Sunday, 17 April 2016

How can Popular Science Media Survive in the Time of a Crisis?

This is the title of a recent article in Science and Life, a respected popular science magazine in Russia. When I ran into the article two days ago, I didn’t think it would enlighten me on the problems faced by science magazines in Russia. I was expecting a cliché write-up; the author would blame everything on the profusion of the Internet, lack of state support and apathy from people, who didn’t care about science. Thankfully, it wasn't the case.

It was comforting to know that Russian-speakers had bought 7 billion issues of science magazines in the past 10 years. It’s a respectable number. But don’t let it give you the impression that the industry is having a party.

High delivery costs, large commissions and a dearth of kiosks are big problems facing the magazines. And a recent decision by the Russian government to spend 43 million 370 thousand rubles on a new publishing house to make science popular can reduce their sales, the article's author, Alisa Zaichenko, fears.

Zaichenko is also concerned about the quality of the works the state-owned publisher will produce.

The problem seems intractable. It is an issue if the state doesn't invest in science and there are problems if the state invests in science. Thankfully, Anton Ishchenko has an idea.

Anton Ishchenko is a Deputy in Duma. His idea is to support the existing magazines and popular science media instead of spending money on a new publisher. For obvious reasons, Science and Life is with Ishchenko. I'm not sure which idea is better, the government's or Ishchenko's.

In fact, if my desires had any worth I will want all the existing Russian science magazines to thrive and new publishers to appear.