n June 15, 1988, Vladimir Yakovlev, a correspondent of Ogonek magazine, registered a cooperative information society "Fact." At that moment, the history of Kommersant Publishing House began.
|Fact information service is created – the first private information agency in the country.
|Together with the Union of co-operators Fact starts issuing Kommersant
weekly newspaper– the first private business edition in the country.
|Kommersant daily is issued – the first daily business newspaper in Russia.
|The first in Russia analytical Weekly is issued, starting November 1997 it is renamed Kommersant VLAST.
|The first illustrated monthly magazine for family reading Domovoi is issued.
|Kommersant DENGI, the first popular economic weekly in Russia, is issued.
|Autopilot magazine is issued, the first monthly illustrated magazine for owners of foreign cars.
|Kommersant Club is created, it unites like-minded people of modern generation of business people in Russia.
|Kommersant XXI - Directorate for new projects is created, its aim is to introduce new products to the Russian business audience (conferences, seminars, round tables, business reference books, supplements to editions of Kommersant Publishing House, on-line projects etc.)
|Kommersant Weekend is issued – daily thematic pages of Kommersant newspaper, devoted to leisure activities.
"Fact" was the first information service in the USSR created for the support of cooperative societies. The company gave the telephone numbers of nonstate companies to those interested and also published references, statutory acts and documents, and provided legal assistance. The logical continuation of the company's activities was the organization of the Postfactum Information Agency in spring 1989.
Then Vladimir Yakovlev met Artem Tarasov, the first Soviet citizen who dared to declare himself a millionaire. While talking to him, Yakovlev asked himself, "why not create the first private independent newspaper in the country for regular publication of news on the cooperative movement?" The new newspaper started with the library. That was the place where several colleagues from the Fact cooperative society set out in search of a name for the new newspaper. They were to find a respectable, businesslike, prerevolutionary newspaper that had stopped publication because of the Bolshevik coup. At the same time, the new newspaper of the new country was supposed to become a successor to the traditions of the prerevolutionary Russian business class. The journalists meant to choose between two weekly editions, Kommersant
(Businessman) and Ponedelnik
(Monday). Nowadays, not many people know that Kommersant
could have easily been called Ponedelnik
: in the beginning, this was the variant all the editorial staff approved of. But the owner of the new newspaper intuitively and forcefully chose the name Kommersant
The pilot issue of the weekly newspaper appeared in December 1989. Starting on January 8, 1990, the newspaper began regular publication. Even the first issues were a success. The newspaper, with an initial circulation of 40 000 copies and a price of 40 kopecks, would sell out instantly and profiteers were selling it for a ruble in pedestrian underpasses. In a year the newspaper's circulation increased to 500 000 copies. This unexpected bursting of a new newspaper onto the market could also be explained by the fact that at that time there was no market at all. All of the state newspapers were busy "debriefing," that is, defending or denouncing the Soviet Power. But Kommersant
behaved as if the Soviet Power had never existed. The newspaper addressed a new social group that was interested in the Soviet Power in only one way: what should be done to prevent the Soviet Power from affecting their work? It addressed the new Russian businessmen. And they needed the newspaper as a tool for their work, which was accurate reporting of business news.
Success is something external and can be seen by anybody. What cannot be seen is how this success has been achieved. We are talking about Kommersant
's know-how, which a lot of Russian newspapers and magazines have taken as an example.
What began as Kommersant
's discovery ten years ago has became a journalistic standard today. To understand what kind of revolution Kommersant
brought about, we should remember that journalism had been completely different in the USSR, from headlines and to the principles of information presentation. At that time, each trainee journalist tried to demonstrate his publicist talents even in a report on a incident at a poultry farm, so that the articles often started with lyrical digressions and historical and philosophical allusions. As far as the journalists at Kommersant
were concerned, they offered an almost foreign newspaper to their readers. First, it was thick; previously, the only 16-page newspaper on the market had been Nedelya
(Week). Second, the "rigid" breadboard model was unusual. The newspaper precisely divided the world into permanent headings: " Wars and Incidents" had their own place, and "Shares, Investments" had theirs. The multifarious nature of the world, life's difficult collisions, and philosophical questions were placed under the heading "Everything Else." There was not enough order in the country, so the newspaper was creating it.
Yakovlev and his colleagues were the first to introduce the Western principle of information presentation, "the principle of the overturned pyramid": the essence of the information, what, where, and when, was compressed into the first three sentences. That was how lead stories appeared. (Since then it has become an indispensable attribute of every article in every edition of Kommersant
). The details сame only after this lead. There was one more principle: just the facts-no evaluations, no moralizing, and especially no "personal author's or civic positions". Brevity, discretion in evaluations, a cool aloof tone, and irony. People who entered business simultaneously with their readers, if not earlier, created Kommersant
. This gave them the right to talk to their audience as equals and at times even haughtily (recall Kommersant
's "experts" and "observers"). Incidentally, references to sources of information were also introduced by Kommersant
as a kind of good form rule. Before that, journalists had bravely offered their readers guesses, expressed personal opinions, and shared their mental anguish, which could allure only a very trustful reader.
Headlines are a special theme. They are supposed to attract attention. The main requirement for a headline in old Soviet journalism had been reliability and grandeur. In this respect, the best headline might sound like " Comrade Ligachev's Speech at the XIX Plenary Session of the Communist Party." Only editions for Komsomol youth could allow themselves to add a bit of romantic appeal, and then "blue heavens" and "scarlet sails" and so on appeared in the headlines. However, Kommersant
readers valued their time and they wanted to understand the essence of an article at once. That was how the headlines took on the form of a coherent and finished sentence with a subject and a predicate; they were sending a message: READ ME! On coming across the sentence " Sperm Bank Investors Swindled" or " Maniac Rapes a Rum Cake, " the reader was already informed of events and could decide for himself whether or not he needed the details. Incidentally, the headlines also became a source of myths, as if there were special "eggheads" at Kommersant
who had been chosen to think up headlines.
This was not true. Yakovlev demanded that both authors and departments heads offer headlines. He often called for five versions of a headline for an article, chose the best one, then asked for five more, developed this best variant, and so on. At times he appealed to the staff through the "loud communication" system to come up with a headline for material on a given theme. Work on a headline could sometimes occupy more time than creating the article itself.
The new work principles were not simply Yakovlev's wishes. They were fixed on paper, and a crib was hung in front of each employee as a kind of instruction sheet on creating articles. Thus, it is important that Yakovlev did not simply invent rules, but managed to achieve their strict performance, even if it later turned out that he had been wrong. Many who knew Yakovlev well in those years frequently mentioned that his management style was rigid and authoritative. But everybody admits that it would have been impossible to create an efficient team otherwise: "How else do you supervise a bunch of creative slobs?"
Another important difference between Kommersant PH editorial staff and others was that the staff consisted of people of the same age. In Soviet newspapers, the editor-in-chief was usually held in respect owing to his age and experience; here, none of the bosses were than 30-35 years old. There was a serious danger that the answer to a demand to obey certain rules would be the usual "Knock it off old man, what are you carping about!" Yakovlev did not allow that kind of attitude and invented a system of penalties: any deviation from the rules was followed by punishment. It was a system of financial incentives in reverse. The explanation: you are being paid for work that should be performed at a certain level; therefore any defect is automatically leads to a salary deduction. Yakovlev never accepted any excuses or any references to force-majeure: "I don't care about the reasons; I'm interested in the result." That is what Kyrill Haratyan, the deputy editor-in-chief of the newspaper Kommersant
, who used to work as head of the Department of Foreign Publications, says. Kommersant
was the first Russian newspaper to regularly review foreign publications. In those years, only one organization had the right to permanent subscriptions to foreign newspapers-the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Kommersant
had several of its own people there who shared the filing. But after the events of August 1991, the good times ended and the Central Committee had to start thinking about eternity. And Haratyan had to start thinking about how to perform his work. He managed to perform it by going to Sheremetevo-2 (Moscow's international airport) once a week and meeting foreign passengers with a question in four languages: did any of them have any of today's newspapers or magazines (they had been distributed on the plane)? A journalist's work could be dangerous: he was quickly noticed by taxi drivers, who decided that he was taking their clients away and talked to him "in a serious way." Negotiations were difficult, but successful. Once the Mafia were convinced that his intentions were honest, they started helping him in getting periodicals. They even offered Haratyan as a polyglot to win over clients for a certain percentage of the profits for them. However, the journalist did not change his trade and avoided penalties.
But Yakovlev fought most strictly against the use of alcohol at work. He explained the prohibition not by his devotion to principles, but by his observation of life: "I used to watch the staff of the newspaper becoming drunkards. I do not want to completely change the staff of my newspaper in several years." A separate price-list existed for alcoholic crimes as well: the most expensive crime was to be caught with vodka, port was a little cheaper, and beer was even cheaper. They say that if Yakovlev unexpectedly appeared, some resourceful employees quickly stuck the hand with the glass in it out the window and tried to behave independently (it was not forbidden to drink beyond the walls of the editorial office). One content manager was the subject the most terrible punishment for drinking alcohol some years back: Yakovlev sentenced him to a month of regular visits to the karate club (in Kommersant's fitness center, which was specially created to keep employees in good shape).
With the advent of Kommersant
, one more item of journalistic expenses was born-payment for information. The newspaper claimed to be the most efficient and informed, and that it was necessary to pay for it. There was once an occasion when all journalists were removed from a private meeting of the USSR Supreme Soviet. But Kommersant
was the only publication that could write about the session in detail: the dictaphone for Kommersant
was held by the same security guard who was removing the journalists from the hall. Kommersant
was the first to introduce night shifts to its staff. A special group sat through the whole night listening on the scanner to police officers giving each other information about incidents. After hearing about a serious incident, a correspondent rushed to the scene in an on-duty car.
The set of rigid but quite reasonable and clear rules allowed Yakovkev to create a mechanism that could work independently without him in future. As a result, the efficiency of information achieved such a level that the weekly Kommersant
at times managed to report the news earlier than daily newspapers. Today we can say that Kommersant
was the first real market publication to actively expand in the mass media market. At a time when the advertising market did not yet exist, Kommersant
published so-called Kommersant
information and contact telephone numbers free of charge, heating up the advertising market. The harvest of this strategy was reaped in super-profitable 1993, when, having no competitors, Kommersant
alone collected all advertising of large businesses.
's innovation also became apparent in an aggressive marketing strategy. In 1992, the Publishing House started releasing a daily newspaper Kommersant-Daily
. In 1993, the Kommersant
weekly was transformed into the color magazine Kommersant
. A monthly full-color family magazine, Domovoi
, was issued in the same year; the monthly Autopilot
and weekly Dengi
appeared a year later. Today, the Kommersant Publishing House consists of:
The editorial and technical staff of Kommersant consists of more than 800 people. Its readership exceeds 1 million people. The Kommersant
school has won a victory in the country. Here we do not only mean that the majority of newspapers have in many respects adopted its style and its administrative and technological know-how. A lot of popular mass media publications are being created by people who originated from Kommersant
. They work on magazines such as Expert
, and Afisha
; on newspapers such as Izvestia
, Vremya МN
, and Versiya
; at the broadcasting company RTR; on the internet publication Gazeta.ru
, etc. Newspapers such as Segodnya
, Obschaya Gazeta
, and Antenna
; magazines like Ptyuch
, Soldier of Fortune
, TV - Park
, and the Russian edition of Penthouse
have been created on the technical basis of Kommersant
at the Kit-Art design bureau at different times.