Monday, June 23, 2014

The digital local news

It is very obvious that the offer of local news has badly suffered from the digital revolution.It seems now that websites dealing with national or international news can live and even prosper as is the case of  Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vox or, in France, Mediapart. the same is not true of local information. Regional newspapers, in the US, France or the UK have not found yet the magic potion that will push a signifant number of internauts to subscribe. Pure players have not been successfull either. Most of them had to stop for lack of financing.

There are many reasons for this sad situation: the local news are costly to collect and advertisers and internauts are not eager to pay. The audience is limited and free information is generously provided by local government and specialized sites dealing with entertainment, food or sports. It seems that people are just happy when they get the alerts and the very specific informations that are useful for their everyday life.

Is there a solution ?   My opinion is that pure players are much easier to manage than digital sites connected too closely to print newspapers. Also, a digital offer must include connections to a wide variety of very specialized sites covering all the activities of the nearby city and propose help to any newcomer.All ideas are welcome and each site must find its own economy with the support of the network. However, an isolated local news website has no future.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Politico arrives in Europe

The growth of Politico media group  is one of the most interesting processes on the western media scene. Its stunning success is due to the quality of its journalists who were issued from the best US dailies and its combination of website, confidential newsletters and a free sheet delivered in the centre of Washington.  Last year, Politico opened a branch in New York. Now, it intends to start a new website in Brussels to deal with the activities and the lobbies of the European Union.

Considering the experience of Politico people with the politics and the lobbies of Washington, it looks like a great idea to move to the capital of Europe, in spite of the local competition.

If you look at the website, you are impressed with the quality of the magazine that covers more and more international affairs. Six years ago, Politico was devoted to the intricate politics of inside Washington. Now, it is more and more involved in world news and its coverage makes it a useful tool for European readers.

Several conclusions can be drawn from this experience. First, in the digital world, quality pays. The best journalists provide the best stuff which people are willing to buy. Then a print newspaper is not very good at launching new innovative digital products. Politico would not have grown the way it did if it had been a branch of the Washington Post. Last but not least, is it possible to start such a digital powerhouse in Europe? I would say yes but it takes the initiative of good news professionals and business savvy managers. They exist in France, Germany or the UK. They should start  right now.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Who owns the French media?

Last week the media and entertainment group, the Swiss Ringier presented its results and its policy to a French public of journalists and media executives. It was amazing to watch the ambitious strategy of a group which has spread in eastern Europe, Viet Nam and Africa and is building up a powerful digital branch.

A few weeks ago Schibsted, the Norwegian media group delivered its own accounts. There again the owner of the very successful in France is moving out of Scandinavia, in South America, Spain, France and is a world pioneer in digital ads.

So two small countries, Switzerland and Norwy have produced two world champions of  the media in the new digital age. Normally, France with its 65 millions people and a long tradition of success in the publishing industries, should be a European leader. Unfortunately, it is not the case. Lagardere group is selling all its assets in the media and will probably vanish from the scene within the next ten years. Some wealthy businessmen have bought into the media without any long term strategy. Bouygues's TF1 has never gone far into an  international diversification. Bernard Arnaud and Serge Dassault are happy with les Echos and le Figaro. Xavier Niel seems interested by the growth of group Le Monde and could keep buying into Radio and Internet but he is far from reaching a decisive European position.

The only hope of a French breakthrough in the media and digital world lies with Vivendi, the successful owner of Canal Plus. However, the future of Canal is  unclear and nobody knows what Vincent Bolloré, the new boss of Vivendi intends to do, a sharp contrast with the clear cut vision of Ringier and Schibsted.

As for now, the two dominant groups in France are German. Bertelsmann manages M6, RTL and Prisma media, Springer has bought the most successful French websites, Aufeminin and Seloger.

What could be done? We shall discuss that point in a later blog.