Wednesday, April 16, 2014

le Monde is facing too many challenges

It is not an easy job to be at the helm of le Monde. The  national newspaper which is probably the most prestigious French daily is bleeding and looking for new recipes for growth.

Its circulation has been steadily going down for the last ten years and is now at 275000 copies, a far cry from the distant times when it reached four hundred thousands. However, its colleagues, including le Figaro, do not fare  much better.

Its digital audience is not bad, with 2 millions readers a day, according to Audipresse One and has a fairly large foreign readership.

It is not a surprise if the newspaper was in the red in 2013 by 6 millions euros in spite of a profitable digital branch, le Monde Interactif and 2014 doesn't look any better with declining print circulation and lower advertising income.

And yet, le Monde has strong assets.  Its image is good not only in France but also abroad and its potential for digital development is strong but it needs a strategy. Two big challenges face its owners and its management. One is a decision to move to morning publishing instead of an afternoon distribution which is inefficient and costly. In that case, le Monde should close its printing unit in Ivry and get printed either at le Figaro or by some other Paris unit and get partially printed with regional newspapers out of Paris. This solution would allow the daily to extend a home delivery service through the regional press. The other challenge is the digital policy. It seems obvious that the Monde should adopt the paywall and follow the example of the New York Times even at the risk of losing some advertising income. The future financing of the newspaper is at stake as digital income must increase steadily to make for the vanishing ads.

These decisions are urgent but it is hard to tell what the owners of le Monde who have just bought the newsmagazine Nouvel Observateur intend to do. Are they willing to devote enough time and money to the daily or do they push for building a huge press group including Libération which another risky challenge? An open question and no answer yet.