French publishers raising the bar for digital growth and innovation

With some of the most powerful non-English news brands coming from France, French publishers have kept an open mind for digital innovation and transformation.

At Twipe, we have a long history of collaborating with French publishers and we are proud to serve with our platform companies like Ouest-France, Le Monde, Le Parisien, Centre-France, Le Telegramme and since this week also 20 minutes. Join us today as we dive into specific examples of how French publishers are raising the bar in digital growth and innovation.

Ambitious growth plans for national and regional publishers

In the past months French publishers, big and small announced ambitious growth plans. The most remarkable is perhaps Le Monde which may become the first non-English European title to join the “million-mark club”.

In March 2020, prior to the COVID crisis, Le Monde announced an ambitious plan for reaching 1 million subscribers by the end of 2025. After a year where they have seen growth to 450,000 subscribers, the level of ambition grew higher. Jérôme Fegnolio, the newspapers editorial director, announced last December in a conversation with Italian newspaper L’Espresso, that they may be able to reach the goal sooner.

“1 Million subscribers will be a revolution for us: will profoundly change our business, help us be more stable and less exposed to the risks of advertising.[…]Things are going quite fast and we believe that we can achieve this goal sooner, at end of 2023.” – Jérôme Fegnolio, Editorial Director, Le Monde

The team now works towards joining the million-subscriber club by the end of 2023 and we are glad to help them achieve this important milestone. To reach this goal Le Monde already invested in numerous product innovations such as tiered subscription plans or automated edition triggers and has put a strong focus on producing quality journalism.

In the anglophone world there is often a concern that only large, national publishers would be able to play the subscribers game. But in France, regional and local publishers are raising the bar as well.

Ouest-France, which publishes 53 local editions in the western part of France was named champion of the year by Le Figaro in a review published last month. They saw a total growth of 40-50% in 2020 and the team has now set the ambitious goal of 200,000 digital subscribers by end of this year. During our almost 10 years of collaboration, Ouest-France has been a continuous source of innovation. They pioneered new product formats like L’Edition Du Soir built on our NextGen platform, they introduced new organisational practices by rotating editors between the print and digital newsrooms and explored the use of archives in collaborative Google DNI projects with our team. In the past months they have also strengthened their team with new journalists, home page editors, motion designers and software developers to further set themselves up for success.

Also in the French capital area, Le Parisien launched in June last year the #LeParisien200000 project, an ambitious 5-year strategy to grow from 40,000 to 200,000 subscribers. To achieve this goal, Le Parisien refreshed their editorial strategy, launched new products, and started new marketing efforts. Sophie Cassam Chenai, Digital Director at Le Parisien spoke about it during our Customer Session last month. One of the most important initiatives to convert new subscribers has been the newly launched app which includes their digital newspaper and is responsible for 50% of digital subscribers. This became the most downloaded newspaper app in the French AppStore.

Another notable step towards growth and innovation comes from regional publisher Centre-France who publishes 17 different titles across various regions in the central area of France. The team just started the second round of their incubation program. The program, called La Compagnie Rotative, will host 4 different rounds in which media innovation projects will be selected and guided over a period of 6 months to generate new business relevant products. The results of the first round are expected in December so we are curious to see what comes out.

Digital innovation starts in print

Aside from many digital product innovations that publishers are working on to achieve their growth targets, French publishers also announced print innovations at the beginning of the year. This is important not only for print readers but also for ePaper readers which continues to be a rapidly growing group of digital subscribers.

To reinforce commitment to the hyperlocal reader, Le Parisien announced the redesign of their local section of the newspaper. The new section is called Grand Parisien and covers local news for the different departments of Paris. It is made out of 12 pages with a very personalised flavour, starting with a few pages titled “près de chez vous” (close to you), followed by “your daily facts” and a variety of other local topics like portraits or transportation. This initiative is part of the #LeParisen200000 project and is meant to add more value to the local information as noted by Sophie Gourmelen.

We realised that the local information was very important, very viewed and read […] with this initiative we want to add additional value to local information – Sophie Gourmelen, Digital Director Le Parisien

In a similar spirit it was good to see this week news coming from southern French publisher Nice-Matin who announced a redesign of their bundle. With a unique story of journalism behind, Nice-Matin has been battling for business stability since 2014 when it was taken over by a cooperative of its employees who chimed in to save the newspaper from bankruptcy. Since 2020 the newspaper is owned by business man Xavier Niel and the team at Nice-Matin is now looking ahead to a year of innovations. The newly designed bundle comes with a more sober daily publication and daily thematic supplements that replace their previous 2 magazines stopped during the first lockdown. They also launched a bold marketing campaign to attract new subscribers.

Displaying the richness of the print offering is valuable for attracting more readers, which is why Centre-France has chosen to create a kiosk experience on the Twipe platform for their ePaper readers as well. With all their titles, both dailies and weeklies, bundled in one app, they enable readers to choose their own journey throughout the various publications, regions and supplements. This is powerful to further build a relationship between readers and the Centre-France brand.

Responsible and future proof journalism

Remarkable as well for French publishers is the involvement in initiatives that further support and defend journalism. Only a few days ago we saw a consortium of 121 French publications winning a months-long fight with Google. The tech giant accepted to pay 62.7 Million euros in a case of author rights.

Other initiatives come in the fight against fake news, where publishers like 20 minutes have obtained the rigorous IFCN Label from Poynter’s International Fact Checking Network and have joined together with Time, La Republica or Euronews the #VaxFacts campaign to combat misinformation regarding COVID vaccines. This is becoming increasingly important, as we see for example in Canada 58% of readers will most often double check the source or authors of articles relating to COVID, 36% would do it every now and then and only 6% would never fact check themselves.

Many newspapers in France are also proud owners of a Digital Ad Trust label for responsible advertising and we have even seen Rossel Group partnering with a green electricity supplier to have 60% of their operations covered by green energy.

With their open mind and courage for innovation, French publishers remain an inspiration for their counterparts around Europe and across the Atlantic. At Twipe we are proud to be the largest independent e-Edition provider in the French market and work with so many great French newspapers to enable their digital subscriber growth.

Team Twipe

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