Monday, December 29, 2014

The French legacy media in 2015

In a recent article, the New York Times provides an extensive list of the American media executives who will be on a "hot seat" in 2015. The same could be said of the French legacy media.

Let us start with group Express. Its flagship publication, the newsmagazine Express has been in trouble for 2 years with a sharp fall in advertising and a slow decline of circulation. Many observers consider that the era of newsmagazines is over in France as in Germany or the US and that Express has no future. The group's owner, Rick de Nolf faces the unhappy dilemma of keeping the ailing publication or selling it at a discount rate. He bought the group 10 years ago for 220 millions € and according to bankers, its present value is around 50 millions.

The two other newsmagazines, Le Point and l'Obs are not in a much better shape. They see their advertising income going South and suffer from the competition of the websites which are very dynamic indeed. It seems that only one of them can survive and 2015 will be the year of reckoning.

Dailies do not fare much better. Once again, le Monde will be in the red. Its selling price will go up to 2.20€ which will mean a new decrease of its circulation combined with low expectations in advertising. And yet, the print makes 80% of the income of the newspaper. Le Monde should definitely improve its marketing policy to boost its print and digital subscriptions.

Regional newspapers will probably face another year of decline of advertising and classified at a pace of 8% a year. In 2015, attention will focus on Sud Ouest which is trying to sell its sister daily Midi Libre and has to repay a loan to its bankers. It is obvious that new partners will have to be found, very soon.

Are digital media ready to take over? There again, the picture is mixed. Apart from le Monde and le Figaro, the legacy media websites are not profitable. Pure players are also lagging behind their Anglo-Saxon competitors, Mediapart being the only success story. By the end of this coming year, Politico will open a site in Brussels, followed by the Guardian and more and more French people read English.

However, the most interesting challenge of 2015 will be the digital coverage of local news. There, new opportunities should be seized.