Journalistic pure-players in France between innovation & struggle to survive


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Why do journalistic pure players favor news diversity ?
Why and how do they distinct themselves from the dominant news agenda ?

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Journalistic pure-players in France between innovation & struggle to survive

  1. 1. Journalistic pure-players in Francebetween innovation & struggle to survive Nikos Smyrnaios, University of Toulouse “Towards Neo-Journalism? Redefining, Extending or Reconfiguring a Profession” Brussels, 3 & 4 October 2012
  2. 2. The IPRI Project (2010-2012) (Internet, Pluralism & Redundancy of Information) Pluralism of journalism is a political and social stake: Pluralism of opinions depends on diversity of news Who are the journalistic players that favor news diversity and why ? Method: Massive quantitative analysis of 209 French news websites(portals, aggregators, online media, blogs, pure-players), 11 days (7-17/03 2011) 37.569 news articles classified in 5.481 news topics (mesuring agenda variety) Online news agenda:- pure-players, blogs online newspapers tv+radio, aggregators +original topics, news bilndspots « shovelware » (wire material, PR)
  3. 3. The French Context In France online news dominated by mainstream media (Le Monde, Le Figaro +8MUV) & aggregators (Orange, Yahoo, Google News)At the same time emerges a “Nouvelle vague” of journalistic start-ups (Bruno etNielsen, 2012): more than 40 pure players in general news & politics in 2012Pure players have a small target (highly educated, young, urban, white collar) butgrowing: 18% of French internet users say they looked up for news on the 2012presidential elections (mainly intensive social network users)Since 2010 independent journalistic pure players have their own professionalorganization (SPIIL, Syndicat de la presse indépendante d’information en ligne)Since 2010 there are public aids in France especially for this category of sites
  4. 4. Research Question & Method Why do journalistic pure players favor news diversity ? Why and how do they distinct themselves from the dominant news agenda ?Hypothesis 1 : the degree of news diversity results from journalistic practices in onlinenewsrooms which, in their turn, depend largely on economic constraintsHypothesis 2 : news websites that are not or less depended on advertising and onmassive traffic (like portals & corporate media) tend not to follow the dominantnews agendaTheoretical framework: socio-economic analysis, articulating economic model withprofessional practices and usages Method : interviews and observations inside three French journalistic pure-players From May 2010 to April 2012, interviews with founders, journalists and technicians + access to internal documents: traffic, economy, strategy etc.
  5. 5. Sample of websites Name% Since% Revenue/%Net% Unique%Visitors% Capital/Founders%% Employees/% Revenue%sources% income%(2011)% (2011)% % Journalists% % % Rue$89$ 2007$ 2M€/-400$000€$ 1,9M$$ 7,5M€/0%$ 24/17$ Advertising$(60%)$+$ Services$(30%)$$ Arrêt$sur$ 2008$ 1,1M€/50$000€$$ 230K$$ 37$000€/100%$ 8/5$+$5$$ Subscriptions$+$Book$ images$ sales$(100%)$ Owni$$ 2009$ 1M€/-1M€$ 230K$ 3,5M€/40%$ 18/10$ Services$(100%)$ !
  6. 6. Business model: 360° revenue stream, advertising (60%), magazine (stopped),BtoB services (web agency, consulting, courses), donations, business angelsContent: politics, society, work conditions, family, culture, sexMain target: Bourgeois-bohèmes (urban young professionals keen on culture) +people interested in progressive politicsEditorial strategy: “3 voices news” (journalists + experts + UGC)Journalistic practices: no shovelware (press agencies, PR), original reportingessentially in Paris, permanent dialogue with readers (comments, social networks,participation in newsroom conference), 8,5% of traffic coming from FacebookMarketing: use of sophisticated tools (SEO, community management, analytics)Growth in traffic (2M UV) & revenue (2M€ in 2011) but still didn’t break even after 4 years because of high salary costs In 2012 Rue 89 was sold to Le Nouvel Observateur media group, still operates autonomously but advertising synergies + cross promotion
  7. 7. Initial business model: Owni just a brand, no advertising, no paywall orsubscription, content under Creative Commons, open source softwareRevenue stream: BtoB services (web agency, social media strategy, computergraphics) provided by parent company “22 mars” (Tactilize)Start-up mode: rapid growth of traffic and personnel financed by business angelsContent: “geeky” politics & hacker ethics (web, copyright, technology,surveillance, censorship, Wikileaks, Anonymous etc.)Editorial strategy: initially blogosphere curating => nowadays desk “investigative”journalism, technology oriented scoopsJournalistic practices: “young” & “plugged” journalism, intensive use of socialnetworks (12% of traffic coming from Facebook), IRC, wikis, Google (Docs, Talk,Gmail, Maps), no shovelware (press agencies, PR), datajournalismBusiness model not working (-1M€ in 2011), conflict between journalists & founder,stuff departures, progressive separation between Owni & Tactilize, future unknown
  8. 8. Business model: subscription based with no advertising (26.886 subscribers in April2012 for 40€/year or 3,5€/month), low cost (few employees & expenses)Revenue stream: subscriptions & book sales (“Crise in Sarkozistan” written byfounder sold 28.000 copies in 2010)Content: three weekly TV shows (essentially debates in studio) + articles on mediacritique & progressive politicsEditorial strategy: no marketing, no real sales policy, no analytics, voluntary“improvisation”, strong ties to the subscribers base, permanent debate betweenjournalists & public over content, accountabilityJournalistic practices: desk journalism specialized in online investigations, socialnetworks (4,2% of traffic coming from Twitter) without community management Company broke even in 2011, “small is beautiful” but stagnation of subscribers base, no money to invest, no possibility of original reporting “outdoors”
  9. 9. Innovative but insufficient business modelsDiminishing dependency on advertising & SEO: can’t face competition fromcorporate media & web giants (Google, Facebook etc.) for traffic andadvertising revenueDiversification of revenue sources: BtoB services (ethical problems), subscriptions,crowdfunding, public aids (only in France), book salesFinancing growth like technology start-ups: but French business angels with“political” and not economic motivations (influence, prestige)High salary costs : professional journalists are necessary for production of originalcontent but also “expensive”
  10. 10. Innovation in journalistic practices onlineNew formats: datajournalism (infographics, serious games, webdocumentaries),online TV shows with no time limits & no editingDiversification of topics and frames: original subjects & angles, blindspots ofdominant news agenda, politically engaged journalism, commentaryLoose time constraints: no urgencies, no real-time coverage, no breaking newscompetitionPermanent dialogue with readers: the public participates in the choice ofsubjects, in the production of news, in the dissemination of content through socialnetworks), accountability of journalists in an everyday basis (comments, socialnetworks) =>“networked production of news” (Lotan et al., 2011) or “Ambientjournalism” (Hermida, 2010)
  11. 11. ConclusionsFrench pure players explicitly inspired by “the myth of onlinejournalism” (Domingo, 2008) : critique of mainstream media & will to renew theprofession, transparency, independency, public interest, freedom of expressionPure players practice a niche journalism: non exclusive news coverage,complementary to corporate mediaThey are pioneers in innovative journalism practices but also in the establishmentof new business modelsFor the moment these business models are insufficient to sustain an activity withhigh costs such as original news productionThe only business model that seems to work is that of subscription based newswebsites with strong communitiesBut this is related to the particular French context: Sarkozy’s presidency & lack ofcritical journalism in the mainstream media Money is the key for the future development of alternative & independent online journalism & research shouldn’t ignore the political economy of online media
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