A matter of survival: Burda Media Ukraine CEO Andrii Vdovychenko gives us an update on publishing in Kyiv

Andrii Vdovychenko, CEO and owner of Burda Media Ukraine is dealing with the sort of pressures no publisher should have to face. Because of Russian bombing raids, the area in Kyiv where Burda – one of the biggest creators of magazines in the country – is based is prone to rolling blackouts, once going without power for 455 hours.

“For the people here, it not only means the lack of electricity, but also heat and sometimes pipeline water as well,” he explains. “Those blackouts have created not only problems in people’s private lives, but also in business. Our journalists, working from home, have been facing difficulties to connect their computers to the network and charge their batteries.

“Even when we were able to upload the content, shutdowns of our sites have happened several times, so our IT people spend hours fixing them to ensure access for 1,5 million unique users.”

When it comes to printed products, the situation is even more difficult. “The printing houses have been facing extreme difficulties keeping their machines running during blackouts,” says Vdovychenko, who made a management buyout of Burda Media Ukraine in 2019. “That creates longer production times and disrupted delivery plans.”

Since Russia invaded in February 2022, Burda Media Ukraine has had to reduce its portfolio from 25 periodical magazines to seven, including Marie Claire, Burda Style and five crossword magazines. While Burda normally employs over 100 people, they now have a team of only 30 journalists.

“They work mostly from their homes or places where they are temporarily living after evacuation with their families – all over Ukraine or abroad,” says Vdovychenko. “For the few people who are coming to our office in Kyiv, we have a bomb shelter in the building where we go during air alarms.”

As bombs rain down on Kyiv, Burda has used its five websites to help its readers deal with the trauma of being under attack. For instance, sites like liza.ua or moirebenok.ua are targeting women and moms, focusing on topics like “how to keep your baby calm during bombing” or “how to keep your house warm during blackouts”. It also runs tips to help improve mental health.

Faced with so much adversity, Burda Media Ukraine has struggled to keep going. After the Russian invasion started, the publisher could not bring out any printed publications or secure advertising until the middle of May.

“The advertising business started to slowly recover in autumn, so we were able to close 2022 with ‘only’ a 70% year-on-year drop in advertising revenues,” says Vdovychenko. “Having both a drop in ads and circulation revenues, while having a paper costs increase gave us a perfect storm situation.”

To support Burda Media Ukraine, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched by Frances Evans, former Director of International Marketing & Innovation at Burda International, to help pay the salaries of journalists. So far, the initiative has raised around €15,500 and hopes to reach the €50,000 mark.

Another similar campaign has been launched The Fix media, in conjunction with other partners. According to Vdovychenko the support has been absolutely vital to preserve publishing in Ukraine.

“Without funding from our friends and partners, directly or through campaigns like the one launched by my friend and former colleague Frances Evans, we would not have been able to pay salaries and keep the content production running,” he says.

“When it comes to the media business in Ukraine, we hope for the further recovery of both readers interest and advertising markets. Those directly depend on the situation on the battlefield and our ability to protect Ukrainian civil infrastructure from Russian missiles and drones.”


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