Top French media companies team up for unified login system

Media companies eager to deepen relationships with their audiences are teaming up and turning to unified login systems so users can access multiple media sites through a single email address.

France is the latest country taking this route, with 10 media companies across news publishing, radio and broadcast setting rivalries aside to collaborate on a single tech system. Le Figaro, Altice, Team, M6-RTL, Lagardère Active, Czech Media Invest France, 20 Minutes, Les Echos-Le Parisien, Le Point and Radio France, who together reach around 80 percent of French internet users, are all in the as-yet-unnamed alliance.

The media groups are pooling resources — and €5 million ($5.7 million) in funding over three years to create an independent, common technology infrastructure that all publishers and other media owners can plug into. A consumer would then upload their email, and every time a person visits a site across any of the media company’s online portfolios, they’ll be able to login with the same details or stay logged in.

“As a publisher, we need a link with the reader,” said Bertrand Gié, deputy director of the Le Figaro news division. “Today, this is a tiny link through a cookie. Cookies are very imperfect and in danger.”

The idea is that one publisher’s single login strategy isn’t likely to have the necessary scale to rival the login platforms of Google, Amazon and Facebook. (The reality check of how difficult this will be is highlighted by the fact that publishers hope to score funding from the Google News Initiative.) And publishers are loathe to use tech platforms as identity systems. Moreover, with the prospect of ePrivacy laws coming to pass, having explicit consumer consent to use data is becoming paramount.

By September, audiences will be able to use their email address to automatically log into around 100 media sites in France, the alliance is running tests on up to three media owners in June. Logging in won’t be a requirement to access content to start with, but this could change. It’s fairly typical for broadcasters, like M6, for instance, to require a login for viewing shows on catch-up services.

European Lawmakers are still thrashing out the ePrivacy directive, which isn’t yet set in stone but would stipulate that consumer consent is needed for all cookie use. This has thrust media owners to team up for unified login systems in Germany and Portugal.

France has had more success over alliances than other European countries, programmatic alliance La Place was one of the earlier examples in the market, but that doesn’t make it challenging getting into bed with competitors, even with common enemies.

The alliance is only collecting email addresses, according to Gié. Collecting and sharing more personal data would have made discussion between alliance members, and competitors, more difficult. It’s then down to the media owner to build up a relationship with the readers and collect the relevant data to build our a profile to create personalized ads and services.

Media owners will offer incentives to those who register, like setting up specific alerts. With the login, people will be able to switch between devices while reading an article, for instance. Just 15 percent of people register with media sites in France currently, according to a report from Le Figaro.

A positive approach and a long-term view need to be the lowest-common denominators among all the alliance partners, said Alessandro De Zanche, founder of consulting firm ADZ Strategies, and best practices and knowledge needs to be shared to avoid falling into the previous publisher pitfalls of frustrating audiences through bad programmatic practices.

“The user is willingly, proactively and positively answering the proposition of the media brands and publishers,” he said. “It has to be based on value exchange, not value extraction. It’s important to preserve the trust.”

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