France Telecom is testing a new electronic newspaper with the French newspaper industry called Read & Go.
Seven French publications have joined France Télécom for the test, which is intended to provide a convincing facsimile of its traditional counterpart. 120 people in France are testing the device, which allows them to download the participating newspapers contents over France Télécom's wireless network.
France Télécom is not the first company to experiment with electronic "paper" versions of newspapers. The Kindle, sold by Amazon.com,already allows customers to subscribe to e-paper versions of 19 newspapers. However, Read & Go is different as it can run adverts.
If successful, France Télécom plans to introduce the product in other markets, like Britain, where the company has mobile networks.
This product is being watched closely in the French market, as there are hopes that it could aid the flagging industry. Only 42 percent of adults regularly read newspapers in France, compared with 48 percent in the United States and 73 percent in Germany, according to the World Association of Newspapers.
The seven French publications participating in Read & Go include: Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Parisien and Libération, which is being added to the test this month; a sports daily, L'Équipe; a business newspaper, Les Échos; and a weekly entertainment and culture magazine called Télérama.
Pascal Laroche, director of digital editions at Libération, said his paper viewed the project as a supplement for its existing products.
Approximately 80% of the free dailies in France will survive versus just one third of bought dailies, according to media specialist Jean-Clément Texier (Director media & telecoms at BNP-Paribas).
Dropping advertising revenue coupled with the high startup and production costs are stagnating the market for French newspapers.
Free dailies in France have been growing steadily, 20 Minutes has taken first place in distribution volume with 16% of the market, placing it in higher circulation than other dailies such as Le Figaro, Le Parisien and Le Monde. Free dailies have been growing steadily in the French market because of the lack of loyalty to purchased dailies due to their high cost caused by governmental regulations.
Free daily papers make up 7 percent of the daily worldwide press and 23 percent in Europe. The worldwide distribution of free dailies has grown by 173% in 5 years.
The New York Times is shutting down City and Suburban Delivery Systems, a unit that distributed the Times and 200 other publications to newsstands in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. With it, the NYT is shedding 550 full-time union jobs. Instead, company will increase its reliance on non-union contractors (read: cheaper) to distribute the Times to area retailers, much like the national edition of the Times, which is distributed by third-party companies.
The unit was formed in 1992 in a bid to diminish the clout of unions over the newspaper delivery business. The Times bought two newspaper wholesalers to form the unit and negotiated a long-term employment contract with drivers. A good idea at the time, but as NYT GM Scott Heekin-Canedy says now, "the business environment has changed dramatically since 1992 when City & Suburban was formed and wholesale distribution is no longer an economical business for the Times Company."