Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Internet above all

The last figures from the US show the continuing rise of Internet. According to the Pew center, 46% of the American get their information from the Web against 40% from the paper. Last year, for the first time but not the last Internet attracted more advertising income than the press. No doubt that the same figures will occur in Europe in 2 or 3 years.

And yet, there is a lot of food for thought when we consider the future of information. There is an enormous buzz with the social networks, Facebook and Twitter that provide a disturbing amount of news delivered in a stunning disorder. Is it what we really expect from news organizations? Of course not but what do we expect every day and, more and more, every hour?

We want to learn facts quickly. We want also to be in touch with in depth analysis that imply tens and hundreds of experts. We seek an order we used to find in the average newspaper and yet, we want to react and send our opinion with one click.

We are reluctant to pay but demand a very costly news collection. To put it briefly, the public must make up its mind. The New York Times states that it has already 100 000 paid subscribers. It could collect this way 30 millions dollars per year. This is a good start. Lets hope for the next stage: a self sufficient Web and paper news organization.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The web economy. Who pays what?

When I learnt that The Huffington Post was sold for 315 million dollars, I smelled trouble. As I said in my blog posted on February 15, the many bloggers who have worked for free for years, for the sake of Ariana H. would not appreciate the sale of their contributions. Unfortunately for Ms Huffington, I was right. Some bloggers are starting a legal dispute that could last for a long time. French sites are not out of the loop either. A recent article from le Monde mentioned that at Rue 89, some bloggers were starting to ask for fees, considering they were contributing to the audience of this successful pure player. In fact, it seems obvious that the whole economy of information on the Web is changing again. Social networks and specially, Facebook, are used more and more to deliver pieces of news. So is Youtube. In cases like that, you cannot ask people to pay. Display advertising is a solution but will it be enough? As far as Facebook is concerned, its ads revenue is skyrocketing. It was 2 billion dollars last year. It will be 4 billions this year. In february, in the US, one third of display ads went to Facebook. Still, this income doesn't go to the providers but to the owners of Facebook. We are back to the Hufpost.

Same thing for the forums which are managed by a new population of professionals. They bring a lot of audience and many useful informations but are they really profitable? It is a well Known fact that they must be monitored permanently by the social managers who are employees of the sites.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

print and deliver: the newspapers challenge

For months, the national and regional dailies have been working on a new organization that could change dramatically their ways of working and drastically improve their economy.

Now, the deadline is getting very close indeed. Are we about to start a revolution in printing and delivery? The executives at le Figaro, le Monde or Libération seem to think so. The idea is quite simple: why should they print the issues sold in the provinces, with very expensive machines working near Paris and then carry them by truck or train which are costly and carbon consumming? These three dailies can easily be printed in Lyon, Rennes or Strasbourg by the regional presses and be delivered by the very efficient networks of the regional newspapers. Millions of euros could be saved this way.

Such a solution would allow le Figaro and le Monde to reduce their printing capacities in Paris and escape the heavy machinery of Presstalis, the national delivery system of newspapers created in 1947 and now half dead. In Paris region, the distribution organization of le Parisien could easily play the same part. In that case, the national dailies could greatly improve their offer of home delivery which has always been a strong asset of the regional dailies.

It seems that the national newspapers which are losing on both circulation and advertising and face increasing costs of production and logistics, are ready to jump. It appears too that the government is willing to help. So, we can expect some big decisions before the coming summer.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The gamble of the New York Times

I must inform you I have subscribed to the new digital offer of the New York Times. Now, lets see why I jumped into the pit. There are several reasons, good or bad, we'll see later. 1- I am a compulsive user of the web site of the grey lady and obviously, 20 articles for free per month was too limited for my greed of international news, opinions, book reviews and more. 2- The initial offer of the NYT was quite cheap: 11 dollars or 8 euros for illimited use on my computer and I-phone for 4 months. I know it will go up in 12 months but I could not wait. 3- I know that nerds can get for free through Google, social networks or various gimmicks, all they want to read in the NYT but it takes time and a Web acumen I don't share. When I want to reach quickly the very last news on Lybia, I don't enjoy maneuvering through the networks. Last but not least, as a newspaperman myself, I strongly believe that you cannot deliver news for ever, for free. For information lovers, the economic situation of one of the best world dailies is a permanent worry. Where the NYT will find the money to finance 1000 journalists who cover just everything happening in the world? The answer is simple. People will have to pay.
Still, the new system is not easy to grasp and it remains to see whether readers will follow up. If the NYT earns half a million of subscribers, the world over, the gamble will pay off. If not, we shall move even more quickly towards a two level information organization: a free news delivery, fast and superficial and a sophisticated one, very expensive for a minority of top executives.