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.