Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Searching For a Viable Media Business Model: French Government Aid For Newspapers

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 26, 2009

Elke Heiss pointed me to this: The Associated Press: Sarkozy offers new help for French print media

The French state will help provide free newspaper subscriptions to teenagers for their 18th birthdays, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday. But the bigger gift is for France's ailing print media.

Sarkozy also announced a ninefold rise in the state's support for newspaper deliveries and a doubling of its annual print advertising outlay amid a swelling industry crisis.

Sarkozy argued in a speech to publishers that the measures are needed because the global financial crisis has compounded woes for a sector already suffering from falling ad revenues and subscriptions.

In a speech to industry leaders, Sarkozy said it was legitimate for the state to consider the print media's economic situation.

"It is indeed its responsibility ... to make sure an independent, free and pluralistic press exists," he said.

This is interesting news but I'm wondering why does it have to be print focused? Surely it shouldn't matter if the news is delivered via paper or electrons--the point is to support news organizations that are producing high quality media.

It's a shame that the free market cannot come up with a business model that distinguishes between low and high quality media. State intervention is welcome during tough times but it could be problematic if the state controls the viability of media (although the BBC is doing well).

OK, I am biased, because I see the world through a media lens, but I believe that the single most important challenge that faces this Internet economy is how to develop a viable business model that supports a professional media class that produces high quality media.

It is essential to society.

If we lose our New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, BBC, etc, we lose our "fourth estate." We lose the people that that watch our politicians, business tycoons, and government policies. More importantly, we lose the people that investigate corruption, that check on the conduct of politicians, that know how to deal with spin.

An army of bloggers won't and can't replace our media professionals - the journalists, editors, producers, sub-editors, photographers, videographers, etc. Our media is the way we figure out solutions to important problems--and the better it is, the better we are.

Media is the way society thinks about important issues. If we have crap media we have crap solutions.

Software engineers have a phrase for this: Garbage in--Garbage out.

We are heading for a world of crap media. Buckle your belts.

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