French Newspapers Pilot Digital-Reader Device

22 July 2008

PARIS: Seven French publications – among them the nation's leading daily news titles – have partnered with France Télécom to test Read & Go, a digital reading device that claims to offer the world's most convincing electronic facsimile of an ordinary newspaper.

A test panel of 120 people has been given the device, allowing them to download the contents of participating newspapers via France Télécom's wireless network.

The participating titles are Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Parisien and Libération; sports daily, L'Équipe; business newspaper Les Échos; and Télérama, a weekly entertainment and culture magazine. Certain books and other content are also available.

Unlike other digital-reader newspapers available elsewhere on the planet, Read & Go is not restricted to editorial content. Uniquely, it can also carry ads – currently sample ads from France Télécom's consumer brand Orange.

As demonstrated by Orange's svp for online advertising, Paul-François Fournier, the device displays links to the participating publications, featuring black-on-gray type and images that mimic the appearance of newsprint.

He clicks on one of the links with a stylus and the day's headlines in Le Monde appear. Another click and a full article, as it appears in the printed newspaper, occupies the screen.

Assuming the test is successful, the service could be launched nationally as early as next year. At which time France Télécom and the newspapers will jointly sell ads and split the revenues.

Fournier claims that Orange wants to help newspapers succeed in the digital world – success that has so far eluded them compared with other media formats.

"We are there to support this transformation," he says. "We are not there to do their business. We are not very good writers."

Pascal Laroche, director of digital editions at Libération, insists that his paper sees Read & Go as a supplement to – not a replacement for – its existing print, online and mobile outlets.

"This will not replace the newspaper," he said. "We hope that, if it is successful, it is the start of a new kind of support."

Data sourced from International Herald-Tribune; additional content by WARC staff