Tuesday, October 27, 2009


In the wake of the failure of a partner Web news site in Spain, Rue89 today offers a glimpse of its own present financial situation:

Avec à peine deux ans et demi d'existence, Rue89 approche progressivement de l'équilibre économique. Celui-ci pourrait être ponctuellement atteint au quatrième trimestre 2009, mais pas encore en année pleine. Il faudra sans doute attendre encore trois ou quatre trimestres avant d'atteindre le point d'équilibre, clé de l'indépendance et de la pérennisation de l'entreprise.

That's good to know, even if the price of survival is selling T-shirts and coffee mugs:

Lancé un peu plus tôt, en mai 2007, Rue89 a développé un modèle économique mixte dans lequel la publicité sous toutes ses formes (bannières, mur, liens sponsorisés…) n'est pas la seule source de revenus, grâce aux activités de prestation de service (développement de sites pour d'autres clients), de formation continue, et de vente de T-shirts et de mugs.

I find this slightly sad, since I think Rue89 has a claim on being the best news source in France today. It's not as comprehensive as Le Monde, but on the subjects it treats it is consistently more interesting. I hope that a sustainable situation is not too far distant. Meanwhile, I encourage you to buy T-shirts and coffee mugs.

Tough Luck, God

An illuminating factoid from Roger Chartier:

Googlez "google" sur Google Recherche dans www.google.fr : l'écran indique la présence du mot et de la chose dans "environ 2 090 000 000" documents. Si vous n'êtes pas inquiet du sacrilège, renouvelez l'opération en googlant "dieu" : "environ 33 000 000" de documents vous seront alors proposés.

What follows this sensational opening gambit is a thoughtful consideration of the consequences of a transition from one "material support" of culture to another. Worth a look.

I have been pondering this transition lately because the Harvard libraries now offer the possibility of "scan and deliver": if the reader chooses, nearly any of the millions of books that Harvard owns can be scanned overnight and delivered the next day in .pdf form. In some ways this is a great convenience, in others a great sadness. Sadness fades quickly, though, whereas convenience boosts productivity, and as we are constantly reminded, the world--even in the groves of academe--is an increasingly competitive place, so productivity counts.

Pasqua Gets Hard Time

Charles Pasqua has been sentenced to a year in prison, hard time, for his role in "Angolagate." J.-C. Mitterrand got two years suspended. The case against Jacques Attali was dismissed.

Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

President Sarkozy has a plan to "save French agriculture." It won't involve "subsidies contrary to EU regulations, which will have to be paid back ten years from now." It will involve "bank loans and exceptional state support" plus 200 billion "to alleviate interest charges and aid in the restructuring of farms." It will also involve "regulation," lots of it, which can only be envisioned at the international level.

I have yet to see details of this plan, but on its face it seems to offer an excellent example of what Sarkozy likes to call his "voluntarist" approach to government. "Subsidy" is a bad word, so by an act of will one eliminates it by redefinition: alleviating interest charges is somehow not a subsidy. If state money is laundered through banks, it's no longer a subsidy. If farms are "restructured," perhaps by offering farmers incentives to produce this rather than that, they are not subsidized. France can act unilaterally yet call itself a good citizen of the Union because it verbally acknowledges the international dimension of the problem and proposes "regulation," as yet uncoordinated with its partner-competitors, as a solution.

To be sure, hypocrisy is and always has been the norm in European agricultural policy. Large voter blocs are involved. Candor about long-term strategy can be politically fatal. But it's not convincing to propose mere "change" as a solution. "I won't continue the failed policies of the past." Fine. That's a beginning. But what is the long-term goal?

A few details here.