Towards a more “social press”

Le Monde newspaper. Image credit

Le Monde newspaper, image credit: la vie est belle

When was the last time you bought a newspaper, sat and read it with your tea or coffee?

I always thought that newspapers will always be part of our lives and that people will always prefer the print version to the digital one. I am starting to think that this was an ideal and that the digital format will on the long term predominate.

A recent study by the OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) confirms my thoughts and the numbers speaks for themselves. Between 2007 and 2009, the UK witnessed a 25% decrease in their newspaper circulation and even worst in the US with a 30% decrease. But this phenomenon is also spreading across Europe:  Greece (20%), Italy (18%) and Spain (16%).

According to this study, France (4%) newspaper industry is doing well comparing to their neighbours. I recently attended a conference in France, Toulouse on June 5th-6th, 2013 that addresses ”our relation to the digital”, organised by “la mêlée Numérique”. In this conference, the transformation of the press from a print model to a digital one was discussed by Louis Dreyfus, chief executive of Le Monde Group.

Le Monde is a french intellectual center-left newspaper. Two and a half years ago, it went into bankruptcy and was bought up by Mathieu Pigasse, an investment banker, Xavier Niel, a telecom billionaire and Pierre Berge, a French industrialist and the co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent.

In that context, Le Monde had to quickly change their business model and adapt from a model close to a governmental institution to a startup. Louis Dreyfus explained at that conference the challenges that they have faced in that change.

First, Le Monde has faced the challenge of immediacy. Internet has changed the way we get our information. Nowadays, with the technology made available to us we don’t read news once a day but rather a couple of times a day. Hence, Le Monde has to deliver news when it happens.

Second, Le Monde is a reputable newspaper known for providing high-quality content. Its shift to a freemium digital model made the majority of their articles free and accessible to a wider public. The challenge that Le Monde has encountered, was how to provide free press and at the same time keep the quality of their content at the same level.

Third, journalism is no more one way communication rather it is becoming interactive. Internet have empowered people to criticise news via blogs and social media platforms. Le Monde journalists had to adapt to this change by creating blogs and being active on Twitter. Because they are involved in the process towards a more social press, Le Monde Twitter account reached 1.5 million followers.

Overall, Le Monde faced three main challenges: immediacy, quality of content and interactiveness. With the above main challenges, one of the strategy used was to divide physically the print and the digital teams in two different offices. Le Monde is composed of 360 journalists which 300 work on print and 60 on digital. The reason behind that division is to enable the digital team to grow and develop without the constraints of old practices.

In two and a half years, Le Monde succeeded in having 17% turnover from digital. Their shifts was successful because they understood that in order to change they needed to think like a startup. The future challenge of Le Monde is for the next five years to double their digital turnover to 40%.

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