Despite financial challenges, Le Monde gets a makeover


France’s most renowned newspaper, Le Monde, is overhauling the way it distributes content through both print and digital channels.
Since 29 March, the print daily has utilised a new layout and new sections.  This restructuring enables the paper to showcase its more in-depth reports while minimising breaking news coverage. This is now material to be handled by the website,

Le Monde is also expanding its offer on mobile devices, with new iPhone and iPad applications due out in April.

The new multi-channel strategy comes as the company faces heavy financial difficulties.

According to news website Rue89, the company is to decide in June on a capital increase which would put an end to control by internal shareholders, including the Société des Rédacteurs (internal writers association).

Spanish group Prisa (El Pais) and Italian group Espresso (L’Espresso, La Repubblica) are cited as potential investors.

“Complete brand”

As newspaper sales fall in France (down 4 percent for Le Monde in 2009), the country’s iconic daily wants to position itself as a multi-channel news provider.

“The newspaper of reference has become a brand of reference,” said Eric Fottorino, Le Monde’s chairman, quoting the paper’s mission statement.

In 1944, Hubert Beuve-Méry founded a “newspaper of reference” intended to provide objective information in a press landscape dominated by politically oriented papers.

To modernise its image, Le Monde wants each of its products to offer different content and/or different reading experiences.

“The different channels, paper and digital, complement each other. They are not competitors,” Fottorino said.
“Paper will offer lengthy investigations and decode news; the web will offer information flow and interactive debate; the iPhone and other smartphones will provide an alert function and fast information.”

Small paywall

This new editorial and marketing strategy comes with a change in pricing policy. will “gradually” start charging for articles taken from the print newspaper.

Until recently, all articles were available for free. Only in-depth background reports and archives were reserved for pay subscribers.

“We have fixed an incoherency: giving a newspaper away for free online while it is sold in newspaper stands nearby is strange,” Philippe Jannet, director of the Le Monde website, told Belgian radio RTBF.

However, the vast majority of content on the website will remain free. A team of about 50 web journalists will produce specific content for the web. Staff from the print newspaper will also contribute to the website with especially written pieces.

More subscribers

The new pricing policy aims to maintain or increase the number of people who pay for news. Keeping online traffic high will be important to make money from sponsored links and banners.

According to Jannet, makes some 60 percent of its revenue from advertising and 40 percent from sales.

With 40 million visits in February, was the most visited news site in France after, the site of sports daily L’Equipe, according to OJD, a media monitoring organisation. claims some 100,000 subscribers. Some of them are subscribers to the paper who get special access to the website.

Le Monde and Le Monde Interactif, the company that manages, are separate companies with different shareholding structures. Lagardère, an industrial group, owns a 17 percent share of Le Monde but as much as 34 percent of the website.

iPad hopes

In the field of mobile devices, Le Monde is developing different products.

Like its rival Le Figaro, it has an iPad application ready for the launch of Apple’s new device in April. Unveiled in a demo video, it seems to reproduce the content and layout of the print newspaper. But thanks to a special navigation system, it is more ergonomic than a simple pdf version of the paper.

In France as elsewhere, publishers have high hopes for the iPad; it is hoped that the iPad will help them charge for news.

New media expert Eric Scherer of Agence France Presse was upbeat when Apple unveiled the new device in January: “The iPad seems to recreate a structure, in a world of contents that have become fragmented … unstructured and much too quickly consumed,” he wrote on his blog.


Le Monde’s first iPhone application, launched on 25 March, has been downloaded 1.4 million times, the newspaper claims. It presents news and images from the website for free.

A new pay iPhone application will offer the Le Monde daily in digital format, like the iPad application.

Newspaper Libération launched this type of application in November. “Libé” readers can pay 0.79 euro to read one issue of the newspaper or 12 euro for a one-month subscription. (Readers can even see the an issue gradually take form the day before publication.)image

Paper revamped

Despite this proliferation of new media, the print daily remains the main source of income for Le Monde. An average 319,000 print copies were still sold every day in 2009, according to OJD.

Sales are eroding fast, though. Readers have often read about a story on their computer or phone by the time they see it on paper. To adapt to this trend, the paper has been modified with more magazine-like features:

  • more in-depth analysis. A new section called ‘Contre-enquête’, or ‘counter-enquiry’, comprises two pages on a single subject;
  • less comprehensive news coverage. Page 2 presents a summary of the day’s main news with referals to the website for more details;
  • more space for a photo on the cover.

The editorial was also moved from Page 2 to the cover.

“Page 2 will offer rushed readers rapid reading spaces that will allow them to grasp, in about 10 minutes, essential news that happened since the last issue of the newspaper, while those who have time will still have enquiries, special reports, and in-depth analysis,” said Sylvie Kauffman, Le Monde’s executive editor.