Le Monde in English: Strategies to Reach New Markets

“It’s in Le Monde’s DNA to talk to the world.”

French publisher Le Monde took a significant step by launching Le Monde in English in April 2022. This project brings select French articles to an English-speaking audience on their website and through a bilingual live news app. A year and a half since launch, we sat down with Arnaud Aubron, Head of Development at Le Monde and manager of Le Monde in English, to understand how this venture has evolved. 

This post will focus on the journey of Le Monde in English, the challenges they faced, and the strategies that are paving the road to this project’s success. Our goal is to highlight the key lessons and insights that can benefit other publishers considering similar initiatives. 

Using AI translations to reach new audiences 

The concept of ‘Le Monde in English’ has been a long-standing idea for the publisher. With English being the most widely spoken language globally, launching an English edition seemed like a natural progression to reach a broader audience. 

Despite having published a physical English version of Le Monde 50 years ago, it wasn’t until recently that the possibility of reaching the English-speaking market truly became feasible. Digital platforms, particularly the eEdition, played a pivotal role, allowing Le Monde to distribute content across different countries with fewer obstacles when compared to physical distribution. This digital approach was crucial not only for penetrating major English-speaking markets like the UK and the US but also for reaching smaller groups in non-English-speaking countries.  

The second element which made Le Monde in English possible was the technological advancements in AI translations. As Aubron highlights, “[AI] made it possible to translate a huge number of articles every day. […] If we were to do it manually, I don’t think it would have been possible at such a large scale”. 

“The quality of the translation comes first”. 

Arnaud Aubron, Head of Development at Le Monde

Today, about 30 long-form articles are translated daily. The process involves using DeepL for initial translation, followed by refinement from a translator, then a final review by a journalist. Initially, Le Monde believed that one round of human editing post-AI translation would suffice. However, they soon realised the necessity of a second human review to maintain the high standard of English expected by their readers. Notably, Le Monde has customised DeepL to align with their stylistic nuances, such as common typos and name spellings. As Aubron stresses, “the quality of the translation comes first”. This commitment to excellence is a testament to the publication’s dedication to upholding its reputation, even in a different language. 

How to reach new audiences in foreign markets 

Breaking into foreign markets without a hefty marketing budget posed one of the biggest challenges for Le Monde’s expansion beyond French-speaking regions. The key question, as Aubron puts it, was: “How do you make it known to people that you have an English version?” especially when awareness of Le Monde varies globally. 

Understand the value of the product for your audience 

Central to their strategy was understanding the unique value Le Monde could offer to readers outside France. This meant identifying why someone in the US, for instance, would choose to read their content. According to Aubron, one of Le Monde in English’s appeals lies in offering an external perspective on one’s national issues and a European viewpoint on global events like the war in Ukraine or between Israel and Hamas.  

“We don’t think people will stop reading the New York Times or The Guardian to read Le Monde in English. But some are interested in having 2, 3, 4 digital subscriptions.”

Arnaud Aubron, Head of Development at Le Monde

The target audience for Le Monde in English was defined as those deeply interested in news and seeking a secondary news source. Aubron emphasises, “We don’t think people will stop reading the New York Times or The Guardian to read Le Monde in English. But some are interested in having 2, 3, 4 digital subscriptions.”

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Create international partnerships to establish your product abroad 

Forming partnerships with key players in the industry was another crucial aspect. Aubron notes, “In each foreign market, we are trying to find partners for cross-promotion. I think it’s a win-win strategy: No one is going to quit the New York Times or The Guardian to read Le Monde in English. And in France, no one is going to quit Le Monde to read The Guardian or the New York Times. So, with this kind of foreign media, we can definitely help each other”.  

These partnerships, including with the New York Times and Monocle for the cross-promotion of subscriptions, are integral to their market strategy. Currently, they are in discussion for partnerships with four other publishers to run similar campaigns. 

Test multiple media channels to reach your audience 

Besides its app and website, Le Monde in English utilises various channels to engage its audience. For instance, they have a daily newsletter which is timed to reach subscribers in their local morning hours to account for the different time zones of their global audience.  

They have also adapted their content for different platforms; for instance, they produce English voiceovers for French videos on YouTube, after noticing that their English-speaking audience preferred this over subtitles. 

Moreover, Le Monde in English discovered the effectiveness of Reddit, a channel not as prevalent in French-speaking countries, as a potent tool for the engagement of English-speaking audiences. The staff from Le Monde in English often engage with the platform, not only by regularly posting articles to their website, but also by engaging with the commenters and by scheduling AMAs (Ask Me Anything) with their journalists. 

Le Monde in English is on track to reach profitability 

A year and a half since its launch, ‘Le Monde in English’ remains an investment phase for the publisher. With a projected timeline of five years to reach profitability, the venture is progressing as planned. The new English edition is witnessing a promising 10% monthly increase in subscribers and already contributes 10% of the overall growth in Le Monde’s subscriber base. 

Aligning with Le Monde’s broader revenue strategy, the English edition is more focused on building and engaging a subscriber base rather than relying heavily on ad revenue, which makes up about 30% of Le Monde’s overall revenue. The choice to prioritise subscriber engagement stems from the practical challenges of advertising in a globally fragmented market. As noted by Aubron, “Because of the fragmentation of the reader base, it’s difficult to find partners in each market.” 

That said, Le Monde in English did secure a few ad partnerships at its launch, including one with Air France. However, the primary emphasis remains on steadily increasing its subscriber numbers and ensuring the English edition’s growth aligns with the company’s long-term profitability goals. 

Looking ahead: Future challenges and opportunities 

Arnaud Aubron’s pride in Le Monde in English stems not just from its success but also from its very existence and rapid development. Within just six months since the start of the project, Le Monde in English swiftly transitioned from concept to reality, establishing a full-fledged mirror website, recruiting journalists from the US and the UK, coordinating with translation agencies, and successfully launching the product. This swift and efficient execution marks a significant accomplishment in the world of digital journalism. 

Since its inception, Le Monde in English has expanded its reach by integrating into Le Monde’s live news app and becoming available on Apple News in the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. The high subscription acquisition rate is a clear indicator of the demand for this service. Aubron reflects on the audience’s response, saying that it was as if some people were just waiting for an English version: “We had many messages when we launched the project, saying, ‘At last, at last, Le Monde is in English!’” This sentiment highlights the anticipation and positive reception of Le Monde’s English edition.  

Looking forward, Aubron sees the primary challenges not in the product or processes, which are well-established, but in the realm of editorial and marketing content. Major upcoming events like the Paris Olympics and US elections present unique opportunities for Le Monde in English to enhance its international presence and reputation. These events offer a platform to showcase their distinctive reporting and perspectives, further solidifying their position in the global news landscape. 


Team Twipe

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