Renaissance for French papers

Against the background of a troubled economy, the recent performance of the French press could represent a positive indicator for the future.

According to figures from the French research organisation Secodip, France’s printed media posted a growth rate of 11 per cent in 1997. Not only does this better TV, but, more significantly, it is the first double digit increase since 1989.

In reporting the latest media revenue growth figures, the French communications journal, CB News, highlights a number of reasons for the strong performance of print.

The general view among France’s leading industry figures is that a period of advertiser over-reliance on TV may finally have run its course. One commentator, Brigitte Bizalion, head of media at Renault, observes that in uncertain times priority was given to TV, the efficacy of which has been proven. She believes that the increased use of press may be a barometer of confidence in the future.

But there are also a number of other, more specific, reasons for the press’s resurgence. The sector at last appears to have come to terms with the Loi Evin – which restricts alcohol advertising – and the Loi Sapin – which prohibits media buyers from illegally profiting on deals. Both have forced a more ag-gressive and competitive response to advertiser requirements through linked packages across titles and last minute deals.

Better marketing has also led to improved editorial quality. Publishers have learned the valuable lesson that magazines should be made primarily for readers, not advertisers. If a title builds a loyal readership then advertisers will follow.

Another factor is a renewed recognition among advertisers of the importance of press both for enhancing brand values and for targeting. Interest across Europe in the targeting possibilities of specialist TV channels and new media has tended to obscure the fact that, as Callegari Berville managing director Denis Quimbrot points out the press “already does that very well”.

Finally, the press has benefited from the emergence of new sectors such as mobile communications, satellite and digital TV services, direct banking and the growth of the Internet. As new services, all of these have to establish themselves in the consumer’s mind. But they also have to explain what they are, how they work and what they cost. Inevitably, magazines and newspapers have a crucial role to play in meeting this need.

Together, these developments represent a medium that has rediscovered its core strengths and is leaner and more competitive than it has been for many years. They also point to a more encouraging outlook for the French economy as a whole.

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