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.