Monday, October 24, 2011

End of trouble for le Monde?

Are things improving for the most prestigious French daily? It seems that there is some progress and the worse is not a sure thing anymore. Louis Dreyfus, the CEO is close to winning the battle of the printing. The over staffed printing unit is going to be reduced from 220 to 70 employees as only one press will keep working. The regional newspapers agree to print and deliver the copy for out of Paris readers. This way,le Monde will save several millions of euros every year and part of the Ivry print factory can be sold to developers. After four days of strike, it seems that the two printers unions are close to an agreement. A new printing unit set up by Riccobono will be devoted to the magazines of the group and possibly free sheets.

A solution could also be found for the Internet branch which is partially owned by Lagardere. In that case, Le Monde would be in full charge of its most promising venture like all the other newspapers.

Still questions remain on the weekly magazine, delivered on Friday in Paris. It is costly and its content is uneven, to say the least. For the moment, the advertisers seem interested. However, they could flee by next January and the End of the week issue doesn't sell all that well. An assessment will have to takeplace next year.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The New York Times challenge

In the last issue of the New Yorker, Ken Auletta,their Media correspondant looks at the New York Times and its new executive editor, a woman, Jill Abramson. For the "gray lady", probably the best newspaper in the world, and its new boss, the challenge is dramatic. The Internet revolution has totally disrupted the working of the dailies. They have lost part of their advertising income and they deal with news which have already reached their readers through the Web.

Auletta reminds us that the Times company has lost money in two of the past five years. During the second quarter of 2011, digital news revenue rose by 15%, thanks to the success of the new digital subscription offer. Now 280000 people subscribe to the digital edition. And yet, print advertising drops more quickly than digital advertising rises and the company lost 120 million dollars during the same second quarter.

Clearly, the roadmap of Jill Abramson is to transform the newspaper into a multimedia operation, where journalists must file both the daily print edition and, several times a day,the online edition. It is an uneasy challenge as the quality of the newspaper must not suffer and the financial question is not solved by far.

Anyway, all the executives of the world newspaper industry must hope that the NYT succeeds.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Huffington Post abroad

Arianna Huffington has been around for several days in Paris and on television to promote the French edition of her electronic publication which is a big success in the US. However, one wonders whether the export of the Huff. Post is a smart move for her and for AOL, her new owner. Various polls show that more and more people check the news on the Web, 70% of the internauts according to a recent survey. And yet, the credibility of many Web services is very low. The same poll values it at 2% for social networks as compared to 21% for newspapers.

Huff.Post is midway between the two systems. It agregates articles picked up from various publications and many blogs provided by various experts who work for free for a very profitable business. The system is fragile and could collapse any time as competition is getting more tough. One wonders why le Monde decided to move in and become a partner of Arianna, with Mathieu Pigasse one of the daily's owners who put his money in this venture.

This move is even more amazing if one considers the success of le Monde on Internet. It has, with les Echos, the highest percentage of electronic subscribers: 6% of its subscribers while le Figaro's is less than 1%. If the French Huff.Post closes down in a few months, who will pay the bill?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Regional newspapers. The future of Hersant group

To morrow, Friday 14, the excutives of the Belgian group Rossel and and Groupe Herasant media (GHM), meet to fix an agreement suggested by the Finance Ministry. If it works, a big if, it will mean that Rossel takes in charge the Eastern and Southern dailies of GHM.

But is it going to work? There is no guarantee for that. Hersant family is not eager to lose its best publications and keep its failing free sheets group Comareg and the deficit ridden Paris Normandie. The banks are eager for cash to pay back for the 200 million euros of debts of GHM.

A failure would mean another setback for Rossel a well managed and prosperous press group that intends to increase its positions in the French press. And yet, a new organisation of the regional newspapers is necessary and will happen sooner or later.

The same can be said of Presstalis whose future seems obscure, to say the least. Nobody is willing to pay for the heavy losses of this company which will probably be replaced by the regional newspapers for the delivery of the national dailies. However, the magazines have no alternative to Presstalis. To get out of this quandary, the actors of the press industry will have to wait for after the presidential elections of May 2012.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Media concentration

The concentration of the media is a thankless process. Huge groups are building up ans suddenly vanish into oblivion or suffer heavy losses. Look at News Corp, the Murdoch group. They have suddenly been forced to close down The News of the World, give up any hope of buying all of Sky TV and been under scrutiny of the US Justice department and Rupert Murdoch is 80.

Same thing in France. In 1995, Robert Hersant died with his all powerful media group. In 2011, Vincent Bollore seems to abandon his ambitious media projects by selling two TV channels to Canal Plus. However, Bertrand Méheut, the CEO of Canal has to justify his position with the regulation authorities, concerning both his new acquisition and TPS satellite service.

In the field of regional newspapers, Bernard Marchant, the chairman of Rossel, owner of Voix du Nord, has been trying for years to build up his position without much success. He failed to buy le Parisien. Groupe La Montagne has been pulling out of a partnership with him and Philippe Hersant seems reluctant to sell him his two dailies, L'Union and Paris Normandie.

One wonders, now if media concentration is still relevant in the time of Google and Apple. There are so many new channels that carry information that traditional processes appear a bit out of date. It is the time of the networks and they are mostly virtual.