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Professione reporter

Perché vendere la sede di via Solferino servirà a pochino

Il Wall Street Journal oggi dà un quadro a tinte fosche dello stato economico dei quotidiani europei. Ecco la parte che interessa l'Italia. 

In Italy, general ad spending was at a 20-year low in 2012 and state subsidies have dropped 60% since 2006, while sales of Italian newspapers are down 22% in the last five years. 

RCS Mediagroup, owner of the daily Corriere della Sera, was near bankruptcy last year, with losses of nearly €500 million. Circulation was down almost 20% since 2007. With a website that is rudimentary and largely free, it has been late in coming up with a digital strategy. Few of its print readers are subscribers, depriving it of useful marketing data. According to an Oxford University study, only 5% of Italian readers have home subscriptions to newspapers in general, compared with 25% in the U.S. Moreover, an online push has also met opposition from some journalists, who resisted writing for both the print and online version. Late last year, Corriere journalists finally agreed to write for both platforms and the integration of the newsrooms will be completed next year. But the newspaper must still cut 70 jobs in the next four years, as part of a plan to eliminate up to 800 jobs between Italy and Spain by 2015. 

In April, RCS CEO Pietro Scott Jovane presented a plan to significantly boost digital revenue, including e-commerce offerings, special Web communities and enhanced video content. He expects this to offset the decline in traditional revenue. But critics say it isn't enough. "We want a serious plan that can offer the company a future, because the current one doesn't work," Diego Della Valle, founder of Tod's group and a large shareholder in RCS, said following the plan's presentation. On Saturday, Corriere didn't hit news stands as reporters went on strike to protest the sale of the newspaper's base in central Milan—among the assets to be given up. 

Italians' relatively low Internet usage—37% of Italians have never used Internet, compared with an EU average of 22%—present a unique challenge, says Donatella Treu, CEO of Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore. "If other newspaper groups can offset falling ad and sales revenue with digital subscription and add-on services, in Italy we simply can't," she said in an interview. Gruppo 24 Ore, which controls the financial daily, became the first Italian daily to launch a paywall early this year, but it is still bleeding red ink.

Con questi chiari di luna la vendita della sede del Corriere in via Solferino appare per quello che è: una mossa obbligata, ma per guadagnare tempo. In attesa di un cavaliere bianco (o grigio).  

Wall Street Journal