Dear Members,

A short note to wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year (and belatedly posting this message on our website a tad later than it was sent out by email).
As you will all likely know by now, members elected me president of the association at the annual general meeting in December.
Thank you again for your confidence in me, and in the new Secretary General Cathy Nolan as well as the new committee line-up, which features some new faces alongside the veteran officers.
And thank you again to the outgoing leadership for their hard work over the past year. If I have done as well as they did by this time next year, I will regard my term in office as a success.
The committee and I will do our best to provide you with a varied range of guests and a lively set of social events, including of course the increasingly popular Happy Hour on the last Friday of every month, over the next 12 months.
The AAPA year kicked off with a flurry of guests - Mediapart's Edwy Plenel on January 9, CGT leader Philippe Martinez on January 11, Xavier Niel on January 24, and Benjamin Griveaux on February 12.
We look forward to seeing you at the many other events that are in the pipeline for the coming months.
Please also consider joining the AAPA Facebook group. It's a closed group that only AAPA members can join, so what you post there is seen only by members.

Bonne année 2018

Rory Mulholland

Benjamin Griveaux provides insider’s view of the Macron administration

Brexit, Germany, European parliamentary elections, the economy, Islam in France, and Corsican nationalism were among the many topics government spokesman and cabinet member Benjamin Griveaux discussed with the AAPA at a meeting on February 12.
Griveaux was spokesman for Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign and over lunch with 28 members of the Association, he recounted the foundation of Macron’s En marche! movement.
He said the president’s most salient characteristic is that “he never considers anything is acquis” - permanently acquired. “He’s not satisfied with the status quo. If you tell him that something is impossible, he says it isn’t.”
As a candidate, Macron organised a country-wide grande marche to determine what the French people wanted from the future.
“If I had to summarise it in one sentence, people told us they were prevented, by glass ceilings, by obstacles, by barriers,” Griveaux said. “We no longer had a republic of progress, of meritocracy, of fulfilment through work.”
Griveaux said that “reintroducing the notion of risk in French political life” was “the most disruptive thing President Macron accomplished.”
US President Donald Trump has invited Macron for a state visit to Washington in late April. Trump said in January he might keep the US in the Paris climate accord because of his warm relationship with Macron.
Griveaux said the two leaders will certainly discuss the climate accord and multilateralism – in particular in the Middle East – when Macron goes to Washington. “They will probably talk about the status of Jerusalem”.
Pressed on the nature of the relationship between the US and French leaders, Griveaux said: “I don’t think he’s buddies with Trump. When you’re a head of state, it’s not about feelings.”

-Lara Marlowe

Macron is no revolutionary but has given France a much-need makeover, says telecom tycoon Xavier Niel

President Emmanuel Macron has not revolutionised France but he has given the country a much-needed image makeover, telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel told the AAPA during a meeting on January 24.

Niel met with the association at Station F, a huge start-up incubator housed in a former railway depot near the Seine river which Macron inaugurated a month after coming to power last year. Station F's manager Roxanne Varza was also present.

Speaking on the day that Macron took to the stage in Davos declaring "France is back", Niel said: "France has not changed.

"What really changed is the fact of having a young, dynamic president, who is not from any political party. He has given France a pro-startup, pro-entrepreneur image abroad that we did not really have before."

Station F, which has taken in 1,000 start-ups, is a symbol of the "start-up nation" that Macron wants France to become.

Niel, who like Macron is something of an outlier in his field, made a fortune by producing France's first combo phone-TV-internet service.

He said Macron's reduction of taxes on capital gains and dividends have made France more attractive for investors, making it easier for start-ups to secure funding.

Adding to France's lure are US President Donald Trump anti-immigration policies, Britain's decision to leave the European Union and the struggles of Angela Merkel to form a coalition.

"England maybe does not appear very stable under Theresa May, Germany doesn't maybe seem much fun with a leader who is starting to get on in years, and the United States under Donald Trump doesn't seem very welcoming to strangers," said Niel. "In the midst of all that, we're doing quite nicely."

Varza said one quarter of Station F's start-ups were foreign, with the US and Britain the countries most represented among non-French companies.

Niel said he was confident France would soon overtake Britain to become Europe's technology capital.

He did not see France's crusade to get US digital giants such as Facebook and Google to pay more taxes as a deterrent.

Niel predicted that the threat of legislation forcing companies to pay taxes in the EU country where they create value -- rather than countries with low tax rates -- would convince the companies to pay more locally.

-Clare Byrne

CGT union leader Martinez vows to keep up the fight against Macron reforms

Philippe Martinez, the leader of the hardline CGT union, conceded during his January 11 meeting with the AAPA that he had failed to prevent President Macron’s labour law reform.  But he vowed to continue fighting tooth and nail to prevent France becoming more like Britain - in his eyes a land of zero-hours contracts, diminishing workers’ rights, and official contempt for the unemployed.

Asked if he thought that Mr Macron was hoping to emulate Margaret Thatcher in her epic battle with Britain’s unions in the 1980s, Mr Martinez replied: "His aim is to eliminate the unions.... He takes his inspiration from that model (Thatcher's model)... His is a policy of repression of unions." But he recognised that the CGT, faced with falling membership, will have to ‘modernise a little, given that the world of work has changed” with the advent of Uber type firms and the digital economy.

-Rory Mulholland


Mediapart shows independent news is possible and even profitable, says Edwy Plenel

The investigative online newspaper Mediapart enters its 11th year with a growing paid readership, a healthy balance sheet, and its twin pillars of independence and diversity fully intact, co-founder and publishing editor Edwy Plenel told the AAPA on January 9.

When Mediapart was launched 10 years ago on March 16, 2008, virtually no-one - apart from the founders and the 25 staff- believed a paying online news service could survive. In those days, the received wisdom was that news on internet had to be free.

They were wrong. Mediapart’s net profit rose to about 2.5 million euros last year from 1.9 million euros in 2016, its profit margin is higher than that of The New York Times, and subscribers now stand at some 140,000—having approached 150,000 during the French presidential election campaign last year.

Plenel’s editorial policy is selection. Whether scoops, analyses or a new perspective, stories have to represent value-added to those seen elsewhere. Insistence on diversity, which clashes with the prevalent single-identity principle, is another element « at the heart of our success. » The « affaire des affaires », which still has to be revealed in full, is Libyan funding for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election campaign in 2007, Plenel said. This will depend on how far the justice system will take the case, he added.

He recognized that Mediapart over-reacted in its scrap with Charlie Hebdo over Islam. « It is out of the question » for two independent newspapers « to be at war », especially when one has « paid (for its independence) with blood. » Plenel also regretted the silence from other media when former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Mediapart should be « left out of the debate. »

The site carries no advertising, has no financial backers, no debt and since 2010 has received no subsidies from either the French government or Google, unlike other French media. It now has a staff of about 80, but will soon have a new editorial director, as present incumbent and co-founder François Bonnet will stand down this year. He said at the beginning that a decade would be his limit. The staff have until March to endorse, or not, Plenel’s candidate to succeed him.

« We have to hand over to a new generation to build the rest of the adventure, » Plenel said.

His advice for any other news start-ups is to have enough cash to pay decent salaries for the first three years. This helped Mediapart to break even for the first time after only two and a half years, and Plenel to finish paying off his personal loan to the bank last December 31.

To mark its 10th anniversary, Mediapart will hold a two-day event on March 16-17 at the 104 cultural centre in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The event will begin with an international conference on « The Right to Know » and follow with films, debates and exhibitions on the 17th.

For more information about our 90 minutes with Plenel, we will flag stories written by members who were there.

-Barbara Casassus

-Photos: Thomas Haley


Machines Aren’t Our Friends, Media Moguls Tell AAPA

In this new industrial age, machines are going after white collar jobs...brain power jobs. In the words of Hilary Clinton, "Machines are not our friends." That thought was echoed by Fred Raillard & Farid Mokart at a breakfast gathering for the AAPA in the Paris headquarters of their media company FF Creative Community on December 12. “Regulations are the only thing that will save us,” Fred added, referring to the need to steady the pace of the rapidly changing tech environment.

As their comms director, Jalila Levesque, told us, Fred Raillard and Farid Mokart are a duo of multi-awarded advertising creatives, professional soulmates, entrepreneurs, and angel investors. They've made an outstanding international career in the ad industry in Paris, London and San Francisco. In 2007 they founded FF, an independent creative boutique network based in Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai and Paris. This creative boutique network is specialized in strategic brand platforms, social media content, tech, and creativity.

F&F see the relationship between customers and companies changing: "Customers are actually buying the company and its reputation," says Fred. "They want transparency. CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) dominates their communications space. Social media changed everything - companies cannot advertise by buying space in social media; they have to deserve to be there."

To this end, F&F showed us several TV commercials they had made for clients: those for HP emphasized not selling printers and equipment, but the company's push for diversity and overcoming prejudice in hiring practices.  A campaign for Louis XIII Cognac - whose brand is based on heritage and the century it takes to create the beverage - was based around a film which would not be shown for 100 years, starring quirky American actor John Malkovitch. The campaign included a "non-opening" in Hollywood and a ceremony locking the film away in a vault to be opened in 100 years. Press coverage was enormous.

"The Red Bull community is all about courage, action, a community of crazy people doing crazy things, so in this space they can sell anything," they said, as an example of today’s company-customer community.  Farid emphasized that most brands don't have a community vision because they are too focused on money. "HP understood that their product - technology - is a means, not a meaning, so they were able to align a creative sense of belonging going beyond just buying a product," he added

Journalists should be using social media to create their own community around their stories. "Embrace a dialogue," said Fred, "rather than a monologue. Start your story with a few lines to engage readers with the story." Farid pointed out that Instagram is a good format for luxury goods, reliant on visuals; TV works for basic consumer goods, and Twitter for retail and engaging dialogue. "And think about using video," they both said. "Even when you're doing an interview, take out your smartphone and film at least part of it."

FF is an international creative community of 400+ people from 25+ nationalities. The group has produced campaigns for 100+ brands like Air France, Audemars Piguet, Audi, Coca-Cola, Diesel, Giorgio Armani, Google, Guerlain, HP, Lacoste, Louis XIII, Martini, Orangina, Porsche, Saint Laurent, Schweppes, Société Générale, Tao Bao, Tmall, Van Cleef & Arpels, Vivo, YouK and, Wrangler. Under its founding principles of ideas, emotions and passion, FF has won 800+ creative and effectiveness awards, and 25 agency honors.

-Shellie Karabell



Diplomat Briefs AAPA on Franco-American Relations

One year after the election of Donald Trump to the White House, relations between France and the United States remain “extremely good”, and are underpinned by military cooperation between the two countries, a senior French diplomat told the AAPA on Nov. 17.

“The relationship between France and the U.S. has never been so intense in military terms,” the official told the group of nearly 40 AAPA members at a meeting once again generously hosted in the auditorium of Bloomberg News.

France and the U.S. are fighting together on many fronts, notably in Africa and the Middle East, and France is by far the “best and most reliable ally” of the U.S. among European countries, the diplomat said, speaking on background.

This is especially true because of Britain’s lack of involvement on the military front, and Germany is still reluctant to engage itself militarily, he went on.

The personal chemistry between French President Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump is “actually quite good” according to the official, boosted by Macron’s invitation for Trump to attend the Bastille Day celebrations in mid-July. The two leaders, who were elected on “populist” platforms, have had several phone conversations, but there’s no indication that these calls will have political consequences, he said.

The diplomat discussed the Trump Administration’s efforts to modify the Iran nuclear deal,  its “antipathy” towards Iran and its unorthodox diplomacy with Saudi Arabia. He also commented on the looming threat of U.S. trade protectionism and its unintended consequences that could backfire on America’s own interests.

On North Korea, he said he’s convinced that President Trump, being the “ultimate pragmatist” wouldn’t balk at negotiating with the Koreans on reducing their nuclear ambitions.

And he said he’s not overly worried by the unilateral decision by the U.S. not to uphold the Paris climate accord, as most Americans in big urban centers feel favor it and there’s a huge market for renewable energy in the U.S.

-David Pearson







Seine Cruise Celebrates AAPA’s 110th Anniversary

To celebrate the 110th year of the AAPA’s founding, 85 members and their guests took to the water for a celebratory evening cruise on the Seine on Sept. 16.

Boarding the “Henri IV,” at the picturesque Pont Neuf, we were treated to plentiful food and drink. The champagne was flowing like water thanks to a stash of left-over bubbly from previous summer Galas.

Top-class entertainment was supplied for 90 minutes by Lithuanian-raised, America-educated jazz singer Viktorija Gečyté and her two accompanists, who did their best to overcome the poor acoustics and the lively conversations of our excited mariners.

The rain held off right to the end, allowing us to sit on the open top deck with our refreshments, admiring historic Parisian landmarks and being admired by envious landlubbers as we shuttled back and forth for over two hours between the “real” Statue of Liberty and the Bibliothèque François Mitterrand.

In his address to the party-goers, AAPA President David Pearson reviewed some of the big news events from 1907, some of which are still relevant in today’s topsy-turvy political environment.

He recounted the origins of the association – the oldest journalists’ grouping in France – that year, when 16 British and nine American correspondents got together to create a club of like-minded people.

Over the decades, the AAPA’s regular, news-making meetings were must-attend events for English-speaking journalists based in Paris, and were frequently written up in the French press.

American singer Sophie Tucker, when asked the secret of her long life, replied: “Simple. Keep breathing.” Pearson said that’s what the AAPA has been doing for the past 110 years.

As a group, it’s able to serve up a smorgasbord of meetings with top officials, corporate leaders, and leading figures from the arts that journalists often can’t reach individually. And in recent years, it’s become a focal point for regular social events for members to meet up and exchange gossip and tips.

Long life to the AAPA!


-David Pearson












Hachette CEO’s Downbeat View of the Book Market

The market for books whether print or digital should remain flat in the next three to five years and then decline slightly over the following decade, according to Arnaud Nourry, chairman and CEO of Hachette Livre.

But the picture could be bleaker, as books are holding up better than all other culture and entertainment sectors, he told the Association over an elegant lunch in the group’s two-year old head office in Vanves on Sept. 8.

The market decline will come as younger generations turn from reading to other forms of entertainment that will require publishers to be innovative and creative, said Nourry, who was promoted to his current post in 2003. “Almost all people read less than they used to,” he said. He is convinced that video games for mobiles hold the greatest potential for the future, which is why the group has bought three such studios in the past two years, Neon Play and Brainbow in the UK, and IsCool in France.

The e-book, which has never made serious inroads in France and is declining in the US and UK as a share of overall book sales, “is a stupid product,” he said. “It is the same as print—we (publishers) have been lazy, and need to go beyond the traditional format for telling stories.” This could include interactive books, formats combining print, video and sound.

Hachette Livre, part of the Lagardère media group, ranks third worldwide after Pearson and Bertlesmann for general public titles and textbooks, excluding the state-run Chinese conglomerates. Put another way, the group is 150 imprints around the world with 18,000 titles and 10 original languages. It has published or still publishes best-selling authors such as J.K. Rowling, Tom Wolfe, J.D. Salinger, Colette, Flaubert and Charles Darwin.

Nourry said he’s sanguine about the UK’s planned exit from the European Union (EU) in March 2019. He is not planning any changes in the way the group manages its international business for the moment, and will not revise the policy unless the UK’s economy unravels, which he does not believe will happen.

On the subject of online giants, he was more critical about Google than Amazon, against which he led and won a lengthy battle in 2014 for publishers to be able to set e-book prices. Amazon “is our leading customer, so it is not just a challenge or a problem (…) I concluded several years ago that book publishing would die if it lost control over (retail) prices.” A 1981 law in France piloted by then culture minister Jack Lang permits publishers to set prices and is generally recognized to have helped maintain cultural diversity and a solid network of about 3,000 independent booksellers in France.

Nourry was especially harsh about Google. “Amazon respects copyright, but Google does not,” and the latter has a huge team of lobbyists in Brussels trying to persuade the European Union to water down its copyright laws, Nourry said, adding that he would continue to resist pressure to weaken France’s particularly strict legislation on this score.

The prospect that marketing might supersede content would “be a nightmare,” he said. If online specialists used their Big Data to dictate which books publishers should produce, Hachette Livre would go it alone with its own platform using its databases now run by teams of dedicated specialists. He is less concerned about piracy. The music business collapsed because Apple’s iTunes started offering single tracks for 99 cents, not because of piracy, he said. Control over retail pricing is the key to survival in the culture and entertainment industries, he added.

The Hachette imprints are autonomous, but have guidelines that make ‘author care’ a top priority and also have unwritten rules about not publishing extremist or racist titles. Former National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is writing his autobiography, and Nourry said he would take a dim view if any of the houses in the group planned to publish it. “Freedom to publish is in Hachette’s DNA,” but there has never been an internal policy wrangle about whether a book oversteps the mark in at least the past 40 years, he added.

Among emerging markets, the group is active in China, India and Russia, even though the first two do not have a big reading public, and is hesitant about going into Brazil. Nourry said he would reject the idea of censoring any books for the Chinese market, or anywhere else for that matter. Another important focus for Hachette Livre is the Arabic language market. At the moment, it operates in Morocco and Lebanon, publishing both in Arabic and French.

As for China’s entry into the International Publishers Association (IPA) last year, Nourry was very critical at the time in view of the country’s record in freedom to publish, which is the IPA’s mission to promote, and sees no reason to change his mind now. China was admitted to the organization under pressure from the UK, “I am not sure why,” he said. Since then, human rights in China have worsened, and more publishers and authors than ever are being arrested and imprisoned, he added.


-Barbara Casassus



Macron’s Labour Market Reforms Crucial: Medef Chief

President Emmanuel Macron represents the last chance to reform France's rigid labour market, but his reforms should not make the country end up like the US or the UK, Pierre Gattaz told AAPA members over breakfast at Medef headquarters on June 23.

“France won’t have another opportunity. Now we have no option,” the head of France's biggest employers’ federation said.

Gattaz and his fellow business leaders are pleased with Macron's economic programme, and back his plans to give bosses more power to negotiate conditions with workers at company level and to cap the severance pay awarded by labour courts. But the new president's plans have left some trade unions seething and warning of mass street protests. They fear the loss of workers’ rights and the power of the trade unions undermined.

Many of those who oppose the reforms fear they are a step towards a deregulated labour market along the lines of the US or Britain. But Gattaz said he did not see an ultra-liberal model as the right one for France.

“It’s too far from the French culture,” he said. “Maybe France will get there in 20 or 30 years’ time... but I don’t think it’s the right model." He believes France should aim for a “midway point” that ensures “flexibility and security” along the lines of the Danish model.

But one benefit of the UK model is that it creates high levels of employment, he said. “When you have a labour market that is blocked like that in France where there is 10 percent unemployment the balance of power favours companies," said Gattaz.

"But when you have a labour market with three percent unemployment like in London then it’s the workers who have the power. Because the workers can decide to quit their job if they don’t like it and find another one the next morning.”

The Medef leader warned that the far-right or the far-left could take power in the next presidential election if Macron does not create more flexibility in France’s labour market.

“If there are no reforms then in 2022 then we will have Marine Le Pen and (Jean-Luc) Mélenchon in the second round of the election,” he said.

-Rory Mulholland