Friday, December 27, 2013

Media Winners and Losers

 2013 was only one of the first years of major upheavals which means that in 10 years, the media landscape will have very little in common with to day's world.

The winners this year are the more value added websites. Some are connected to newspapers such as the New York Times whose paying wall is a tremendous success thanks to a comprehensive marketing policy and a top quality newsroom with 1000 journalists. Others like Politico, Quartz or Mediapart in France are pure players carrying much looked for information.

Some sites are not looking for the best quality but their offer is attractive to many internaut. The best example is Buzzfeed which is spreading from the US all over Europe.

Among the many social networks, a mention for Twitter, easy to use, more discreet than Facebook and a good pick for the journalists.

The family of losers is, unfortunately growing. It started five years ago with the daily newspapers losing both circulation and advertising and downsizing permanently. Their future seems uncertain as their digital business is not thriving in a very competitive world. In France, le Monde is probably the only daily which can build up a prosperous website.

Now, it's the turn of the newsmagazines, a formula which is not user-friendly anymore. In the US Time hardly manages to survive. In Germany, Der Spiegel is in bad shape. In France, only two magazines will live out of four while weekly supplements of the dailies grow every year.

The rest of the magazines is still managing but not for very long. Some of them will simply be the print supplement of a pure player. Some will disappear or merge. TV and Women magazines which are far too many are specially threatened. The strategy of Springer, one of the best managed media groups, selling most of its print publications is a telling example.

And yet, people want to be informed and entertained. It means that the media industry will keep thriving but in  different ways, boosted by the initiatives of young pioneers who are still unknown.

Monday, December 23, 2013

medias: The collapsing print industry

The year 2013 is closing but no independent observer is optimistic about 2014 as far as the print media are concerned.

Lets look at France. Print advertising keeps going down by 6% a year while press delivery is literally falling apart. The press delivery organization, Presstalis is very sick and the kiosks and newsstands are vanishing from the big cities. For too long, the French press has counted on state subsidies to break even but the state is broke and there is no hope of a recovery of public finance in the near future.

The outcome is fairly clear. All press families will suffer this coming year. Two regional press groups, Sud Ouest and the newspapers of the South are close to bankruptcy and will survive through drastic reorganizations. The same with some national dailies. Groupe Amaury and le Monde will have to cut massively their expanses as circulation and advertising are going down too quickly for their safety.

The newsmagazines are looking for a future. Claude Perdriel has announced, without warning his staff in advance, his intention to sell Nouvel Observateur. Will he find a buyer? Most people doubt it. The same with Le Point and Express which are more or less on sale with no volunteer to take in charge.

Many other magazines are also on sale or could close down. In fact, most of the French press could change hands in 2014 if ever anybody was interested.

If we look at the US, we see a more promising landscape. True, the newspapers are still downsizing and many magazines have vanished or should vanish these coming months. However, a new organization of the news production is taking shape and could last for the next years. Unfortunately, it is based on a split of the population. Those who are avid news consumers and have the means to pay  a subscription to the New York Times or to the newsletters of Politico or to the afford the service of the Wall Street Journal. This population is fairly important and growing.

The rest, i.e. the majority, doesn't want to pay and goes more and more to popular websites such as Buzzfeed or Huffington Post that mix up news and entertainment. They also rely on social networks which are free but carry  a strange mix up of news and gossips.

It is very likely that Europe is facing the same kind of evolution. High quality news for those who can afford it and low quality information for free. A new challenge for our democracies.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Native advertising and digital news financing

Native advertising is a nice name for a system that mixes up news and advertising. It is a big success on American websites including serious ones like the New York Times and the Washington Post. The internaut thinks he reads a proper piece of reporting but he hardly notices a discreet mention that the article is in fact an advertising handsomely paid by some big corporation.

Everybody knows what matters. The digital news services are at pains to break even. Proper advertising is not coming in; the paying wall works only for very powerful brands like the N Y Times and the internet audience is split between thousands of sites, most of them don't care about news and investigative reporting.
So, why not to try a bit of N A which carries much more credibility for the announcements than proper advertising? In a recent article Les Echos mentioned that the income of native advertising could be well over 2 billions dollars in 2014 in the US. A welcome windfall for the ailing news services.

Still it is not a miracle solution. The credibility of the news offers is at stake. The public will not be fooled for very long. I believe that good well checked information is a sound long term investment. The efficient and economically viable digital news service is yet to come.

Friday, December 6, 2013

the challenges of le Monde

For the prestigious French daily le Monde, 2013 is not a good year. Its circulation is down by 5% at 275000 copies. Its advertising income is just even thanks to the success of its Friday magazine. It is likely that the profits of the Website will just compensate the losses of the print version.

Still, there are some reasons to hope for the best. The Website attracts a powerful audience with nearly 9 millions unique visitors and 32000 digital copies are sold everyday, much much more than other national dailies such as le Figaro or les Echos. In fact, le Monde is probably the only French newspaper which is known worldwide and can attract French speaking internauts in Africa and America.

What le Monde needs is a global strategy to stop the fall of the print circulation which still contributes to 90% of its income and improve its paying services on Internet which should make for a lagging advertising revenue.

It means that the daily should move from an afternoon to a morning newspaper. It would allow it to be better delivered out of Paris and use the printing facilities of the regional press. No doubt such a move would turn an important profit that could be used to find new subscribers. Up to now, the subscription service has been fairly inefficient and needs to be boosted.

Moreover, the merger in process of the digital and the print newsrooms will definitely improve the offer of the Web service.

So the future doesn't look too bad but time is running short. 2014 will be a decisive year.