The Reading Room

French press join football team in losing the plot

There is a constant theme (A bit like the drone of a vuvuzela) in all my recent discussions with colleagues in France which has finally led me to blog about the fact that something is not quite right in the current state of the French press. Granted things aren’t exactly perfect for any media outlet right now but at least they’re trying to adapt. London Evening Standard’s new free sheet is a shining example of this with new blockbuster readership figures (Increasing its print run to 750,000 a day from 600,000) and it is finally making a profit again just through advertizing revenue. It is reckoned that £20m has been removed from the company’s cost base with both jobs and distribution costs cut. It costs about £1.1m a week to produce the Standard and it is now earning just about £1.1m from advertising to offset those costs.

Meanwhile I’m told that in France there is a real reluctance to support any kind of digital strategy as well as a reluctance to invest in the future, to test new ideas, to built prototypes or to invest in decisive technologies. There is also a certainty the “brand” was too beautiful to fail and that a deep-pocketed philanthropist will inevitably show up at the right time to save the company. Frédéric Filloux, the Paris-based media commentator has recently highlighted the excessive reliance on public subsidies which account for about 10% of the industry’s entire revenue.Compared to Sweden, French newspapers have three times fewer readers, but each one gets five times more subsidies.(I don’t personally think it’s all so gloomy as the brand new ‘pay as you go’ Times website is thought to be based on the Paris Match website. The French definitely get it right when they put their mind to it).

But I write this with sadness. Great names like Le Monde need £100m right now and much more later to survive. Le Parisien, a popular daily, is for sale. Although quite good from an editorial perspective, it is not profitable and its family ownership wants to refocus on sports-related assets. La Tribune, the second-placed business daily, is looking for a majority investor and Liberation is also facing a cash shortfall.

It seems that it is not just the French football team that is living on past glories. PS (pps: French football team are currently losing 2-0 to South Africa in the World Cup)

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