Advertising market on Russian-language Telegram channels

The popularity of social media and instant messengers is growing steadily every year. In 2020, over 3.6 bln people were using social media worldwide. The level of individuals and companies’ involvement in networking through social media and instant messengers is increasing annually, which naturally attracts investment to this market and ensures a constant growth in the volume of advertising and content. As of January 2020, the global social media usage rate was 49%, a number projected to increase further due to the expanding infrastructure and availability of cheap mobile devices in emerging markets.

Various large media agencies, organizations and companies do social network usage and growth research, such as AppAnnie, Deloitte, Global Web Index, We Are Social, Hootsuite, Statista, GSMA Intelligence, Locowise, Similar Web, Data Reportal, Mediascope, ExLibris and many others.

Their results suggest that digital and mobile technologies as well as social media have become an integral part of people’s daily lives around the globe, and that an average user was spending more than 6 hours a day on the internet in 2020, with a third of that time spent using social media.

The most popular social networking platforms and instant messengers by the number of users include Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp. Facebook is the leader of the social media market with over 2.7 bln active users a month. The company also owns the four largest social media platforms: Facebook (main platform), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. Regional leaders include VK, a European service, the Japanese platform LINE, China’s WeChat and QQ, and the Douyin video sharing app. The Douyin platform has released an international version of its TikTok service.

Both social media apps and messengers have an abundance of various functions which actually makes it difficult to distinguish between them.

Messengers are usually rated based on the number of active users and the number of app downloads in Google Play for Android and in App Store for iPhone.

Telegram was the world’s sixth most popular mobile messenger as of October 2020 according to the number of active users per month, following WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, QQ and Snapchat. In April 2020, the cloud-based text messaging app reported 400 mio active users per month around the world.

Telegram is a cross-platform messenger for exchanging messages and media files in a variety of formats that prioritizes confidentiality, encryption and speed. The messenger is constantly adding more features and updates. For example, in 2019 Telegram launched location-based group chats and since 2020, users have been able to comment on channels, moderate groups anonymously, create audio conference calls and more.

In 2021, Telegram started to monetize extra features for business teams and premium users. Telegram founder Pavel Durov assured that all the basic features will remain free. Telegram will be offering a proprietary ad platform that will ensure users’ comfort and confidentiality as well as cover the company’s server and traffic costs.

Back in March 2018, Pavel Durov announced that the number of Telegram users in the world reached 200 mio. In March 2019, Telegram saw a surge of 3 mio new users over 24 hours when Facebook experienced outages worldwide. Thus, in just two years, the number of active Telegram users across the globe doubled from 200 mio to 400 mio, and on January 12, 2021, Pavel Durov posted on his Telegram channel:

“In the first week of January, Telegram surpassed 500 mio monthly active users. After that it kept growing: 25 mio new users joined Telegram in the last 72 hours alone.”

Telegram in Russia

According to the company data, the Russian audience of Telegram reached 26.7 mio people in August 2020 despite the app being officially blocked by the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) for over two years. According to an ExLibris survey, the messenger ranks third in terms of popularity in Russia after WhatsApp and Viber, each with 70.6 mio and 36.2 mio users, respectively. Telegram is followed by Google Chat with 22.5 mio users, and Facebook Messenger with 7.1 mio users. As of early 2020, Telegram was in the top three most popular messengers in Russia.

After Roskomnadzor’s ban was lifted on June 18, 2020, the Russian Telegram audience grew by 1.2 mio within a month, TASS news agency reported citing the Mediascope press service.

With these numbers in mind, we can expect a new surge in downloads, channels and advertising on Russian Telegram. Together with the team of, a major ad exchange platform, we have analyzed the advertising market size on Telegram. The research was based on the data by the Telemetr analytical service and the exchange platform, with two calculation methods used: by the advertising cost and by the cost for 1,000 ad impressions (CPM). 

The analysis has revealed that last year’s advertising market in Russian-language Telegram channels amounted to 12.8 bln rubles ($162.7 mio), with top ten categories accounting for 74.5% of the total volume. The most popular ones include Business and Finance, Women’s Sections, and Mass Media.

The top ten popular categories are:

  1. Business and Finance (20.1% of the total turnover);
  2. Women’s Section (9%);
  3. Mass Media (7.9%);
  4. Culture, Education and Art (6.1%);
  5. Sports (5.9%);
  6. Internet and Marketing (5.9%);
  7. Recreation and Entertainment (5.4%);
  8. Cinema (5%);
  9. Science and Technology (4.9%);
  10. Motivation and Personal Development (4.4%).

In 2020, the number of advertising posts in Russian Telegram channels grew twofold, from 22.8 mio to 44.4 mio. The obtained data allows claiming that the phenomenon of advertising on social media in general and the messaging app in particular is highly relevant as a modern marketing tool. The full text of the study will be available on website.

The research aims not only to determine the volume of native advertising in Telegram channels but also to publish a detailed method used for making these calculations. Regrettably, the advertising market size is often estimated only approximately, from experience, by ear, or by other unverifiable methods. Publishing a comprehensible research method is important for comparing the obtained results with those received through other studies that can be conducted by other groups of authors with the use of fundamentally different methods.    

By Dmitry Kornilov, Doctor of Economics, Professor at the Department of Innovation Management, Alekseyev Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University, full member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences

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