Google vs. French-speaking press in Belgium : Brice’s opinion

Author: Brice Le Blévennec

This week-end, daily newspaper La Libre Belgique asked Brice Le Blévennec, President of Emakina, to give his stance about the present conflict between Google and some publishers of the French-speaking press in Belgium. Check out his opinion on this page. For those who are not fluent in French, we propose here a small summary.

The battle has begun between Google and some publishers of French-speaking dailies. But these already lost the war when the Internet entered our daily life ten years ago. Instead of massively investing in this new medium, they’ve never deployed a long term vision. Today, they pay a huge sum for this hesitating behaviour and want to fill the gap by suing Google in court.

Yes, you can blame Google who despises the local law. But, if you look carefully, this search engine is less a threat than a fantastic opportunity to attract youngsters whose media habits are totally different from their parents ones’ : they watch less television, they don’t read newspapers anymore but they’re Internet heavy users. Here lies the real issue : publishers should focus again on their core business (content creation) to reach readers where they are now (on the Net, the iPod, the mobile phone…). In ten years, consumers’ attitude towards media has completely changed. It’s to adapt the business model.

On short term, French-speaking newspapers will probably register a minor traffic loss due to their black-listing from Google’s database. On long term, they will simply disappear from people’s mind. A good source of inspiration for them would be what De Persgroep did in the Northern part of our country : Het Laatste Nieuws.be is now fifth most visited website on the Belgian market and even gave birth to a web-only, French-speaking newspaper, 7sur7. When will we see such an ambitious project on the other side of the linguistic border?

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