Almost four years ago, France’s largest newspaper Ouest-France launched the nation’s first digital-only evening edition, l’Édition du Soir. It had the ambitious goal of expanding the outlet’s user base, while bringing innovation into the newsroom. We asked Ouest-France about their journey down the digital-only path.
1.7 million users
Success came quickly for the new edition, despite only being launched on a dynamic-serving web platform at first. The initial target of 10 000 recurring users, coming to the platform at least three times a week, was met within the publication’s first year. These numbers have since grown exponentially, with unique monthly visitors settling at an almost-constant 1.7 million, and an average of 130 000 recurring users. “But this number keeps growing” says digital editor Edouard Reis-Carona, before adding that “over time, L’Edition du Soir really found its place within our offer. It attracted its own public”.
In a context of dwindling ad revenues and slowing print sales, acquiring and retaining new subscribers is both an absolute necessity, and a hard undertaking. L’Édition du Soir went with a dynamic paywall approach, to help users understand the new publication: one can read five pages per week without registration, another ten by providing an e-mail address, and additional articles can be unlocked by viewing 30-second commercial videos, a feature made possible by integrating with advertpayment company Viewpay. The paywall thresholds may evolve though: “they have to be high enough to create habit, but low enough to allow for good monetisation“, says projects director Jean-Joseph Lattuada.
One of the other key benefits of this edition was its effect on churn: paying users who regularly read l’Edition du Soir have a higher retention rate than those who do not. “If you can reduce or even just postpone platform-related churn, you’re saving a lot of money“, says Mr. Lattuada.
By nature, digital editions allow for a large amount of analytics data. While print newsroom have to rely on instinct and gut feeling when choosing their tone, l’Édition du Soir was able to use an iterative approach. It kept trying new ideas, while continually evaluating each decision based on the previous Edition’s success. This led to the creation of a fully-matured newspaper, tailored to its audience while still remaining highly flexible. “It’s like a startup within the organisation, we’re constantly adapting“, says Mr. Reis-Carona, “It’s a space where you can innovate, there’s more room for creativity“
“L’Édition du soir is a story that is still being written every day” says M. Lattuada. Games such as crosswords, sudoku or spot the difference helped drive habit creation, and Ouest-France is now looking at more ways to engage their readers. Social networks are a big source of new subscribers, and an increase in the ways and incentives of social sharing is definitely a priority for the French publisher. Animated title pages are also in the works. “But providing a high-quality platform and a high level of service remains the most important part.”, concludes Ouest-France’s Projects Director.