|Interest in news||64%
(10th= out of 10)
France has more than 80 daily newspapers. Most of them are in private hands and are not linked to political parties. The most successful papers are often regional rather than national.
Online, many of the best known national titles such as Le Monde and Le Figaro face competition from born digital media such as Mediapart, Atlantico, Le Huffington Post, and also from digital and video platforms created by TV brands like Canalplus.fr or FranceTVinfo.fr or BFMTV.com.
Television news remains popular, with viewership split between France Télévisions, privately owned TF1, and a range of cable and satellite providers.
France’s long-established commercial radio, particularly RTL and Europe 1, still commands large audiences, along with a range of publicly funded stations such as France Inter, France Info, and France Culture.
Google is a major player in France with a big online reach also for Google News (see the diagram). The company makes an estimated €3.9 million of revenue per day, leading to cries of foul play from the French legacy media along with government disquiet about the level of its tax contributions. In response, Google set up in February 2013 a digital publishing innovation fund to ‘help support transformative digital publishing initiatives for French readers’, with $60 million over three years.
The newspaper sector is particularly weak and remains partly dependent on state subsidies amidst falling sales and advertising revenue. If that wasn’t enough, French print media struggles with a slow and inflexible distribution system dominated by the heavily unionised Presstalis. In this context, few news print dailies launch in France, although L’Opinion, a daily newspaper, was created in May 2013. National titles fear business failures, and in winter 2014, Libération almost filed for bankruptcy before its board found money to survive.
Online, there is strong growth with a vibrant mix of players such as aggregators, free real-time news websites like 20minutes.fr, born digital media, alongside traditional news titles such as lefigaro.fr, lemonde.fr, and leparisien.fr. A new wave of US-led disruption has come from Buzzfeed which launched a French version in November 2013, and the Huffington Post which has been operating in France since January 2012. Among French pure players, Mediapart is the most successful, with 84,000 subscribers for its mix of online investigation and opinion. Lemonde.fr is aiming for 200,000 by 2015. To help digital news providers, the government has offered a discounted VAT rate for online news, bringing this in line with the VAT treatment of print.
In this changing landscape, the power of TV news remains strong. French people spend an average of 130 minutes in front of the TV per day, compared to 79 minutes on the smartphone.1
Social networks and digital participation
Twitter has been a key network for journalists and politics, but since the Valerie Trierweiler ‘tweetgate’ affair in 2012,2 the government has become more cautious with its interventions. Social media were popular, however, during the French municipal elections in March 2014, attracting more interest to news websites. But reading news via social media does not necessarily lead to sharing news. These data show that French people tend to be more passive around news than their European colleagues, but active around TV shows where they are more ready to comment and share.
Top social networks*
- Ad Reaction 2014 by Millward Brown: http://www.millwardbrown.com/adreaction/2014/#/main-content. ↩
- When the President’s partner used her Twitter account to tweet in support of a dissident socialist standing against the official Socialist Party candidate (his former partner, Ségolène Royale) in parliamentary elections. ↩