Russian success at Eurovision can convert for Yandex

We don’t often think of the Eurovision Song Contest having an effect on the world of international search but anyone who has watched the event will admit that the voting is notoriously political. It seemed no coincidence that the UK received “nil point” after deciding to turn their back on Europe and follow the US into Iraq.

With nationwide voting this poll provides a thoughtful insight into the attitudes, politics and loyalties of each European country. That is why the decision by Ukraine to award the maximum points (12) to Russian singer Dima Bilan was so surprising. Anti-Russian sentiment has been running high since the gas dispute earlier this year, resulting in a tense stand off when Gazprom (Russia’s state gas supplier) decided to turn off supplies for 3 days.

How does this affect search marketing? Well currently Google and Yandex, Russia’s leading search engine are locked in a battle to control the Ukrainian market. In a country which is literally split along pro-West and pro-Russian lines these global events have added a uniquely political edge to the battle. As Arkady Volozh, CEO and Founder of Yandex joked, “Every time Gazprom makes a public statement our market share goes down!”

So can this popular vote by Ukraine indicate a softening of opinion towards Russia, which can convert into more users for Yandex? It does seems a positive step in relations between the two countries, reinforced by Russians awarding Ukraine 10 points for their contest entry.

Search usage data for the country doesn’t show any significant jumps on last month yet but these are early days. It goes without saying that better Ukrainian-Russian politics could mean significant gains in that market for both Yandex and Rambler. With a recent US funded study showing that 45% of Ukrainians prefer speaking Russian the signs are good for them in that market. Is this the turning point they have been waiting for?

Nick Wilsdon

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3 Responses to Russian success at Eurovision can convert for Yandex

  1. Ann says:

    Let’s add that Balcan countries( Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia)always vote for each other. That makes me furious!

  2. Nick Wilsdon says:

    Hi Dexter,

    Thanks for your comments. You make a very good point about ex-pats but it was still a surprising result for us watching here (my Russian friends especially). This would explain the voting in relation to pro-Russians in Ukraine and Turkish ex-pats in Germany but what about the Turkish vote for Greece in last years contest? Many seemed to take that as a sign the old animosity had died down. Are there that many Greek ex-pats living in Turkey?

    Trivial as Eurovision is, I really hope it does mark a return to normal relations between the two countries. At the very least it was a bit of positive and fun PR for both sides.

  3. Dexter says:

    Nick,

    It is a well known fact that national minorities are very active in Eurovision voting, helping their homelands by any means possible.

    Thus the fact that the Ukraine awarded 12 points to Russia does not mean any change in general sentiment towards Russia of the Ukrainian majority. Basically, Russians living in the Ukraine actively voted for Russia, while the remaining population didn’t have any single favorite foreign country, so the other votes were distributed among a number of participating countries. Hence, Russia got the highest number of votes despite the fact that general Ukrainian sentiment may have been negative (note that you cannot vote _against_ a country).

    The same thing happened in many other cases.

    Ireland awarded 12 points to Lithuania. It doesn’t have any special relationship with the Baltics (politically, geographically or economically), apart from the fact that some 150k Lithuanians are legally or illegally employed in Ireland. So these 3-5% or so of the de facto Ireland population made all the difference during the voting.

    And I don’t think those were the Germans who awarded top points to Turkey on behalf of Germany. Something tells me those were Turkish expats living in Germany. Again, they probably accounted only for a fraction of the total voter audience, but they were focused on voting for Turkey, while the remaining audience scattered their votes across a number of other participant countries.

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