Hotwire Blog

01 March, 2007

“The press is dead, long live the press!”

Is there a future for the press in our countries? Will it be paper or digital? This issue hit the French headlines last week with the publication of a report for the government by Marc Tessier, former director of the French public TV channel, France Televisions, and Maxime Baffert, financial inspector ( This report - as has been widely reported elsewhere – showed how the paper press has been losing its audience for a few years now. And the digital revolution, initiated by the specialised press and the classifieds sector, has only contributed to the acceleration of this phenomenon.

A lot of areas were researched in the report in order to solve the issue and to find a positive way to exploit the ‘digital era’s’ arrival. The report also included a comparison of the French market to other countries, including the US, UK, Germany, Italy, the Nordics, Japan, and South Korea.

It showed how the French press is particularly touched by this phenomenon compared to other countries; with Italy and Spain beginning to face the same kind of situation. The report mainly highlights the weakness of the national distribution channel networks. For example, in 2003, in France 181 newspapers were distributed per 1000 people, compared to 274 in the US, 371 in Germany, 383 in the UK and 543 in Sweden! This has had a direct impact on French advertising budgets, which went down to only 9.3 % in France against 14.3 % in the UK, 17.2 % in Germany and 18.9 % in the US in 2006.

However, over the last three years, two free publications have entered the top five of the French national daily titles: Metro and 20 minutes. There are two ways to look at these two publications: the first one is to consider them responsible for the “malaise” of the French newspapers, the second is to see them as alternative offerings which help boost French readership, in a way similar to the web: free, short articles, easily available and easy to read. This success confirms there is a problem with distribution. But it also invites us to imagine that there are alternative solutions, rather than just claiming that the press is dead…


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