Twitter Ventures Into Ad Sales in Russia

Targets Sixth Biggest Country By Internet Service As Putin Tightens Reins

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Twitter has started to sell advertising in Russia, shrugging off regulatory hurdles and a slowing economy as part of a push to add revenue outside the U.S.

The social network is selling ads through reseller Httpool, the company's advertising partner for Eastern Europe, VP Colin Crowell said in an interview in Moscow. Russia's largest lenderOAO Sberbank and wireless operator VimpelCom are among the San Francisco-based company's first Russian clients, according to Httpool.

Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin Credit: Kremlin.ru

"Twitter's global prospects as a company are contingent on succeeding in markets around the world," Mr. Crowell said. "We've been -- particularly over the last 18 months -- growing internationally to catch up to where the service and the brand outleaped the size of the company a few years back."

The site is targeting Russia, the world's sixth-biggest country by internet audience, even as President Vladimir Putin signed laws this year to tighten control over bloggers and urge foreign companies to store users data locally. Google is relocating its engineering team away from the country that faces a recession after its currency plunged to a record low against the U.S. dollar.

Twitter is complying with Russian government requests to block access to illegal content in the same manner as it does elsewhere, Mr. Crowell said. It's too early to comment on a law requiring companies to store user data locally as it won't come into force for another year, he said.

The Russian blogger law equates online writers with 3,000 or more readers as media outlets, making them and their hosts liable for content and subject to regulation. Twitter is working with regulator Roskomnadzor about ways to comply with the rule, Mr. Crowell said.

Twitter had 10.1 million Russian users as of July compared with 10.5 million at Facebook, according to research by ComScore Inc. Moscow-based Mail.ru Group's social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki had 59 million and 53 million users respectively, ComScore data shows.

--Bloomberg News

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