Marion Moreau: Axel Springer is right in fighting Google

At LeWeb I met Marion Moreau who is Editor-in-chief for FrenchWeb, a magazine that is very similar to the Netzpiloten magazine, which I am Executive Editor of. I took the chance to talk with her about her magazine, the media in France, fighting Google and the need of innovation.

Tobias Schwarz: Maybe it’s not a good way to start an interview but I must say that I’m impressed with your résumé and your magazine. You were a cinema editor for a web portal, then worked for a TV channel as Editor-in-chief for the TV show “L’Emploi par le Net”, which means how to find a job with internet tools, and presented the web TV show “Paris Tech Insight”. Since 2011 you are Editor-in-chief for FrenchWeb magazine, which covers news about innovation and new technology in France and abroad. Just for beginning, can you tell me more about the FrenchWeb magazine?

Marion Moreau: FrenchWeb is a pure player, you know it’s a very new media, which was founded by Richard Menneveux four years ago. It is brand new, it’s more about how to innovate mediasphere. The very beginning of FrenchWeb is all about communities. It’s just the inside, the need of people to share experience, to be part of a great movement. I mean LeWeb, mobile revolution and innovation in a large way. So all the people that work here in France in this big industry now needed that time to speak through a media and Richard had a good idea to launch FrenchWeb.

The Innovation economy is larger now because traditional economy is so focused on the innovation and startups ecosystem. We have 600.000 people per month on our website, with completely free access. We have a big community on Twitter with 170.000 people now, a big community on Facebook, but Facebook is just a way to communicate for us and we have the biggest French Community on LinkedIn.

Tobias Schwarz: I noticed your impressive figures on LinkedIn.

Marion Moreau: LinkedIn is a very important way to communicate. The best work of Richard according to me is that he selected all the people by hand each week and said: “This person is key”. So in fact the best thing concerning FrenchWeb is that we know our audience. We know, who is following us, which is very important for us.

Tobias Schwarz: A direct question: How do you earn money online with this journalistic project?

Marion Moreau: It is a very usual question, because we have free access. We have income through our different business units into FrenchWeb, which has about 12 or 13 people. We earn money with a brain content. We have a studio and a special business unit with video specialists and audio specialists. We try to help companies and corporate brands to build a very direct message to their very qualified audience. The brands need to communicate and address some messages. So we help them by video contents to reach the right person at the right moment. There are other ways like sponsoring, events, etc.

Tobias Schwarz: That’s very service orientated, isn’t it?

Marion Moreau: Yes, and you know its all about to animate this ecosystem for instance. We have done a very big challenge with a Microsoft event, which is the biggest IT event in Europe. Microsoft has organized the “Microsoft Tech Days” in February. I was the moderator and I did 13 hours live streaming on the web TV. And we did all the contents. We tried to push the barriers higher: ‘Ok, lets do live, lets talk to many audiences in physical, but also on the web’. It was a big challenge but I think we have succeeded.

Marion Moreau is moderating the session Creative Talks (in French):

Tobias SchwarzIn Germany, where we like to dramatize things, we have something we call “Zeitungssterben“, the decline of newspapers. On the one hand daily newspapers are getting worser or they just disappear. On the other hand weekly and monthly print products are doing okay and new ones are founded. Can you give us an insight in the state of the French media?

Marion Moreau: I think, it’s all the same. Media has a big problem with new ways to monetize their contents and with being innovative. There is one thing I could just point and I will be critical. The press here in France is very involved with Google. As you maybe know, Axel Springer in Germany has been very against Google and I think they were right. The press and the media are very critical towards the Google company. But they are completely depended and they have built their repetition online with the Google tools. So I think, it’s very dangerous to revolutionize against big companies like Google. They have to try to find out by themselves how to be most innovative and how to be the future of brand new media and the pure players of tomorrow. I think it’s very hard work for them.

Tobias Schwarz: Did I understand you correctly, you said Axel Springer is right in fighting Google?

Marion Moreau: Yes.

Tobias Schwarz: In Germany, thanks to Axel Springer and other media houses we have something we call the Ancillary Copyright for press publishers. There is nothing like that in France. Here the government made a deal: Google is paying into a innovation fund to support transformative French digital publishing initiatives, did I get it right?

Marion Moreau: Yes.

Tobias Schwarz: The Ancillary Copyright for press publishers doesn’t work in Germany. Does it work to take money from Google to help journalism?

Marion Moreau: Here in France it’s a tradition for the press corporation to be helped by the government. A lot of types, maybe the global media groups, are very depended on financial support by the state. So the Google initiative with this new fond for media is like a following tradition of helping. I am quite critical, but I think it’s the big challenge for media not to demand that help, but to be very innovative in a way. To find new business models, maybe with startups, maybe with FrenchWeb.

We are very open-minded. I think its reality that it’s difficult, but there are business models, that aren’t really discovered yet. But we have to discover them. We have to learn, to try something and we do that all day long. We think about how to monetize something, to create new contents, to work with all the medias. Here in LeWeb I do a Café de Press with all the media here and they were enthusiastic to make a short TV show and I said: ‘Dear Friends of all the media, lets do a TV show together during LeWeb and we all publish at the same time this content throughout all the platforms like FrenchWeb, etc.’ And they said: ‘Ok, lets do it. It’s an idea.’ You know, ten minutes long, it’s not a big reflection of how we cover LeWeb, but it’s okay. Lets try it. Lets mix the audiences and maybe it will be a surprise. I think it’s a great way to innovate.

Tobias Schwarz: And you can’t innovate, if you just change the donator – Google instead of the state. You need the pressure to do something better, something new. Like crowdfunding. Did you hear about the Dutch crowdfunding project De Correspondent or Krautreporter from Germany?

Marion Moreau: Not in details.

Tobias Schwarz: Both crowdfunding campaigns led to the founding of publications. I think, De Correspondent collected 1.3 Million US Dollar (at the end they raised a total of 1.7 Mio. US Dollar) and the Krautreporter got 900.000 Euros. Is there something similiar in France and what do you think as a media expert about crowdfunding in journalism?

Marion Moreau: I think it’s a very interesting way to engage people and communities to be part of a big adventure. I think in France we see the crowdfunding phenomenon as a very social way to engage and embrace new ways of communication and supporting people being entrepreneurs in a way. I think, it’s a big success here in France. We have many stories that startups put their products on the crowdfunding platforms and we see that there is a response of the people that want to share something with the people that share their new products. I think it’s a good way to explore new models, a new way to have financial support, it’s obvious. But I really believe in crowdfunding, I think it’s interesting.

Tobias Schwarz: France is a cultural nation, which is very proud on it’s cultural heritage. What’s your opinion on how good France is prepared for the digital change?

Marion Moreau: This is a very interesting question, thank you for having this question. Here in France we have a lot of fears, you know?

Tobias Schwarz: Like the “German Angst”? La “peur française”?

Marion Moreau: Look at all the drags that French people were. We are very anxious people. I give you an example. On many conferences you have slots with “Berlin is the new Silicon Valley”, taxities, the high level of financial place of startups and innovation etc. And is Paris the right place? We always have questions concerning a Paris and French ecosystem. And it’s a shame, because we have great entrepreneurs, we have kind of a finger print here in France.

Regularly I am doing a tour of France. Five years ago in Lille, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lyon, in many cities here in France, I just met great entrepreneurs. Mayors of cities have understood that there is a big challenge to support innovation, because they have employment, they have many jobs to offer throughout startups and bigger companies. I think in a way its not pretentious to say that we have some great stories.

I don’t know if you heard about the French Tech Label, which animates and makes a global insight of the local ecosystem. It’s the French government which launched that label. I think we have to push the movement up to say: ‘No, it’s not only Paris. It’s all about France.’ In France we have great infrastructure, I mean the railways are very common to reach a city. Paris-Lille is just 40 minutes. You could work in Paris but have your team in another city. It’s reality, it’s like that. Many chances, many great aspects in this country, but it’s all about fear and a kind of shyness.

Tobias Schwarz: So it’s not a cultural thing, it’s just the missing self-esteem?

Marion Moreau: Yeah, I think so. We have to be more confident. Not only based on the government’s initiative, we have to be confident on entrepreneurs communities, on people, on crowdfunders maybe. I know all of these great people and the young people want to have another future and not the future that is always written in France with unemployment. It’s a big crisis but there is innovation and there are innovators in France that travel a lot, that are ambassadors in the Silicon Valley. We have 66.000 people in the biggest IT companies in the Silicon Valley, we have to be proud of that.

Tobias Schwarz: The German government created something they call the “Digital Agenda” and the European Commission is doing the same with Europe’s Digital Agenda. What is the French government doing about internet policy and the digital economy?

Marion Moreau: The first thing is, I want to say congratulation. You have the job in the European Commission.

Tobias Schwarz:You mean Günther Oettinger as the EU Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society?

Marion Moreau: Yeah. Absolutely. That is a great thing and a great opportunity for Germany to be part of the strategic decision. Because as a little piece in this ecosystem of the digital economy, I think that’s where the future is in Europe. So the commission is working on important topics. I will be critical once again, because France didn’t make a big battle in a way to get the job. Digital is key for the future, for the society, for our children. So lets go together and it should have been interesting to have a common partnership with Germany. There are two historical leaders in Europe concerning the digital strategy. I think maybe France and Germany have a common future together to build something very strong, to unify the rules in Europe. It’s a very big project. Neelie Kroes has worked on this point. It is a big challenge, but France has to be more tough. It has to battle to get the jobs that are strategic.

Tobias Schwarz: That is an inspring point of view I must say, because in Germany we were very satisfied with Neelie Kroes and are a little bit afraid of Günther Oettinger. Next question: Sometimes we don’t know what happens in other countries, because of the language barriers. It’s hard to read French newspapers when you are not familiar with French. What shall I not miss in France concerning media and technology? What is hot here? Which media should I read?

Marion Moreau: Oh, there are not so many pure players on magazine focused only on innovation here in France. This is a shame because there are plenty of opportunities to launch something. We are nearly alone in this field. You have efforts from traditional press like Le Monde or Challenges, which is a press magazine that launches some specific topics on innovation. They have a real good strategy on the press. On the print they are very innovating with the M, which is the Le Monde magazine, a way to tell stories that differ from the newspaper. Online they have another strategy to enrich the content with interviews or reports. So I think it’s a great effort to be innovative, but you don’t have a big talk about innovation in France. I think it’s a shame, because we need to tell stories differently and to speak through the entrepreneurs in France.

Maybe you know Vice from New York, it’s a big reference for all journalism in France, because they are so innovative. They are always surprising. They make some great reports. You know in Russia or in Ukraine. They are great, tough reporters and it’s obvious that they have success. They show the reality and I think it’s a very innovative media.

Tobias Schwarz: The Vice magazine is a big topic in Germany, too. Their journalist are bringing themselves in dangerous situations, always interesting, but they are all young. What will be if they are 40, 50 or 60 years old? Will they be still journalists? Can there be an older journalist in the future?

Marion Moreau: Take a look at the Monocle Magazine. It’s a big success, because they have succeeded in the print industry, what is very difficult today. It’s a subscription model, I think so. It’s not a young team, it’s the same with the Re/code, a website for innovation. If you see the team, they are not so young. Young people are very into being innovative, of course, but I think older people can really support innovation maybe in a more sufficient way.

Tobias Schwarz: That is a nice thought for the end of the interview. Thank you for your time.

Image by Richard Menneveux (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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