Tag: Le Monde

BHL: The bloodied Games of Putin the Terrible

Friday, 21 February, 2014 0 Comments

“For those who care about democracy, can we, by pulling out of Sochi — or at least by boycotting the closing ceremony on Sunday — ensure that the XXII Winter Olympics will not go down in history as the Games that were the shame and defeat of Europe?” Bernard-Henri Lévy

That’s the plea of Bernard-Henri Lévy, often referred to simply as BHL, the French intellectual and author. Il faut quitter Sotchi! is how he put in Le Monde. In the translated version, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal, he pointed the finger at the Russian President: “At these Games, where the flame symbolizing the Olympic ideal has been purloined by a thug, when the winning athletes playfully bite their medals, this time will not the gold, silver and bronze have the metallic taste of blood?” And then he hammers the nail home:

“Do you not see the absurdity — not to say the obscenity — of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible, who earlier this week issued $2 billion to prop up the regime of his valet Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president who then unleashed his forces on the Maidan protesters; and the other Putin, strutting across the stage and through the stands, greeting you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?”

Talking of Yanukovych, why is the Kremlin propping him up? Simple. If he were to fall, the risk of contagion would reach Russia and its power base would be vulnerable. In Putin’s eyes, the Ukraine is Russia’s barricade against the West. From the perspective of the West, however, and Poland, in particular, a pro-Western Ukraine is a vital cordon sanitaire against an increasingly belligerent Russia. Paweł Świeboda, the president of demosEUROPA, a Warsaw-based think tank, used the conciseness of Twitter to put it all in perspective:

When the Sochi Winter Games end, the Great Game for the future of Eastern Europe will fill the gap in the TV schedules. The West would be well advised not to bring a baguette to this knife fight.


Revolution and Revolt in France

Tuesday, 11 February, 2014 0 Comments

Revolution: Yesterday, the French business daily, Les Echos, launched a news aggregator called Les Echos 360. To be precise, it’s not an aggregator, it’s an “aggrefilter” says Frederic Filloux, the head of digital at Les Echos, who explains that the word means an aggregation and filtering system that collects technology news and ranks it based on its importance to the news cycle. As Filloux points out in his Monday Note blog post, this move required courage and a lot of clever thinking:

“For Les Echos‘ digital division, this aggrefilter is a proof of concept, a way to learn a set of technologies we consider essential for the company’s future. The digital news business will be increasingly driven by semantic processes; these will allow publishers to extract much more value from news items, whether they are produced in-house or aggregated/filtered. That is especially true for a business news provider: the more specialized the corpus, the higher the need for advanced processing.”

Liberation

Revolt: Journalists at France’s third-biggest national newspaper, Libération, have responded with rage at a plan by the owners to try to save the declining daily by transforming it into a “social network”. The owners also want to convert the central Paris building rented by the newsroom into a cultural centre with a café, TV studio and business area for start-ups. Liberation staff voiced their opposition on the cover of the weekend edition: “We are a newspaper, not a restaurant, not a social network, not a cultural space, not a TV studio, not a bar, not a start-up incubator.”

Started by Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, Libération is a leftist fixture on Parisian newsstands, but it has long trailed Le Monde and Le Figaro, and, with a circulation of just 100,000, it has proved to be a bottomless pit for its shareholders. Last year, it lost more than €500,000 as sales sank 15 percent. Marx would be delighted with such energetic destruction of capital.

Prediction: Les Echos will survive. Libération will not.


Three stars for those Michelin apps

Monday, 23 January, 2012

Chapeau! Last year, a total of 1.4 million Groupe Michelin applications were downloaded from Apple’s App Store and three of them were among the 2011 bestsellers. ViaMichelin Mobile in the navigation category for iPhone, Restaurants in the France – The Michelin Guide Restaurants 2011 in the lifestyle category for iPhone and the MichelinFrance map in the navigation category for iPad.

Michelin Guide Although Michelin is not exactly a startup (it was incorporated in 1888), the company has always been at the cutting edge of innovation. After all, its core product, tires, are complex things with an evolving role in the safety and comfort of the driving experience. Talking of driving, those who find themselves in the centre of France this year should visit L’Aventure Michelin, which recounts the company’s historic journey from Clermont-Ferrand to the App Store. The secret of its success is that Edouard and André Michelin weren’t just great innovators, they were marketing geniuses and superb businessmen. Their big insight was that if people took more trips, Michelin would sell more tires. To encourage motorists to hit the road, they got into the content business and Michelin became famous for its roadmaps, for its Red Guides that grade hotels and restaurants, its Green Guides on regions and countries and the literary Guides Bleus, which offered cultural interpretation of destinations. And when smartphones came along, Michelin was well positioned to port its award-winning content onto the new platforms.

Now, it seems a more radical shift is in the works. According to a report that appeared in Le Monde on 14 January, “Michelin dans la tourmente” (Michelin in turmoil), the days of the Guide Michelin are numbered… in paper form, at least. The company is contemplating making it available digitally only. Why? The venerable Guide sold 107,000 copies in France in 2010, which is a drop of of 22 percent compared to a decade ago when sales topped 400,000.