Etude de la Presse d'Information Quotidienne (EPIQ) has released its yearly results on the French press, claiming the French newspaper industry is doing well. Almost one in two French people read one daily newspaper. It reported the power of the press had been stabilized (at a level of -0.1 percent) in the last year.
Electron Libre reported that while Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Le Parisien saw drops from 2009 to 2010, L'Humanité, France Soir and La Croix saw rises in their audience. At the end of the article, it says, "What a paradox to see the French press progressing while the press in the rest of the world is having trouble conserving its public!"
Not everyone is as inclined as Electron Libre to rejoice over EPIQ's study. OWNI's Erwann Gaucher became curious by the claims after having heard grave statements about the newspaper industry. After analyzing the study, he suggested taking it with a grain of salt.
One of the first things Gaucher mentioned was the rather high level (-0.1 percent) EPIQ had given for circulation numbers. If it were to just examine the national daily newspapers, the levels would be closer to -1.5 percent. How does he account for this difference? The study adds in weekly papers. Tongue-in-cheek, Gaucher said, "[A daily newspaper] that comes out once a week (yes, it's a new rate for a daily paper)..." Free daily newspapers like 20 Minutes, Direct Matin (the national edition) and Métro have also been added in to give a boost to numbers.
Audience numbers seemed greatly exaggerated to Gaucher, as well. Looking at the figures, he noted that one edition of some of the papers (like Libération) would need to be read by 6.3 people in order to match up with the actual sales figures. One edition of Le Figaro would have to be read by 3.7 people to match up with the numbers. Although he joked the difference in numbers was probably because Libération readers tended to be more socialist and inclined to share than more individualistic Figaro readers, a more accurate reason probably lies in the way audience was measured in the study.
What exactly counts as an audience member? Well, according to EQIP, any individual who has at least one contact with the brand a week counts as an audience member. This contact can be anything from reading the actual paper, reading only its Sunday edition, or merely stumbling across the website. "The audience is permitted to do fantastic things!" joked Gaucher.
The reason for emphasizing the positives in such a way is simple: "for the advertisers." EPIQ has released stable numbers for the last few years. Le Figaro reported advertising revenues had gone up for the first trimester of 2011. Even though this rise was largely due to magazines, perhaps news publishers can thank EPIQ.
Gaucher remains skeptical. He maintains the national newspapers aren't doing quite as favorably as EPIQ claims. "Look for less surprising figures when you look at the official releases from these same newspapers."