But real earnings can be even higher - part of the turnover of "opinion leaders" in the "gray" zone
The legal advertising revenues of bloggers on Instagram and YouTube in 2020 exceeded RUB 11 billion. But the turnover can be even more - the gray earnings of opinion leaders are comparable to the legal amount or even exceed it, experts say.

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In 2020, which was a pandemic of coronavirus infection and a self-isolation regime, the legal income of domestic bloggers on Instagram and YouTube increased to 11.1 billion rubles, according to the Russian office of the international association The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Last year's results are almost 64% more than in 2019, analysts say. Instagram and YouTube platforms were selected for research as the most popular among advertisers, the share of other social media in the Russian advertising market is extremely small, the IAB specifies.


By promoting goods and services on Instagram, bloggers earned 7 billion rubles in 2020, which is 69% more than a year earlier. Most often, Instagram was used to advertise products from the categories "fashion", "beauty", "home and interior", according to the agencies Yoloco and Kedoo, who participated in the study.

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YouTube is less in demand among advertisers collaborating with bloggers: the corresponding revenues in 2020 were estimated at 4.1 billion rubles. (+ 55% per year). On this platform, advertisers preferred to promote products primarily from the categories "games", "e-commerce", "food and drinks", "electronics".

RBC sent requests to Facebook (owner of Instagram) and Google (owner of YouTube).

As believed

The Russian office of the IAB conducted research in conjunction with advertising and analytical agencies Insense, WhoIsBlogger, Yoloco, Kedoo and BloggerBase. According to their own assessment, data was collected on at least 95% of all advertising publications in 2019-2020 in the form of posts and stories in the Russian-language segment of Instagram, as well as videos on YouTube.

To do this, the companies have collected a database of more than 200 thousand content authors and distributed them by segments depending on the number of subscribers. Then, in all the publications of these bloggers, using text identifiers (text itself, comments, profile tags, hyperlinks, hashtags, official ad tags), the researchers calculated ad integrations. Non-commercial integrations were not taken into account.

The average cost of placement for bloggers was calculated using a mathematical model based on the collected price lists of leading channels and bloggers in each segment and the revealed dependence of prices on the scale and activity of bloggers.

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Bloggers' revenues from commercial integrations on Instagram and YouTube last year exceeded the total advertising revenue of all newspaper and magazine publishers by more than a third, which the Association of Communication Agencies of Russia estimated at 8 billion rubles at the end of 2020. In terms of their earnings, opinion leaders turned out to be comparable to radio broadcasters, whose advertising revenues amounted to 11.2 billion rubles.

Due to the depreciation of the ruble, as well as the self-isolation regime caused by the pandemic, advertisers in 2020 significantly reduced the costs of placement in traditional channels such as television, radio, press and outdoor advertising - only the Internet showed positive dynamics. Revenues of Internet sites from traditional Internet advertising at the end of 2020 increased by 4%, to 253 billion rubles. At the same time, according to the Russian office of the IAB, the most popular segment in Internet advertising was the so-called Performance (payment for an action, for example, for a user's transition to a website or a completed order): 205.4 billion rubles were allocated for these purposes.

In the pandemic, only one type of media has increased ad revenues
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Why bloggers' income is hard to calculate

The declared 11.1 billion rubles earned in 2020 by opinion leaders on Instagram and YouTube is only a legal part of their income, information about which is disclosed either by the bloggers themselves or by agencies, the researchers draw attention to. Shadow incomes are comparable in volume to legal ones or even exceed them, suggests Anton Petukhov, founder and CEO of BloggerBase. According to him, it is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the income of authors of content on Instagram and YouTube, since companies that cannot officially promote their goods and services according to the law also work with celebrities: these are representatives of the crypto market, casinos, online bookmakers, etc. It is not yet possible to track their activity with the same accuracy as in the legal segment, says Petukhov.

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Even the sites on which bloggers post their content with ad integrations do not know how much these authors earn, and this is one of the key problems in assessing income, says Alexander Fedorenko, managing partner and co-founder of Insense agency. In addition, there is no generally accepted size of the commission that intermediary agencies take from advertisers for placement with bloggers: the introduction of such a standard among market players would make it possible to more accurately assess how much advertisers invest in placement with bloggers, and not just the part that was received directly by the content author. , the founder and CEO of the WhoIsBlogger agency Lev Grunin is sure.

How bloggers get out of the gray zone

Russian officials are already thinking about the need to introduce a tax on bloggers' income. In March of this year, it became known that the Ministry of Digital Industry proposed to oblige sites (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube) to pay personal income tax for Russian bloggers who earn on advertising integrations. Now advertisers usually transfer rewards to the blogger to their personal account, which is why the state loses billions of rubles a year, experts explained earlier the essence of the problem.

Back in 2018, Andrei Svintsov, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy, Information Technology and Communications, proposed obliging social networks to legally assign an account to users - especially those who use a blog to promote goods or services. Such an initiative should, according to the deputy, "replenish the state treasury" with tax deductions from bloggers.

The Ministry of Digital Industry proposed to introduce a tax for social networks for advertising with bloggers
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How high-quality are such integrations?

Instagram has proven to be the most popular platform for ad integrations, as the ease of content production and the large number of new contributors on the social network lowers the barriers to entry for advertisers, Grunin explains.

On YouTube, the placement of native advertising integrations with a link to the product in the description or in the comments to the video is common: the quality of such communication is growing, and the audience loyally perceives such advertising, adds Petukhov.

At the same time, the advertiser should take into account that most bloggers have so-called winding subscribers who are attracted by various gray methods: using bots, exchanges of mutual activities (when social network users give each other mutual likes without real interest in content or promoted goods), participation in "Giveah" - draws of various prizes. According to the Yoloco agency, 56% of active bloggers with a subscriber base of 10,000 or more used these methods to attract users. Lev Grunin gives a less optimistic assessment: in his opinion, 100% of bloggers have "winding up" subscribers.