Monday, May 18, 2015

Le monde The new crisis

The daily newspaper le Monde is definitely the flagship publication of France. For 70 years, it has delivered powerful messages on French and international affairs and is the regular partner of European papers such as The Guardian or El Pais or Der Spiegel. Its digital edition is widely read with 8 millions UV's.

However this prestigious media has not managed to fix properly its ownership. 5 years ago, the company which was nearly bankrupt went through a major upheaval. The Journalists Association which owned a majority of its capital  had to let in three new shareholders, three very wealthy businessmen ready to pour 100 millions euros in the ailing daily.

The last 5 years have been rather profitable, with a fairly efficient management. le Monde has developed its digital products, launched a successful week end magazine and closed its costly printing unit.

Still, the shareholders, Pierre Berge, Xavier Niel and Matthieu Pigasse have never been able to build up a proper partnership with the editorial staff or define a long term strategy. A lot was expected from Niel, a telecom tycoon, the best equivalent of Jeff Bezos in France. Bezos has played a major part in the reorganization of the Washington Post. Niel has done very little as he seems to be wholly absorbed by the development of Free, his telecom company. Moreover, the chairman of the board, Pierre Berge, the former partner of Saint Laurent has mostly devoted his energy to criticize the content of the paper, behaving more like a bitter subscriber than as a  proper boss;

The growing split between Berge and Niel has prevented them to sort out the government of Le Monde. The CEO, Louis Dreyfus is a manager, the editor in chief is a journalist supposedly in charge of the content. As it was noted by Natalie Nougayrede, a former editor in chief, now working for the Guardian, that team has never worked properly. After the forced departure of Nougayrede, in May 2014, the interim editor, Gilles Van Kote has not been agreed by the owners for the permanent job. They pushed Van Kote's deputy, Jerome Fenoglio, without the agreement of the journalists. The result of this awkward manoeuvers is that, now, Le Monde has no publisher and the owners are at odds with the newsroom.

Yet a solution has to be found quickly. The newsroom needs a boss and the company must have a strategic project to cope with the digital revolution.