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Information: a growing demand for a plurality of channels

Television, radio, print or digital press, the majority of the population consults the news on several channels, observes Françoise Benhamou.

The General Assembly on Information set up by the President of the Republic is beginning its final phase of reflection. What is the place of information in a world saturated with messages, real and fake news? Information is both a valuable public good and a source of mistrust and even mistrust, to the point that some people turn away from it. The brand effects that made it possible to refer to reliable programmes, articles or journalists are less strong than in the past, in a world where the “all words are equal”, fed by social networks, tends to devalue the quality of professional journalism, which is nevertheless expensive.

Press publishers are worried about the shrinking advertising windfall, while single purchases tend to disappear and subscribers are not always loyal. In France, according to Arcom, advertising revenues collected by media that invest in information and creation, which accounted for 2/3 of the global advertising market in 2012, fell to 40% in 2022 and are expected to reach 28% in 2030.

Appetite for information

Yet, the appetite for information is far from gone. A study conducted by the Ministry of Culture shows that 73% of the French population aged 15 and over get their news on a daily basis, while only 4% say they never or almost never get their information. Television followed by radio are the most widely used media, and the press, whether print or digital, comes in third place. Social media is only in fourth place, used by 28% of the population but 65% of 15-24 year olds and 45% of 25-39 year olds. Regardless of the preferred channel, the majority of the population consults the news on several channels: 37% of French people get their news with two channels, 25% with three channels and one in ten with four or more channels.

We thought that pureplayers like Buzzfeed would shape part of the future. In the United States, while Vox Media is resisting, the time has come for staff reductions at most of these media outlets. In an article published in the New York Times entitled “Seeds of Hope in a Gloomy Media Landscape,” the author looks at a handful of for-profit digital media outlets (such as Puck or Semafor) that play the quality game, cater to targeted audiences, and sometimes co-own journalists. The business model combines advertising revenues, expensive paid subscriptions for affluent audiences, and sponsored events. This niche journalism can be found with Punchbowl News, created in 2021 by three former Politico journalists, now in its thirties, and which covers congressional and financial news with free or paid newsletters and news reports.

On both sides of the Atlantic, with many differences, the landscape is taking shape around a few major public and private media, for which concentration movements will have to be closely observed, pure players, and an ever-increasing hybridization between the different channels and media. And unexpected phenomena show that information can still be attractive if it knows how to adapt to a new demand, especially from young people. In France, for example, we think of the media created by Hugo Travers, HugoDécrypte, with its 2.1 million subscribers. At the Rencontres d’Aix-en-Provence next July, the question of information, the plurality of channels and the underlying economic models will be at the heart of the debates.