Heroes of Yesterday, Casualties of Today

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History has just taught us a sobering lesson, with France as the classroom. The ‘France Soir’ newspaper (which means ‘French Evening’) was one of the heroes of French history. It began as an underground publication called ‘Defense de la France’ (Defense of France) in the Second World War, when France was being oppressed by German invaders. It played a pivotal role in helping the French Resistance to make the Germans’ lives a nightmare, and eventually win back their country. In short it was a national icon, national patriot and national hero. I use the past tense in saying it ‘was’ a national hero, because the newspaper has now breathed its last. From now on it will only exist as a faint, ghostly, shadowy online presence. But why? Let’s trace back the chain of events…

In 1955, the newspaper’s distribution was a staggering 1.5 million copies. But by 2011, this flood had been reduced to just a pitiful droplet of 60,000 copies. Who was the culprit? What caused this dramatic decline? Was it poor management? Poor strategies? A nosedive in content quality? The answer will surprise you… it was ‘progress’ – in the form of digital media! The lesson here is that regardless of how big your organization is, or how important you consider yourself to the nation, you’re never ‘too big to fail’. This was a phrase used by giant American companies during the recession to justify why they should be given bailouts, as they were simply too big to fail. But the same logic doesn’t hold water in digital media, as evidenced by the unfortunate case of the ‘France Soir’ .

I hope this makes regional companies sit up straight and wakes them from their comfort zones; because they have mostly been ignoring the latest trends and ignoring local agencies who have a much better understanding of local customers. Instead, many companies have been hoodwinked by so-called ‘world class’ agencies into investing mountains of money in tired ideas which deliver tired results. This is akin to throwing your money down the gutter and expecting gold to pop back out.

Let’s all remember that time waits for nobody. You either keep in step with the future, or you get left behind by history.