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Libération’s website relaunch prepares paper for digital future

Libération, the French national daily founded forty years ago by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July, has a new look online. Summer 2013 has seen the paper’s editorial team revamp Libé’s digital products, both as a means of capitalising on the title’s recent growth online and on mobile devices and to compensate for the title’s 17 per cent drop in newsstand sales.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | September 13, 2013

In August readers were offered the chance to follow the developing site in beta, to give feedback and suggestions before the launch on September 9. The final product is likely to be a cleaner, pared down offering that will see greater importance afforded to photography and typographical elements.

Interviewed by Correspondance de la PresseLibération’s director Nicolas Demorand explained the thinking behind the was to “bring together the identities of our website and our newspaper, to take our news reporting to another level but also, in this world of technological devices, to propose a responsive design platform”. Demorand goes on to reveal that this focus on responsive design is intended help the title seamlessly engage readers on a range of devices and in doing so draw new digital subscribers.

Attracting paying digital users is likely to be the paper’s number one priority in the months to come. Of all of France’s daily news titles, Libération has suffered the greatest drop in circulation, though the paper has begun to shine in digital. As media analyst Erwann Gaucher reported, in 2011 Libération sold an average of 4,597 digital copies a day, a figure which almost doubled the following year to 8 899 per day.

Correspondance quotes Demorand as saying that the price for digital subscriptions (which currently stands at €15 p/m) is likely to rise as “quality information has a price”.  Plans for a metered paywall à la New York Times are apparently being considered by former Nieman fellow Ludovic Blecher, who was appointed head of digital and new economic models at the title earlier this year.

Libération.fr’s relaunch will be accompanied by a new weekend product, the first issue of which will be published on Saturday 14 September. Described by Demorand as a “hybrid” publication, this 64 page Saturday edition will apparently combine news content and magazine formats, with long form articles and investigative pieces. It will be interesting to see how the new ‘glossy’ weekend format will fare with the title’s readers. Back in 2008 Libération collaborated on a one-off basis with Chanel to produce a magazine-style edition, which met with derision from certain readers, the Guardian reported at the time.

This latest relaunch and attempts to monetise content are vital for Libération’s survival in a French media market that is unlikely to benefit from a projected advertising upturn. While the global advertising market is expected to increase from 3.4% this year to 5.1% in 2014, France will see media advertising decline by 4%, according to Challenges.fr.