It feels like the dying print media industry is trying to die faster in France

Feb 19, 2013
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kiosk paperToday, print kiosks are closed in Paris. It’s not because all the “quotidiens” (daily print newspapers) have simultaneously closed. No, it’s because Presstalis, the sole distributor of newspapers has gone on strike so many times in the past month, which has meant that vendors haven’t been able to sell newspapers, that the vendors are striking against Presstalis – which, again, means vendors aren’t selling print newspapers.

Presstalis has been in trouble for quite sometime – it is the bastard child of a government-run, editor-owned, and Lagardere-operated organization dating back to 1947, when the French government declared that every French citizen had the right to have access to free press (it was a post-WWII thing). In the past few years, Presstalis, now an SAS (French equivalent of an inc. or ltd., for simplification’s sake) which is owned in majority by a Co-op (a legal entity) that is composed of all of the publishers who use Presstalis – to give an idea of how complicated even its legal structure is – has been accruing hundreds of millions of euros of debt. It was formerly a monopoly, but ran into trouble in recent years, and now its only competitor, based in Lyon France, is able to do the same job at a cheaper cost, merely because it is not bound to the same high salary requirements that many former government entities are in France.

The first ridiculous notion is that this will somehow bring light to newspapaer readers about the struggles of press vendors. Wrong. It’s just another opportunity for news readers, who will undoubtedly go elsewhere for their news (I still occasionally buy a paper when I see something in LeMonde or LeFigaro that I really want to read about on the metro), and is a great opportunity for them to discover a newspaper distributor that never goes on strike – the Internet.

One of the biggest changes that has been eating away at Presstalis’ profits – other than the economic crisis, it’s poor operations management, the fact that it pays its employees twice that of any other paper distribution company, or that it operates in 100 countries, despite only delivering to French-language readers – is the fact that even its oldest and noblest of clients are going around them through online distribution via monthly subscription and mobile apps.

If you plan to rebute me on the idea that print is dying, don’t bother. I am an avid book-owner – mostly books that are 100+ years old, but nonetheless – and currently have a very new copy of Startup Life by Brad Feld sitting next to my bed, so you won’t get a debate out of me on the fact that there will always be a need for print. Nonetheless, the days of a booming print media industry is dying, because ad dollars have gone online, and it is no longer reasonable to spend that much money each day to spread such little (in terms of bytes) information to an audience which consumes megabytes of information each day on their phone.

So, today, while your local Kiosk is closed in Paris, ask yourself “did I even notice?”