Blog Post

Publishers Lobby And Re-Group On Digital Policy

German magazine publishers aim to lobby the G8 nations to defend them against Apple’s subscription policy, while an editors group has spun off in to a new body aimed at fighting their corner.

Germany’s FAEP and VDZ periodical associations have penned their so-called “Berlin Declaration“, in which they say they are “at risk from both onerous business conditions and legislative threats”, “are faced with technological giants that may want to control the various dimensions of content distribution” and could lose “core competencies such as price setting, as well as their valued, direct relationships with readers (notably via subscription management).”

They also grumble about “the ongoing problem that advertising revenue vital for online editions still only accounts for a mere fraction of the revenue generated by advertising in print publications, as prices are much lower”, which “is clearly not a sustainable solution as the consumer shift towards digital continues unabated”.

They have penned “five key conditions for success” which they want the G8 to acknowledge, in its upcoming May meeting…

1. Maintenance of existing press freedoms is the minimum prerequisite for any reasonable media policy.
2. Freedom to experiment and manage innovative business models.
3. Strong copyright protection is essential for a vibrant press.
4. Reduced VAT rates for digital as well as printed press.
5. Fair competition and transparency in the digital world

This all sounds remarkably similar to the four key concerns voiced by members of the European chapter of the International Newspaper Marketing Association last month, following a summit convened to discuss subscription announcements by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Google.

Ahead of the upcoming G8 summit in Paris in May, president Sarkozy has convened a prior summit of online giants to debate digital issues. A delegation will then present a summary of the talking points to G8 leaders (see here). FAEP and VDZ are seeking online signatories.

Meanwhile, a majority of board members who attended the latest meeting of the World Editors Forum (WEF), an association comprising global newspaper editors, has split off to form a similar body, the Global Editors Network (GEN), with seemingly a more positive outlook than the Germans…

Its manifesto states: “We will stop acting like victims of disruptive technologies or lack of citizenship. We are optimistic about the new digital tools and the new channels of distribution offered to us as news producers.”

Former WEF president Xavier Vidal-Folch of El Pais and vice-president Harald Stanghelle of Aftenposten will have the same role at GEN. WEF has been allied with the World Association of Newspapers. WEF director Bertrand Pecquerie is leaving WEF.

One Response to “Publishers Lobby And Re-Group On Digital Policy”

  1. Thank you for mentioning the creation of the brand new Global Editors Network (GEN).
    Our goal is to contribute to the future of journalism. Which means breaking the existing barriers between editors of old and new media, encourage mutualisation and cooperation between media, finding out how the whole media industry can benefit from new digital tools and trends.
    We invite you to read our Manifesto, and share your inputs with us.
    The correct link to our site is :

  2. Points 1 & 3, press freedoms and copyright protection are quite rationale requests for any IP owner.

    I am not sure who is stopping publishers in regards to point 2, i.e. pursuing innovation and new business models. Perhaps publishers feel they are shackled from being innovative because of pricing/labor relations problems and this condition for success is intended to alleviate those issues.

    Point 4, is in its simplest form is a tax subsidy for ‘premium priced’ product subject to VAT. So ultimately you are asking all taxpayers to subsidize buyers of premium product when arguably comparable free ad supported product are available through the web. Seems like a broader public good might be achieved by subsidizing investment in innovation v inefficient business models.

    Point 5, seems to be the crux of the conditions. Publishers are seeking better revenue share and direct access to their subscribers. Realistically, I am not sure that a better revenue share and access to customer data are the biggest issues facing publishers. The broader problem is that their cost structure cannot be sustained given the declining consumer demand for their product due to the availability of free or lower cost substitutes. This is an inherent problem in the publishing business model that cannot be solved through legislation.

  3. bingbong

    A majority of big German publishers got their exclusive licensees after the second world war from the US, UK, France – so they could build their empires without any competition for decades. This money printing machine still works, just look at the billions of profit (not revenue) big German publishers squeeze out their “poor” printing and distribution businesses. They also own most private TV and radio stations, yellow pages, online shops, venture capital schemes, distribution companies and they can deal directly with the 5 media agencies that control 80 % of the advertising market. The situation is similar in other European countries (continental, the UK is different). Those guys are just not used to compete and now there are “at once” several 800 pound gorillas in the room: Apple, Google, Facebook, even Microsoft, Nokia, HP and other players are jumping in now. Now they fall on their knees and beg politicians to protect them from the market. They invest thousands of hours of work on this. Instead of investing in talent, in start ups, into the quality of their own content and services. This movement is a sign that this comes to an end soon – whatever the G8 will do. European Publishers: take your billions and invest into green energy or the giving pledge. But stop bombing our future.