Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hersant and co

The Hersant group is close to exhaustion. Its free sheets branch Comareg is bankrupt. Its newspapers are in deep trouble. However endless negociations go on with the banks and a prospective buyer, groupe Rossel. 20 banks are hard to agree, specially in this time of financial crisis. Rossel is willing to move forward but at its conditions, which means a complete reorganization of the newspapers and 700 hundred jobs in jeopardy.

It is obvious that Hersant family will have to dramatically reduce its share in the group, the ownership beeing shared between Rossel and the main banks. It is also plain that Hersant will have to sell its jewels, the othersea publications, France Antilles and co.

Will the matters be settled before the end of the year? I doubt it. Group Hersant is moving towards unchartered territory.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The New York Times wins the battle of the web

A few days ago, Jim Roberts, the editor in charge of Internet in the newsroom of the NYT went to Paris. With a few colleagues, we discussed with him the main topics concerning the Web policy of the Grey Lady.

Jim admitted that the conversion of the print journalists to digital reporting was not an easy job and took some time. According to him, no more than 200 out of the 1000 that works in the newsroom are really involved in writing for the Web.

Still most people agree with the new rythm of 24hrs a day that is implied by the merger of print and Internet. Articles are put on the site as soon as they are ready,without ever waiting for the print edition. Moreover, journalists are invited to use the social networks, Facebook and Twitter to dispatch pieces of information. Clearly, the social networks are a way to promote the image of the Times, a big PR device. Also, a team of 20 collects video news.

Concerning the new paying wall, it seems to be successful, even if it admits some holes ie the use of Google or Facebook to have a free access to the news. Figures look good: 700 000 subscribers from the print edition, 320 000 digital only. The total amount is one million. However, the income from the subscriptions and advertising are still much lower than the receipts of the print edition but Jim refused to give more figures.

Asked about the recent creation of a community of trusted commentators, Jim said that it was both a way to reduce the cost of moderation and a mean to recruit experts who would contribute to the content of the print and the Web. The combination of this community and the development of curation would allow the Times to play a central role on the information market, to be a "Google of the news".

Speaking of the future, Jim admitted that three big issues remained: the working of the paywall, the applications on the mobile tablets and the use of the social networks. The Times keeps testing these issues.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The future of webjournalism

On December 1st and 2nd the specialists of webjournalism met in Metz to discuss the tricky relationship between the Web and the various media, press web sites or pure players.
During the debate, there was a sharp contrast between the users of the web and the social networks and the people in charge of press sites who have to manage journalists and check the facts.
Professional internauts dream of a space where a permanent flow of news moves through Twitter and Facebook and is connected thanks to hypertext links to every kind of information produced in every part of the world.

The web site executives worry about the credibility of their output and the financing of their work. They need two things which are not easy to get in the Web paradise: time to assess the news and money to pay their staff.
It seems that a dialogue is difficult to manage as positions, both of them interesting and useful, are so far away from each other.
And yet, the main point is what does the public wants. From what we know, it is attracted to safe offers supported by labels such as the New York Times or le Monde. It is even beginning to agree to pay if the quality is there. Still, the concept of curation, ie the multiplication of links is getting more popular. It is a clever way to enrich the news offer without drowning the public with hundreds of messages.
The debate goes on. We'll go back to it very soon.