Wednesday, November 17, 2010

le Monde, le Parisien
What's happening with the two sensitive dossiers of the newspaper industry?
Le Monde is still in a phase of interrogations. Last week, the closing proceedings were deeply disturbed by the action of the Spanish media group Prisa which refused to be diluted by the 3 new holders of the daily. Prisa wanted to be nothing else than the unsollicited fourth partner, part of the holding company "Le Monde libre" that belongs to Berger, Niel and Pigasse (called BNP). A last minute negociation between Jean Michel Darois, Prisa s'lawyer and the lawyers of BNP and the journalists association (SRM) led to a compromise that will allow Prisa to enter "le Monde libre" and give an advice on the main decisions. What is important is that Prisa agreed on the price of its withdrawal if it intends to leave: 3,5 million euros, the same amount Lagardère received for its exit, a sum BNP can easily afford.
What remains to be seen is the way BNP will sort out the big management challenges of the deficit ridden newspaper. Experts agree that the top priority is the printing unit. Its population of 300 workers could easily be reduced to 100. The net annual saving would be 12 million euros well enough to stop the global losses. Other challenges concern the advertising and the delivery. Most regional newspapers are willing to deliver le Monde through their very efficient network. It would be cheaper and better than Presstalis whose future looks dark indeed. All added, there is no reason to doubt that le Monde could at last break even within 2 years. A good news for BNP, if they act on time.
As far as le Parisien is concerned, the decision of its owner, Amaury to put an end to the sale offer can only bring trouble. The new CEO of the group, Philippe Carli, who has no experience of the media (his previous job was at Siemens), will have to appease the newsroom which is deeply disturbed by the attempt from its historic owner, to get rid of a good newspaper that doesn't make money. It won't be easy to make it more profitable in a declining market when sales and ads are going South.
Even more awkward will be the shaping of the future of the print in a group that believes more and more in electronic communications. Sooner or later, hard choices will have to be made and it is likely that the sale of le Parisien is only postponed. And yet, this sobering experience showed that the value of newspapers is not what it used to be. A hard lesson for Amaury executives;
However, President Sarkozy let it known that he was happy about the decision of Amaury to keep this influential daily.