Monday, December 21, 2015

New journalism, new practice

A recent seminar organized by the Sciences Po school of journalism with contributions from top Anglo-saxon actors showed how quickly the news scene is changing.

A master word is engagement. What worries major operators like the FT or the NY Times is the time spent reading the messages or watching a website. If a user retweets a piece of news without reading it, it is a total waste for the news provider. With the growth of mobiles that make now 50% of the audience, the risk is even greater. It is why the Instant Articles proposal from Facebook can be attractive. Facebook customers get the best articles from their favorite newspaper in a few seconds. If you don't wait for the loading, you have a better chance to read the text. However, some French operators like Le Parisien are reluctant. They criticize Facebook for providing very few data on the readership and data are more and more the future of digital media.

Google, Facebook main competitor has fully grasped the challenge. According to the head of their German research center, they start delivering for free very interesting data on most consulted keywords. British newssites received such a collection of data during the last British elections, a good way to assess the topics that interest the voters. Everybody knows that the social networks are fully informed about the behaviour of their hundreds of millions of customers, a precious  piece of information for news operators who lack the means to collect these data. It is getting more and more obvious that the delivery and the engagement for the news will have to rely on the all powerful social networks but as we know too, there are no free lunches. A big question: how the media will keep their freedom if they depend more and more on world giants.

Robot journalism is also on the list of priorities. In France, le Monde and le Parisien relied on the algorithms provided by the start up Syllabs to cover the last regional elections. Some editore are thinking of using them also for sports coverage. It will be another revolution in the newsroom even if it should allow more time for journalists to do indepth reasearch.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Canal Plus What can be done?

In my previous blog, I showed how precarious was the situation of the pay channel Canal Plus, facing a tough competition on its main programs, sports and fiction.

In this post, I shall attempt to provide an unsollicited advice to Vincent Bolloré, the powerful chairman of Vivendi and its subsidiary, Canal Plus.

It appears that Canal has already lost the battle in the field of sports rights. Bein TV, the sports broadcaster financed by Qatar with its illimited funds, is buying the main competitions in soccer, basket and others and Altice and Next TV have just bought into the British first league. Apart from buying Bein TV, an idea suggested by the daily Figaro that doesn't seem very likely, Canal risks to be marginalized.

However, there is still hope in the field of fiction. Contrary to  sports, Canal has more leeway to produce the best series and invest in top movies. Its teams have a lot of experience and have been very successful in the past. Of course, picking up the best directors and screen play authors is expensive but there Canal is in full command which is not the case with sports rights.

So, I think that Canal should change drastically a model which has been very profitable for 30 years but is not working anymore. The broadcaster should drop sports altogether and offer a full program of high quality fiction series, movies and documentaries. It would also sharply reduce its subscription rates from 40 to 20€ per month.

To put it in a nutshell, Canal Plus should follow the pattern of HBO in the US and, hopefully, win the competition with Netflix which is cheaper but has not an outstanding program.

Such a revolution would mean that Canal would lose millions of subscribers looking for sports only but it could reach a new public with a cheaper and more entertaining offer of fiction.

What is sure is that Canal cannot stay the way it is.