French Newspapers Team Up to Fight Apple

Eight publications in France, including Le Figaro, have teamed up to fight Apple’s policies and 30 percent take on the iPad, according to Reuters on Wednesday. The growing realization amongst them is that, after taxes and Apple’s take, it’s very hard to make any money compared to their legacy paper offerings.

Some of the other French publications involved include the sports daily L’Equipe, the business daily Les Echos and the news weekly le Nouvel Observateur. The consortium is negotiating with Apple as a group to obtain key concessions.

“In the Internet world, we face actors like Apple, Google and Facebook that are infinitely powerful, much stronger than us publishers,” said Pascale Pouquet, the top exec with Le Figaro. “It just made sense to us to try to establish a more favorable power dynamic to try to have more equal relations with them.”

Another member of the consortium, Xavier Spender with L’Equipe pointed out that, after doing the financial calculations, “I make less money selling a digital edition of the newspaper [on the iPad, with 30 percent Apple cut] than I do on the print edition sold in a kiosk.”

Various publications in the U.S. have had mixed success with the iPad. For a time, it seemed that Apple was generating the wave of the future, a bandwagon every publication had to be on. However, now it appears that each publication has its own dynamics, and a fixed 30 percent cut by Apple doesn’t work for everyone. For example, the UK’s Financial Times, after launching a popular iOS app, recently changed gears and launched its own Web site publication for iPad readers using HTML5 and bypassed Apple.

Apple is probably learning more than it ever imagined about the economics of the publishing business, and perhaps, in time, the 30 percent take will be amended, or Apple will negotiate special agreements with consortiums like the one in France. In any case, we can expect to hear more and more about how various publications are coping with the new digital economy of the iPad.