‘Brand extension, diversification are crucial’ – Figaro Group Deputy CEO

“Our brands have never been so powerful and reached so many people, so brand extension is key to our development and to revenue growth,” Jean-Luc Breysse, Deputy CEO of France’s Figaro Group, told participants in WAN-IFRA’s World News Media Congress on Thursday in Durban, South Africa.

by Brian Veseling | June 9, 2017

Photograph by Gordon Steiger, WAN-IFRA

Le Figaro Group (all brands included) is the fourth-largest player on the internet in France, behind only Google, Facebook and Microsoft, Breysse said. The group reaches 70 percent of the country’s digital audience.

In print, with a paid circulation of more than 300,000 copies and 1.7 million readers, Le Figaro is France’s leading quality daily newspaper. It is “a right-wing, conservative paper whose core audience is high-end, wealthy and rather senior,” Breysse said.

A portfolio of leading brands

The newspaper is part of a portfolio of leading brands in both print and digital that together form a diversified, digitized multimedia group, he said. Figaro Group is wholly owned by Groupe Dassault, which specialises in military airplanes, business jets and 3D manufacturing solutions. “All three activities are world leaders, and the group is privately owned by Senator Serge Dassault and his family,” said Breysse.

In 2017, Figaro expects to have 560 million euros in revenue, with an operating profit of 33 million euros, Breysse said, adding that the group employs some 1,650 people, 500 of whom are journalists.

“Having 500 journalists in the group is an asset, not a liability,” he said, adding that the group makes no effort to try to reduce their numbers, but rather aims to keep them well trained to help the group meet its goals.

Despite the group’s leading positions and its financial success, or indeed perhaps because of them, Figaro isn’t about to rest on its achievements. “We need to be excellent in everything we do and deliver outstanding performance, including financial performance,” Breysse said. “Losing money or delivering poor performance is not an option.”

Nor is the group immune to the struggles faced by so many publishers.

“Like any other media group of press origin, we are facing huge challenges. Le Figaro Group is no exception to the rule. We all know the challenges that media businesses are facing in digital.”
– Jean-Luc Breysse, Deputy CEO, Le Figaro Group

And of course print is facing its own serious challenges, though Breysse stressed: “We continue to protect and defend print fiercely, not because we are conservative and backward-thinking, but because we see that print continues to answer our core audience needs. Print is going through intense change. Is print dead? No, we don’t think so.”

Brand extension

The group is expanding its brand via the recently launched Figaro Live, a web video offering. “Figaro Live is our new frontier,” Breysse said.

He described Figaro Live as “not a TV channel, and more than web TV because it covers a wide range of subjects with a wide range of expert journalists. It is more than a TV channel because it embeds interaction and conversation with the viewer.”

Though still in its infancy, Figaro Live has a team of 30 journalists and covers news as well as other topics, such as culture, leisure and entertainment, Breysse said.

“The objective is to have a continuous and interactive video flux, with news, magazines, debates, interviews and live events.”
– Jean-Luc Breysse, Deputy CEO, Le Figaro Group

It’s a natural fit for Figaro because many of the group’s journalists are recognised experts in their fields who frequently appear on television already, Breysse noted.

Strategic diversification

Diversification, Breysse says, is a “pivotal element in our strategy: We consider the media business too fragile and uncertain for the moment, and it simply cannot stand on its own.”

He said the group adheres to three principles in its approach to diversification:

  1. It must be in an area outside of media, to insure independence from the revenue streams tapped by the rest of the group.
  2. It must be part of a growing market.
  3. It must be a business that can benefit from synergies with the group’s media assets (their ability to promote brands, products, etc.)

Breysse cited the group’s recent acquisition of a travel agent called Les Maisons du Voyage as an example.

“It is a market totally different from the media market,” he said. “It is a growing market. And the business can benefit immensely from being part of a media group. We produce massive amounts of travel content for the newspaper, magazine and our internet sites. This content plays a decisive role in the readers’ choice of a travel destination and travel agent.”

The acquisition was carefully thought through. Breysse noted that the company undertook extensive research into the travel industry to understand its various segments and their potential.

“It took us three years and we studied five potential acquisitions before we found Les Maisons du Voyage.”
– Jean-Luc Breysse, Deputy CEO, Le Figaro Group

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