted in violation of the legal order”.

Citing Federal Law 398-F3 of 28.12.2013, the Roskomnadzor insists that the only course of action in the face of non-removal would be to block the BBC Russian site entirely. The BBC has so far rebuffed the demand.

Example of internationalised email address

Gmail becomes first high-profile service to adopt non-latin characters for email addresses

One of the major multilingual limitations of the traditionally western-centric internet is finally set to disappear. For as long as you’ve been able to get an email address, you’ve had to limit yourself to Latin-characters and numbers. This week, Google announced that Gmail will be upgraded to support the IETF’s 2012 email standard, which includes provisions for a range of alternative character sets (as well as accented Latin characters).

While an encouraging step forward, and with a promise of Google Calendar support “shortly”, the update only allows Gmail users to send to and receive emails from these addresses. Software Engineer Pedro Chaparro Monferrer promises that “in the future, we want to make it possible for you to use them to create Gmail accounts”.

Huffington Post headline August 7

Huffington Post to launch Arabic-language edition

One of the most successful news-outlets created by the digital age, The Huffington Post is once again expanding with a new international edition, this time an Arabic-language version for the Middle East – Huffington Post Arabi.

The Huffington Post is partnering with Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al Jazeera (who oversaw that brand’s transition from single channel to media network) to create a site that “brings more Arab voices into the conversation and deepen[s] the world’s understanding of life in the Arab world”.

This will be the twelfth local version of the Huffington Post – the first, in Canada, was launched back in 2011. Expansion into Russia is on hold, with China under consideration and India expected later this year.

Vladmir Putin climbing wall

Yandex profiles changing patterns in Russian youth culture

Yandex’s international business development team over at have written up a short profile about how changing Russian youth culture is changing the marketing landscape. The import of common Western digital practices is discussed with the lip service paid to Russian twists on the usual patterns.

– In terms of Russian youth’s social media habits, Vkontakte’s 239 million accounts are once again mentioned. Lesser known successes in the country include Livejournal and Skype, as well as a special mention for the once internationally popular instant messenger ICQ
– Emphasising that Russian teens spend their leisure time similar to those in the west, Yandex points out that Russia has 46m gamers – the twelfth biggest market in the world, despite the gaming industry’s habit of viewing the world in terms of four main markets: North America, Japan, Europe, rest of world
– Russian youths, we are told, are increasingly more active in altruistic activities and concerned about environmental issues

Weibo launches paid content feature

Chinese microblogging website Weibo, usually referred to as a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, has taken another step towards monetisation by introducing a paid content feature. Users can use this new paywall-like service to force readers to pay up to read articles in full. Simultaneously, “Weibo Dashang”, a feature that allows users to tip content creators, has been added.

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Winter sunset in Siberia photo by Flickr user Mikhail Koninin

Russian Youth and Putin climbing photo by Flickr user Playing Futures