Across the globe, media companies are embracing new digital opportunities, looking to find strategies that will enable them to become more sustainable as the industry develops.
For French daily newspaper Le Monde, embracing a new way of working was especially important, as it suffered losses of €10 million (£7.92m) a year and had to seek new investors in 2010 to keep the organisation out of bankruptcy.
Speaking at this year’s World News Media Congress in Colombia yesterday (June 13), Louis Dreyfus, president of Groupe Le Monde, discussed the national newspaper’s reformed strategy which saved the organisation from bankruptcy five years ago.
Their solution consisted of "implementing a momentum of innovation" into the company, along with investing in talented staff writers and developing a new digital plan.
“I must begin by explaining that, at Le Monde, we believe print is not dead,” said Dreyfus.
We believe print is not dead. Whatever the difficulties or losses are, people will buy our product, whether that is in print or digital, as long as we have exclusive contentLouis Dreyfus, president, Groupe Le Monde
“Whatever the difficulties or losses are, people will buy our product, whether that is in print or digital, as long as we have exclusive content.
"We will survive and grow if we have the best journalists, and that is the first priority for us.”
Le Monde also operates a paywall on its website, charging readers €9 (£7) per month for access to the weekend print edition and its supplements. For €17.90 (£14) a month, they get full digital access to lemonde.fr content before 1pm, as well as the title's mobile and tablet apps. And finally, a subscription that includes both full digital access and the print edition seven days a week is available for €19 per month (£15).
Print makes up 80 per cent of the company’s revenues, and 70 per cent of its advertising revenue, so instead of scrapping the paper in favour of a digital-only strategy, which other titles have done, it has invested in hiring new talent to keep the publication relevant and make it appealing to a wider age range.
Openly discussing strategy
“Most of our competitors are cutting staff, but we are not doing it because only the ones who will be able to promote exclusive and quality content will be able to survive and grow,” he said.
Le Monde has developed an innovation plan to improve both its content and performance – it consists of actively discussing its strategies internally, as well as externally with its audience and advertising market, every three months.
This ensures all parties are kept up to date with any changes, and the reputation of the brand as a modern and fresh publication can be emphasised.
“Your audience wants to see you converse and debate with the other staff."
To transfer this concept to the offline world, the company created the Le Monde Festival in 2014, where readers pay to meet with staff and participate in discussions, shows, meetings and workshops which “highlight that Le Monde is at the centre of the debate".
As part of its innovation strategy, the publisher has also increased its coverage of business stories.
Giving staff the freedom to innovate
“Le Monde was very strong in covering international, political and cultural news, but it was weaker in covering business,” said Dreyfus.
“It was important for us to be relevant, so in 2013 we hired a very experienced journalist and then created a business section, which makes up a third of our editorial content on a daily basis.
"Over time, we have developed a more high-end audience.”
The title also created a weekend glossy magazine called M, le magazine du Monde.
After hiring additional staff to write for it, it saw six times more growth in advertising revenue than before its launch. The magazine also attracted a younger, female audience to the brand.
Dreyfus noted that this younger audience is a key target, as Le Monde is trying to improve its digital operations enough to attract those under 30 years old.
The publisher employees young people who register on free one-year teaching programme called "le Monde Académie", in order to better understand what Le Monde and the media sector are about.
It is hoped that the the programme increases their chances of employment afterwards, in what is still a very elitist industry.
They have the chance to work as part of the digital team, with the freedom to come up with ideas and new products which appeal to them.
To be the first French speaking media all around the world will be great for our business model. If you want to make your publication profitable, you need to grow the audience and develop scaleLouis Dreyfus, Groupe Le Monde
A year ago, Le Monde also launched an app offering a morning edition published at 7am, in contrast to its long-standing tradition of publishing only in the afternoon.
Online video and Snapchat Discover
“We needed to encourage the staff to think out of the box, because only change and innovation can build up your number of readers.”
Le Monde has set goals to develop its digital and international presence.
Dreyfus explained that Le Monde is particularly focused on developing video formats at the moment, aiming to target a new, younger audience, and will be launching a new channel on Snapchat Discover in the near future.
He explained that although they are now profitable, the outlet's strategy is still a work-in-progress.
“We are still lagging behind the switch from the written text to moving picture, so that is something we need to learn.
“We need to figure out what our video style will be, because younger people are moving to video to get their news.”
International readers are also being targeted, as the organisation developed Le Monde Afrique in 2011, a digital platform covering the whole of Africa alongside an operation that holds events on the continent to attract new audiences.
“To be the first French-speaking media all around the world will be great for our business model. If you want to make your publication profitable, you need to grow the audience and develop scale,” Dreyfus said.
Free daily newsletter
- Virtual events: how The Financial Times attracted 250k delegates during the pandemic
- Subscription strategy lessons from The Atlantic, Bloomberg and Business Insider
- Why German newspaper Bild is looking to venture into TV news
- Eight ways to make audio pay in smaller newsrooms
- 'Headlines in real time': The Wall Street Journal makes "live journalism" a hit during the pandemic