Monday, December 24, 2012

Are e-readers out of fashion?

The New York Times in two recent articles dated Dec. 20 and 24, delivers very worrying figures for e-reading observers.

Two years ago, it was common knowledge that e-books were going to bury by 2016 print books thanks to the immense success of cheap convenient e-readers.

2012 figures show that the success of e-books is not as obvious as it should be. Amazon, the leader in the field has delayed an expected move on  book prices that remain, in the US, stubbornly above 10 dollars. Moreover the sales are still growing, by 35% this year, a significant figure but much less that during the previous years. It seems that there is a saturation of the public which is probably also disturbed by the disparition of physical book shops, an ideal place to discover what is on in the publishing world.

Also, the sales of e-readers, including Amazon Kindle are going down: 14 millions worldwide as compared to 17 millions in 2011. This year, the sales of connected machines including tablets were 303 millions.

It appears that most customers prefer to buy a tablet which is more expensive but more useful than a only reading Kindle. Amazon has  assessed the danger and is promoting its touch Kindle fire. Other minor e-readers producers will probably be forced out of the market.

A big question remains unanswered: how is the publishing industry to survive if prices go down and bookshops vanish? It is obvious that e-books are not the solution.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Tapie and the future of French press

The victory of Tapie was not a total surprise. The man is tenacious and the deal he proposed to Hersant was highly profitable for Herant family since it will save a part of their assets. The banks will lose 160 millions euros but they could offer no credible solution. Group Rossel, the other alternative had limited resources and was afraid of having to pay for the sequences of Comareg bankrupcy.

This unpleasant solution bodes badly for the future of French press. In a few months Sud Ouest will have to face a harsh reality: huge debts and no cash. There again, the banks led by CIC will have to find a solution and nobody will come to the rescue of the ailing press group whose owners will have to sell, if they find a buyier.

Lets not forget the dramatic situation of Presstalis. The unions will not be able to stop the fall of what was a powerful press delivery system and is vanishing from the media landscape.

If I was to gamble on the future, I would edge my bets on three dailies, le Figaro, le Monde and les Echos. All three of them are moving in the right direction: cutting on printing costs and investing on Internet. Still, they are expensive for the average reader and they provide much less paper than their European counterparts. Does it mean that French journalists must work harder to save the day?

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Washington Post and the paying wall

The Guardian of December 10 and the Washington Post  of December 16 have discussed the matter of the paywall, the new obsession of press executives in every developed country 
The debate obviously rages at the Post. Must they follow the example of the NY Times, their nemesis or go on offering their news for free. 

As the argument of the adversaries of a pay system goes, the Post is not a world newspaper like the Times. It is regional, closer to the Boston Globe. And the Globe has failed selling its pay edition that collects less than 50000 subscribers 10 times less than its mother company, the Times. the Post has 18 millions unique viewers a month and risks to lose a lot of them if it moves to pay subscription. 

Yes but the partisans of the pay wall consider that it is a shame to offer for free the very good coverage of public and government affairs from the Post and advertising on the Web is des appointing, to say the least. So Hamletlike Don Graham hesitates: to pay or not to pay, that is the question. 

Hersant group South

Last week, the difficult discussions about the fate of La Provence and Nice Matin, the southern newspapers of Group Hersant, went on and on. An agreement is due on December 24 but the outcome is far from obvious.

Philippe Hersant and his chief excutive, Dominique Bernard favour a deal with the sulfurous businessman Bernard Tapie. They would contribute a total of 50 millions euros, about 25% of the debt towards the 17 banks who loaned 225 millions to Hersant six years ago and would lose 175 millions.

The French President office, at Elysée is forcefully opposed to the Tapie solution, for political and economic reasons. They strongly suspect that the maverick businessman is after the City Hall of Marseille and willing to sell Nice Matin and France Antilles to just anybody. So Emmanuel Macron deputy general secretary of Elysée and an expert in newspapers industry has convinced BNP, the main banking creditor, to loan 50 millions to Rossel. This Belgian press group who owns already Voix du Nord and is buying the Eastern dailies of Hersant, seems ready to move South, an unchartered territory for them, with the French government support.

Philippe Hersant is totally against the Rossel deal. The Belgians are also walking on shaky ground. Their financial situation is far from good. They have to cut the staff of their Brussels daily, Le Soir to make for the fall of advertising income. Its anybody's guess how they would pay back BNP.

Who is going to win? Bernard Tapie or Elysée through Rossel and what will be the destiny of the ailing newspapers? Some answer next Monday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hersant group and Presstalis

The twin dramas of Hersant group and Presstalis are about to reach a temporary conclusion. Nothing is really settled but there are some openings.

As far as Hersant is concerned, the banks have agreed to the sale of the eastern dailies to Rossel. The managers of the Belgian group will have a tough job to reduce drastically the bloated printing staff of Union de Reims but they know well the dossier and they are ready.

Nothing is done yet for the Southern dailies. Ebra is not interested so it is very likely that local investors will offer proposals for Nice Matin and la Provence, two newspapers whose sales have gone down dramatically but can be profitable at least for a while.

The next regional newspaper group to face trouble in 2013 is Sud Ouest. Its private owners have every good reason to be worried. The fall of advertising and sales don't leave them much hope of a profit and the price offered for Hersant dailies is a very bad reference for a future sale of Sud Ouest and Midi Libre. However, it is probably better to get rid of these publications next year rather than letting them fall even lower.

Presstalis is in an even tighter corner. The salvation plan that was made public last week can let it survive for one more year but not much longer. The obvious solution is to split the delivery of newspapers and magazines. National dailies can be taken care of by the regional newspapers and magazines by a new organization supported maybe by Geodis.

More than ever before, the press has to find a strategy for Internet. We'll go back to it soon.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Public support of the press

France is one of the European leaders in its indiscriminate public aid of the press. It seems that this situation cannot last at a time of budget penury. Michel Françaix, a socialist MP in charge of the budget of public subsidies of the press has just published his very useful annual report and seems to agree.

What does he say? That a great part of these generous subsidies go to publications which have no connexions with general citizens'information.As an example, he shows that the numerous TV magazines collect as much as 53 millions euros of privileged postal rates. 35% of the public aid goes to magazines, most of them beeing purely commercial businesses while the national and regional dailies receive only 39% of the total aid.

The situation is not better as far as the press distribution is concerned. The government subsidizes heavily the postal service which is less and less efficient and Presstalis which is collapsing and reduces its aid to the home delivery service which is the best solution for carrying newspapers to their customers.

The failure of Groupe Hersant and Presstalis shows very clearly that the public subsidies service is both costly and inefficient. Many European countries, small like Norway or big like Germany are host to dynamic media groups eager to invest and increase their presence on Internet and yet, they get much less public support than in France. What France needs is a creative public policy that will promote pluralism and self development. The Françaix report suggests some solutions. Lets hope the prime minister and the president will listen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The fate of Newsweek

It was not a big surprise to learn that Newsweek owner put an end to a 80 years old  prestigious career in the print and turn it into a digital publication.

So, it was not a surprise but was it a smart move? I doubt it.

Digital media face two handicaps, to be visible and to be user friendly. By leaving the print, Newsweek will vanish from the kiosks and will have to fight a uphill battle with too many competitors who occupy already a comfortable seat on the Internet stage. Moreover, pure players such as Slate or Salon or sophisticated newspapers sites like the New York Times are very attractive for the internauts as they offer a wide range of news, video, blogs and good connections to the social networks. Newsweek disapeared from the print world because it added no value to saturated readers. The same will apply to the Internet. Unfortunately, this fine weekly is doomed and will be absorbed by the fairly successful Daily Beast.

One more question. What will happen to the too many French newsmagazines? Are they bound to disappear like Newsweek? Are they useless? For the time beeing, I will try a tentative no. They obviously profit from the weakness of the French dailies. None of them covers extensively in print and on the web, the current affairs as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or the Washington Post still do. So the French Express, le Point or Nouvel Observateur can still contribute to the information of a large public which is often frustrated by the slim content of money starved dailies.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Murdoch and the digital revolution

Rupert Murdoch has been the most powerful media mogul of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. So his decision to quit his position of chairman of the London Times added to his previous parting of his group in two branches, one devoted to television and the new media and the other one including the old media, i.e. newspapers, gives a lot of food for thought.

In a recent article in the New York Times, the Reuters media correspondant speculates that it means the sale of the print publications of the group and specially the Times. Yet the big question is: who could buy these old fashioned and deficit ridden print products. They are not profitable but they still carry some power and influence: one could imagine that a foreign investor, Chinese, Russian or Indian could be tempted to enter the field. It would be a rude blow for the British estabilshment.

However, a recent study from the Pew research center would justify Murdoch's decision. In 10 years, in the US, the proportion of people who look for information in the print press has gone down from 41 to 23%. 55% of the readers of the New York Times use the digital edition. 71% of the population keeps informed thanks to TV news.

The social networks are still informing a minority but they grow steadily, from 9 to 19%.

In Europe, the figures would be lower but they move in the same direction. Television is the dominant media. Internet is more and more popular thanks to mobiles and tablets. Face book and Twitter attract people under 35. Old Murdoch is probably right to stick to Fox and BskyB.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Group Hersant

Now a solution is about to be found for Group Hersant. Rossel was willing to buy the whole group, including the overseas papers for 55 millions euros. The banks have not considered it to be  a fair price. They prefer to sell each title separately as they hope the operation to be more profitable. It seems that local investors could be interested by France Antilles and la Provence. Rossel will bargain for the eastern dailies which are losing several millions euros a year and need a full reorganization.

Still, it is doubtful that the banks will recover most of their loans. And yet, they face another deadline with Sud Ouest, heavily indebted and unable to pay back. That will be the next drama of the regional press.

Who is willing to put money in newspapers? We shall get the answer soon and it will not be pretty.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Group Hersant and Presstalis

The saga of group Hersant is closing to an unhappy end. On september 30, the mediator will submit a proposal which could be either a  global buying out to another media group or a sale of the various titles to various buyers. Rossel could be a candidate for a global acquisition or for taking over the eastern dailies. Michel Lucas, the powerful boss of EBRA group could be interested by the Southern dailies Provence and Nice Matin. What is sure is that this painful story will end with several hundred jobs lost. It is obvious that the unions made the wrong gamble when they believed that, thanks to the new socialist government the bitter pill would be softened.

It is a bit the same story with Presstalis. This week, proposals emerged that will change drastically the whole system of press delivery. MLP will be obliged to contribute and a part of the activity will be sublet to Geodis, a branch of SNCF. In spite of the strong complaints and strikes of the Unions, Presstalis is going to slowly disappear at a very high cost. The regional newspapers will also suffer as a great part of the subsidies they get for home delivery will be transfered to financing the heavy social bill of Presstalis.

A quick conclusion: the news industry has a bright future, the print industry must manage its decline. The French way of managing the press is dead.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Guardian believes in tablets

In to day's issue of the Guardian, the newspaper presents the new wave of tablets proposed by Apple and Amazon. They are smaller,cheaper, at about 150 euros and should sell massively to a new public.

It could be an opportunity for the print press . As the article suggests, the users of Kindle are already familiar of reading on tablets. It should be easier to sell them newspapers applications. Yes but at what price? It is still obvious that the customers are highly reluctant to pay. The popularity of e-books in the US and the UK has proved that people can buy books on the Web. Will they go as far as spending money for dailies? The failure of Murdoch's Daily is an ominous sign of the poor state of the market. A Nielsen report shows that last January in the US, one third of I phone and I pad owners downloaded a news application but only 3%  were paid apps.

So the press executives face the same quandary: how to finance editorial teams to satisfy an appetite for news which is huge. In his last Monday Note, Frederic Filloux states that newspapers should not hesitate to rise prices to finance digital developments. It is certainly a part of the solution. Tablets are also a promising device but a financial balance for the press is still far away and advertising is not much attracted by the split audiences of news websites. It is easy, then, to understand why The American dailies are developing video on their sites. There is no better way, right now, to catch advertisers.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Group Hersant Media the end?

Hersant family is going to face its biggest challenge and the group survival seems highly doubtful. Last week the union Filpac CGT published on its website a well documented statement reminding the government that Philippe Hersant, the Group chairman had invested his money in profitable newspapers i n Switzerland while his French publications were on the brink of bankrupcy.
The court has nominated an expert who should try to negociate, before September 30 an agreement with the banks. Group Hersant owes 200 millions euros to its 17 bank creditors. Needless to say the bankers will never see their money back and nobody can oblige Philippe Hersant to use his Swiss assets worth about 100 millions as collateral.

So, the most likely outlook is the sale before the end of the year of the various Hersant newspapers, Union, Ardennais, Provence, Nice Matin and some more. Who is going to buy is anybody's guess. It seems that Rossel is still interested by some dailies and Michel Lucas, the powerful boss of EBRA could try to get La Provence which would be a nice complement to his South East daily le Dauphiné. It is the dramatic end of a long story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

From print to television

The New York Times Company announced this morning that it would get this fall a new president, i e a new boss. The choice made by the chairman and the board came as a big surprise. The nominee is Mark Thompson, the retiring dierctor general of the BBC, a British and a former journalist who made all his career in television.

Sulzberger, the NYT chairman stated that it was time for the famous newspaper to enter fully in the digital age and Thompson was very successful in developing the BBC website and applications which were boosted by the Olympic Games. Still, it is a gamble to put in charge of the grey lady a man who is a total stranger to the print industry.

And yet, the NYT has been quite successful with its digital development. It can boast with 500 000 paying subscribers to its digital service, a result that few newspapers in the world can make for. However, there is a trend with the main American dailies to use more and more video and build up a new sort of television channel  supported by the Web. The big plus is that it allows the display of TV ads which are much more profitable than the traditional banners. The task of Mark Thompson is huge indeed.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

What happens to the Washington Post

The quarterly results of the Washington Post show clearly the painful situation of a prestigious daily in the Internet era. 
The revenue of the group is 1 billion$ and it's income is still positive at 52 millions. However, the flagship newspaper registers a staggering fall of 9% of its circulation. The ad revenue is down by 9 millions while the Internet revenue is only up by 2 millions. 

Interestingly, what makes the group slightly profitable is not Internet, nor it's ailing education branch Kaplan but television. Broadcast and cable TV turn out an income of 81 millions that makes for the losses of the daily and Kaplan. 

This outcome should not be a surprise. Contrary to what the Internet nerds believe, television is still a very profitable business with good audience, whether in America or in Europe. The threat for the broadcasters comes from the attempts of Google and Apple to build up television services easily availables on increasingly popular tablets. A tough challenge for the WP group. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Presstalis again

As foreseen the drama of Presstalis is unfolding driving to disaster the French delivery system. Last week a strike bloked the distribution of national newspapers in Paris. It is just a beginning. 
A brief reminder of past events. 4years ago at the strategic committee of ETATS Generaux de la Presse we were a few to insist on the sorry state of Presstalis and the necessity to reorganize the ailing company. However, a powerful lobby including LE Figaro and Lagardere magazines stopped any attempt of reform. 4 months ago I sent a note to Hollande campaign staff to warn them about an impending disaster. There were no reactions. 

The figures are quite simple. 1000 workers out of 2500 will have to be laid down as the press traffic is going down by 5% per year. The cost will amount to 300 millions euros and nobody is willing or able to pay. Every six months, the government puts in charge a new top civil servant to find a way out. After six months the highly competent gentleman drops off and is swiftly replaced.  The quandary remains and the strikers get desperate and ready for a long term conflict that will ruin the remaining national dailies. 
The solution is obvious. The press delivery must be taken over by one of the main logistics firms working in France, in partnership with the regional newspapers. It needs a bit of can and a lot of courage. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Guardian and the Times what future

This week end, important news were published on the British press. First it was announced the losses of the Guardian last year. 40 million £ and the necessity to cut the staff by 100 people. Then the stunning results of the Guardian-Observer Web site: 30million UV last May, the number 3 of information sites in the world. A good thing but not enough by far to balance the accounts of the ailing newspaper. Then the Murdoch saga. Rupert is discretely pulling out of his London assets. For the first time in 40 years he is not member of any of his British publications board. This new situation makes it more and more likely that the British press group is on sale. Yes, fine, the bad guy is punished for the hacking and corruption scandal. But who is going to buy. The prestigious Times is losing 60 million £ per year. The Sun is not as popular as it used to be and the News of the World has disappeared. A bit of comfort for the French internaut who watches the decline of the French press.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is there a life after Presstalis?

The staff of Aurelie Filippetti, the French minister of Culture is desperately trying to find a solution for Presstalis. The bill could go up to 300 millions euros and the government is broke. Newspapers and magazines suffer from both a loss of sales and a fall of advertising. They are not in a mood or in capacity to foot the bill.
The regional newspapers seem willing to take incharge the delivery of the national dailies. To distribute 400 millions copies a year would cost 80 millions, i e 20 c. per copy, A rate that makes this regional network highly competitive with Presstalis. However, there is a condition: no links whatsoever with this unionized and inefficient organization.

Le Monde could be very interested if, and its a big if, it moves into a morning newspaper. According to recent agreements with 5 regional dailies, it could get ,as early as this fall, 125000 copies printed out of Paris, in East, West and South of France. The logical outlet would be to get them distributed by the same newspapers. A major upheaval and a very useful money saving device for the ailing daily.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The fate of group Hersant

Listen to the stunning silence of the minister of Industry, Arnaud Montebourg. Hundreds of jobs are going to disappear at GHM and Presstalis but nobody moves apart from Laurent Fabius who tries to convince Pierre Bergé to invest 3 millions euros to save the dying Paris Normandie and its 350 jobs.
Still, it seems that Group Rossel and its dynamic boss Bernard Marchant are ready to take back the ailing newspapers from East and South but on their own conditions. The gamble of the union Filpac CGT was in fact a kind of suicide. Why should they agree to a not very good deal while their refusal provides an even less attractive solution? Why should they refuse a loss of 350 jobs while the court will allow the bankrupt press group to suppress 5 or 600 jobs.? I doubt the Union will recover from such a tremendous failure.

The other losers will be the 17 banks. They loaned 215 millions euros. They will recover only a tiny part of it. Another good reason for the financial system to keep away from any press business. Endebted groups like Sud Ouest should be very careful.

People say that Vincent Bolloré is still readay to invest in the media through Vivendi. The man is lucky. Nobody will stop him because nobody cares. The job is cut for him.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Group Rossel last stand

The Belgian group Rossel delivered yesterday a press release stating that it pulled out of an endless negociation for buying Group Hersant Media, GHM.It is the result of the negative votes of CGT Union people who refused the reorganization and loss of 220 jobs in the Eastern newspapers of GHM.

Is it the end of the story? Not at all. The union thought wrongly that the socialist government would pour tens of millions of euros to save their jobs. They had a nasty surprise when they realized that the staff of the Industry minister was made of the same civil servants they had met at CIRI, the Finance ministry department in charge of failing corporations. They understood too late that the socialists are not more wealthy and generous than Sarkozy people;
And yet, Hersant has to find a solution to pay back to its 17 bankers its 215 millions of debt. No hope that anybody will pay for him. Rossel is waiting very quietly for the unions to face the tough reality and the banks to agree for a partial loss in hope of saving the remaining part of the huge Hersant debt.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What happens to the media

The turmoil in the media world raises many questions and few answers. Yes Internet is delivering a massive offer of news but opinion polls during the last French elections showed that the public trusted mostly television to be informed. In fact in Europe and in the US people are spending more and more time watching TV, 3hrs30 mn for the French viewers and thetelevision websites are very successful.

Yes the daily press is in bad shape everywhere. In Australia, both Fairfax and News Corp groups are firing hundreds of employees and journalists and starting paying walls. However, the public keeps a strong interest in daily news, whatever their origin, all news television, websites, applications on smartphones and tablets.

The main question remains how to satisfy this apetite for informations which increases every year for every genberation. The answer is money. Quality news are costly. This is why the experience of paying walls needs to be watched very carefully as it is more and more obvious that advertising is lagging behind because of fractured audiences.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A time of crisis

Yesterday, the unions of groupe Hersant Media staged a demonstration in front of the ministry of Labour and of the Regional Newspapers organization. As I have mentionned in previous blogs, the ailing group should cut 600 jobs in the eastern and southern dailies before a sale to the Belgian group Rossel. At the same moment, Elysee and Matignon are working on a solution for Presstalis that could cost about the same number of jobs. It appears then that the crisis of the press industry will be as lethal as any other social dossier facing Jean Marc Ayrault government.

What are the solutions? First, the government should put in charge a social mediator who would try to help the press organizations to reach a settlement with the unions.

Then , the French press owners, dailies and magazines, should build up a more agressive digital strategy. They just need to look across the borders and watch what Springer or Schibsted are doing. These powerful media groups draw a growing profit from their Internet investments, some of them in France. We certainly could do the same and start right now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The story of the Times Picayune

The Times Picayune, the prestigious daily of New Orleans has existed for 130 years and is a must reading, every morning for the people of the big city. And yet, its management has announced that it was giving up its daily print edition. It will be published only three times a week and rely upon its Website for daily news.

This decision has provoked an uproar among the political and cultural establishment of the Southern city but it won't be revoked. The newspaper is losing money and it is very likely that its exemple will be followed by many others in the US and in Europe.

It is more and more obvious that the newspapers will have to figure out new formulas to survive. The best solution,for the moment, is to combine a bi or threeweekly publication with a paying wall providing instant news. This is bad news for Presstalis,the French delivery organization which is losing the sales of dailies and magazines.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Do you know the Atavist?

The New York Times devotes a long survey to a very interesting start up called the Atavist. The 3 young men who started it and got the support of luminaries such as Eric Scmidt from Google intend to promote a special brand of journalism. They work on long pieces of reporting shorter than books but much longer that the average found in newspapers or magazines. These papers are sold on their site and include multimedia elements, sound and video. They also offer support for people who intend to publish on the Web. As the NYT suggests, it is a comforting experience to see young people still interested by journalism and willing to use the Web potential to promote a sophisticated form of news reporting. So have a look at www.the

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The first challenge of president Hollande

As I have been warning long in advance the staff of François Hollande, the crisis of Presstalis is blowing up with a financial investment to save the company that grows every month. On January  150 millions euros were needed. I discovered last week it had jumped to 200 millions. Read a good story on Presstalis on the website of Electronlibre.

I remember very well that we had heated debates on this matter at the strategic committee of Etats Généraux de la Presse, 4 years ago. Several of us, including myself were in favour of a drastic solution : the merger of Presstalis with a huge logistics company that could cope with the declining figures of press activities. Otherwise, how could you make profitable a company that sees its sales declining by 10% a year.
Sarkozy refused to move in that direction so the Etats Généraux were cosmetic about the looming disaster of press delivery. Now it is late and maybe too late to reach a consensus. The new government will face a tough negociation with the CGT. Good luck Mr Ayrault.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The model of the New York Times

The New York Times seems to win the challenge of developing its paywall. It has 450000 paying subscribers that add up to the print subscribers who have opted for the digital service. The global figure is 800000  digital subscribers. If you consider that the average subscription fee is 120 dollars a year, it means that the paywall amounts to about 60 million dollars a year, a fairly significant figure.

Still other newspapers executives should not jump too quickly to an early conclusion. The NYT is a very special daily doted with a strong label, an exceptionnal team of 1000 journalists. Its digital policy has been pursued for 15 years with many significant failures. Also, the print edition that carries 90% of the income is in trouble. Since the beginning of 2012, the sales have gone down by 4.5%.

The lesson for French newspapers is that a proper digital policy is a long term effort that will pay off in 5 or maybe 10 years, when the print will be close to collapse. It means too that the quality of information must be coupled with a very cautious subscription policy People are definitely more ready to pay now than 5 years ago but they will only agree with very moderate rates. It is obvious, for instance,that the subscription rate of le Monde is much too high which is a pity if you consider the huge potential of this prestigious daily. What national and regional dailies must do is build up a long term strategy to improve the content of the website and get people used to pay for what they need. The rendez vous is 2022.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Welcome Mr Hollande

François Hollande is very likely to win the French presidential election on May 6. Although the politics of the media has not been a popular topic during the campaign, it seems very likely that the new president will have to face very soon, some akward matters concerning the vast field of Communication.

First and foremost, he will have to handle the dossier of Presstalis, the ailing organization in charge of the delivery of national newspapers and magazines. Presstalis is on the brink of bankrupcy and according to la, will need 160 millions euros to survive but for how long? Nobody has any idea about the recipe for survival for an obsolescent system dominated by the Unions.
Then it will be necessary to fix the legislation of Internet and find a middle way between the safety of the industry of creation (music, video, book publishing) and the demands of complete freedom issued noisily by many Internauts. The new bill, the new Hadopi is not written yet.
The government will also have to reorganize the costly system of press subsidies. It is obvious that public money will be ever more scarce these coming years and the many magazines will have to give up their cosy subsidies that should be totally devoted to opinion newspapers and weeklies. A tough choice for the politicians.
Last but not least, the new organization of public television. Its audience is going down as more and more TNT channels are in competition with the old broadcasters. The audiovisual authority, the CSA is powerless towards the increasing development of video on the Web. Can it regulate international giants such as Apple and Google?

Of course the media are not a priority for the new president but they are the stuff of the life of the citizens and time is running short.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Local news in the age of Internet

In the Saturday 14 issue of the Guardian there is an interesting assessments of the crisis of regional newspapers in the UK. During the last 10 years, 200 publications have folded. At the same time, advertising income has gone down by 50%. Classified ads have moved to the Web and the readership has followed. Prestigious dailies such as the Yorkshire Post or the Scotsman have lost more than half of their circulation. The Yorkshire Post which sold 120000 copies, 20 years ago, sells to day 40000.
In France, the situation is hardly better. The circulation of regional dailies has been going down by 2% a year for the last 20 years. Classified ads have deserted the print support and commercial advertising is not much better.

The big question in both countries and also in the US is:who is interested now by local news? It seems that young people are less motivated than their elders by local events. Even newspapers websites are consulted mostly by internauts above 40. Moreover people can get specific pieces of news on sports or entertainment through Google and dedicated sites. When the print was dominating, readers had no choice but getting their daily to be informed. Now, competition on the Web is boundless. Communities used to be built around the all powefull newspaper. Now, communities grow through the social networks.

It is obvious that the regional newspapers must drastically change their strategy without losing an aged but loyal readership. It means beeing active on Facebook and present on football websites and going on with the print business which brings 90% of their income. A tough job.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Is there a new television?

Contrary to some doomsayers, television is not out and replaced by Internet. In France and in most developed countries, the time spent on television is growing every year with the addition of hundreds of new channels. Of course, most of the broadcast is rubbish but never mind, there are always some people, young or old willing to watch.

What is dramatically changing is the television market. The share of audience from the old broadcasters such as TF1, FRance 2 and 3 and M6 is going down as the TNT channels are taking over more than 25% of the audience.

Still the real battle of the future is about contents. People like sports and fiction and both are hotly disputed. You see Qatar buying foot ball rights at exhorbitants prices to boost its new sports channel. We are also going to see Google and Apple fighting for the best American series to display on their Internet connected televisions. Here Internet is coming back with a vengeance.

At the same time old newspapers are investing in video news that will provide audience on their exhausted websites and compete with information channels;

In 10 years, television will be all over the place but its organization will sharply differ from to day. There will be new actors with very deep pockets. TF1 and CBS, beware.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Presstalis again

A few days ago, I was talking with an ex executive of Presstalis. I offered him my congratulations for having left on time the sinking ship and I asked him what he figured as a solution to this intractable problem. His answer was clear. He observed that the sales of newspapers and magazines have been going down, every year by more than 5%. So a company totaly dedicated to the press delivery has no future as its business is schrincking day after day without any hope of recovery. The best solution, according to him was a settlement allowing private firms of logistics to take in charge the delivery system. However, somebody will have to pay for the transfer and nobody, whether it is the government or the press is willing to foot the bill which, according to les Echos, could go up to 170 millions euros.

I discussed the same topic with an executive of le Monde. He was fully aware of the coming bankrupcy of Presstalis that could happen any time and looking for an issue. The government is paralyzed by the coming elections and it would take some time for the regional newspapers to take in charge the delivery of the national dailies. It is one more worry for le Monde which has not achieved yet the downsizing of its printing unit.

The Washington Post website is free

In the Sunday edition of the Washington Post dated March 25, the ombudsman discusses the possibility to set up a paywall on the Washington Post website. His conclusion which he obviously shares with the top management is: no paywall for us.

And yet, in the US, more and more newspapers turn to asking fees to their internauts. It is the case of the New York Times which announces 500000 subscribers wiling to pay 15 dollars to have a full access. The Gannet group has also transfered its 80 regional newspapers to a paying service. The Los Angeles Times has also set up a paywall since March 5.

And yet, some newspapers in America and in Europe are reluctant to move forward. The WP for instance considers that its Internet readership is not big enough to start such a move. It is afraid of losing too many internauts and it hopes to attract readers who are not willing to pay for the New York Times. They are also aware that there are many ways to get articles for free through Facebook or Google search engines, a situation that the Times management recognizes but considers is not relevant.

In France,the management of le Monde is of two minds on the pay wall. Its subscription rate is very expensive, 14 euros per month and you can get a large choice of articles for free on My opinion is that le Monde which has a powerful image could follow the exemple of the Times and collect hundreds of thousands of subscribers with a moderate rate of about 8 euros a month and a much reduced free offer.

Anyway, the lesson of the last few years is that advertising will never finance the news on the Web. Readers will have to pay if they want to stay well informed.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Do you read e-books?

The Paris book fair starts this Thursday, March 15 and once again the big question of e-publishing looms high on the horizon of European and American publishers.

For the moment,the main challenge for publishing comes from the sale of books on Internet thanks to Amazon. it is a major threat for the bookshops and a quandary for the publishers who badly need to find ways to deliver informations on their production. Until now, bookshops played the role of information centers and nobody knows how to replace them. In America, the vanishing bookshops leave publishers in desarray. In France, we are not there yet but 10% of the sales of print books are already processed through digital platforms.
The e-book is another matter. Its sales grow to about 15% in the US but stay at 1% in France. Threre is no doubt that the Kindle, cheap and efficient, will boost the sales thanks to Amazon. However, one can see the same process than for the press. Illustrated books like magazines will not move so easily to electronic publishing. Black and white text books have a more promising future and they can be sold at a much lower price than print books.

Then there is the field of applications which compete with non fiction illustrated books.They are offered to the Internauts for free or at a very low rate of 1 or 2 euros.However, it costs about 20 or 30000 euros to build one of them which means that publishers will not recover easily their investment.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The media and the president

I go on with my comments on the media policy of the future president. I strongly believe that the government should keep away, as much as possible from the organization of the medias. However, if you consider that the media are an important activity which employ a huge number of people and can export an image and some influence, you must admit that it can be part of an efficient industrial policy.

From that point of view, France's media do not fare any better than other branches of the economy. There are no powerful multimedia groups in our country and foreign interests have invested heavily, buying dailies, magazines, TV stations and websites. That means that the main worry to day is not the concntration of the media but the small size and less efficient management of the communication organizations that still belong to French interests. Yesterday, the German Springer boasted its success in digital activities based on two French companies it bought recently: Seloger and Aufeminin. Schibsted, owner of Leboncoin is one of the most successful mediagroups in Europe although it started on the small market of Norway (5 millions inhabitants).

If France decides to have an industrial policy like most of its European neighbours, it must include in this great design the media and most notably, the digital media which will shape the future of our economy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The presidential election and the media

On June,there will be a newly elected president in France. Whether he will be Nicolas Sarkozy or his challenger, Francois Hollande, he will have to handle very quickly some important dossiers.

The more urgent will be the fate of Presstalis, the huge and not very efficient press delivery organization. Presstalis has been losing money for many years. Its main shareholder, Lagardere, got tired of financing its 20 millions euros yearly losses and pulled out last year, leaving the firm to two daily and magazine cooperatives which are both penniless. Next June, Presstalis will be practically bankrupt and may stop functionning altogether, wich means that press delivery could stop suddenly in France. The new government will have to chose between two unpleasant solutions. Either, it will invest public funds to fill a growing gap or it will undertake a major upheaval of a system which was set up 65 years ago and is now a hopeless mess. The heavily unionized employees of Presstalis are sure to fight adamantly against any drastic staff reduction although it is overdue. For the socialist Hollande it will not be the best opening of his presidency. If Sarkozy is elected he will have every reason to regret not having solved the Presstalis quandary four years ago, when he launched an ambitious reorganization of the French press.

Now, it is too late to save the old order. Common sense tells us that the press must follow the rules of delivery that apply to any other product. It is not a matter of privilege any more. Will the new government use his common sense?

My next blog will deal with the other aspects of a public policy of the media.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is the Web compatible with television?

The Washington Post has set up a new television team that could include more than 20 people and will provide the newspaper's website with several videos every day. The American Huffington Post is doing the same. In France, the news websites include more and more moving pictures. Ouest France, for instance, has equiped its journalists with I phones that allow them to shoot short sequences on current affairs in every part of the daily's zone.

After many years of reflexion, it seems that the press is ready to move toward a new version of information on the Web that gets closer to an all news television channel. It is a major upheaval from the not so far away times when newspapers relied mostly on texts produced for the print edition and copies of the press agencies releases.

This revolution is due for a great part to the fact that it is easier to sell ads around a video. The Washington Post expects a sharp increase of its advertising income. It shows too that the shooting of videos is a proper job which must be done by professionals, specialized teams that are hired to fill a vacuum.

The newsroom of to morrow won't look much like what it is to day. It will be a mix up of a print newsroom, a television studio and a social networks connexion and it will work 24hrs a day.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The death of Hersant group

20 years ago, groupe Hersant kept a domineering position in the French media world although it had already pulled out of radio broadcasting and television. These days, Philippe Hersant is putting the final hand to the sale of his French newspapers, under the combined pressure of his 17 bankers and Siri, the government agency in charge of failing companies.

The buyer is Rossel, the Belgian press groupe, owner of Le Soir of Brussels and Voix du Nord. The highly professionnal Rossel team is fully aware of the pitfalls that threaten the dailies on sale. Union of Reims is losing a lot of money thanks to a bloated printing unit that used to print millions of Comareg free sheets. Nice Matin and Provence must reduce their staff and keep a good relationship with the local government that provides them with a great part of their advertising. The new management will have to cut about 500 jobs. It will also consider the only newspaper remaining in Hersant group, Paris Normandie. The publication is close to bankrupcy. Sooner or later Rossel is bound to take it under its own conditions and try to save the dying newspaper.

Still, the outcome doesn't look so bad. With a proper management, the new group should be profitable and follow the rules that make Voix du Nord a dynamic corporation, very active in Internet, radio and local television.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Is the French Huffington Post necessary?

Monday 23 was a big media event: the launching of the French version of the Huffington post. The editor is none other than Anne Sinclair who is both an ex TV anchor woman and the patient wife of Dominique Strauss Kahn. 250 journalists and TV channels from all over the world showed up, mostly attracted, it seems by the marital statute of Ms Sinclair.

Still, skeptics wonder what could be the future of this new pure player. True it is linked to le Monde but the staff of the very serious newspaper are less than enthusiastic about a publication that could easily drift towards people chronicles and saucy gossips like its American big brother. Many important people are willing to contribute with bologs but they could get tired very quickly as they are not expected to be paid.

For the moment, advertisers seem interested but they will look carefully at the audience and there are many, too many? pure players in France, such as Rue 89, Mediapart, Slate, Atlantico.

We shal have another look in one month to assess the health of the new baby of Ariadna and Ann.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Too many blogs for the Washingon Post

Last Sunday, the ombusman of the Washington Post complained about the numerous blogs and web services that have grown at a frightening speed around the website of the Washington Post. I quite agree. One of the big challenges of 2012 and the following years is the managements of newspapers press rooms. It is obvious that print and web journalists cannot be everywhere and work 24hrs a day. It is also a fact that the population of Internauts has increased enormously and finds it very easy to send messages and blogs to the social networks. How can we use intelligently this flow of news, some of them very valuable, most of them useless or redondant.

I believe that part of the solution is the building up of communities made of reliable followers, who are willing to contribute, provide their opinions and answer questions from the newsroom. The French regional newspapers have created, many years ago that kind of community for their print editions. These people are called "press correspondants" and deliver pieces of news about their own environment without beeing considered as journalists. This good system should be adapted to the rythm and technics of Internet.

Still,most of the news are delivered by print editions. Which means that the crisis of Presstalis, is a dramatic threat for national dailies who rely on this clumsy organization to reach their readers. Presstalis is deeply in the red and several publications are fleeing to its main competitor MLP. It has been obvious for many years that the French delivery system is obsolete and has to be replaced by efficient and cheaper specialists of logistics including the networks of the regional newspapers. How long shall we have to wait for a very necessary reform?