Le Parisien doubles both digital subscribers and digital revenues in one year

2020-11-19. Le Parisien, a local newspaper covering news about Paris and the French capital’s region, has managed to double its number of digital subscribers and digital revenues in one year.

Sophie Gourmelen, Managing Director at Le Parisien, France

by WAN-IFRA External Contributor | November 20, 2020

Le Parisien’s Managing Director, Sophie Gourmelen, gave a keynote address at the first session of the final day of the WAN-IFRA Digital Media LATAM 2020 conference, of which the Luca de Tena Foundation’s Journalism Laboratory is a media partner. Maylis Chevalier, Director of Innovation and Digital Products at the Spanish publishing group Vocento moderated the conference.

Le Parisien defined its strategy in 2017. Over these four years, numerous changes have been made, with the mission of reaching 200,000 digital subscribers within five years.

The main chronological milestones of Le Parisien’s project over the last four years included:

  • The strategy, its objectives and challenges, means and processes was defined in 2017.
  • Le Parisien changed its CMS in 2018. “Our CMS was old, and the technology was outdated. We felt behind the kind of site that a newspaper like le Parisien should have. Instead of building a CMS of our own, we opted for the CMS of Washington Arc Publishing,” explains Gourmelen.
  • The launch of a Paywall metered. Le Parisien, which had a lot of free content, started by implementing a metered wall with ten free articles plus three if they registered for free. Until then, only 1% of their content was behind a wall, and was only accessible from an app, in the “Ma Ville” (“My City” section.
  • The shift from a paper-oriented editorial staff to focus more on digital content was critical in the reorganisation of the newsroom.
  • Less content, with a focus on conversion. Le Parisien has reduced the number of articles published per day but has focused more on the stories that produce the most conversion, and more interest from subscribers who already have them. The four types of articles that convert most at Le Parisien are Real-life stories, Society issues – mostly related to the COVID, Economy, and Local long format investigation stories.

“This is the kind of content that is being promoted,” says Gourmelen. “Almost 30% of conversions come from real-life stories. Local mobility information also has excellent results, as does local politics. City information only accounts for 4%; these were basic local short stories and have been replaced by much more in-depth research.

  • More premium content under a freemium model. The shift towards a metered model did not result in a significant increase in subscribers. As a first step, they reduced the subscription price to 4.99 euros and reduced the number of free articles to 5+3. “That’s when the number of subscribers started to grow and also ensured that the audience was not affected by this metered paywall,” he says. Gradually, the price increased. However, although the number was growing, “it was not enough, and we decided to move to a freemium model. About 30% of the content remained behind the wall, and that’s when the audience started to grow. The price went up again to 7.99 euros a month.
  • New digital products. Newsletters, podcasts and other content have been created to improve engagement. “We have developed new products, and we have done it quickly,” says Sophie Gourmelen. “In the past, it was challenging developing products, but with the changes, we have created a wide range of newsletters to improve loyalty. And it’s an asset to make people want to spend more time on our website. We have 19 newsletters and reach one million free subscribers. We have done newsletters on the Paris Saint Germain football club (PSG), on the environment, on food, on series, also on local issues, etc.

As for the podcasts, in May 2019, Le Parisien started a daily podcast and reached 500,000 listeners per month. It has become very important. Subscribers listen to the podcasts frequently, and the probability of staying with us increases by three times. Crucial series has been added to the strategy of creating new products, “which also help us to maintain the retention of our digital subscribers”. The videos in the series add up to three million views per month.

Apps are critical to the subscription strategy.

Apps, acknowledges Gourmelen, “are key to our subscription strategy. We wanted to bring out an app that gives a very high value and offers the best of what Le Parisien is producing”. The app, in its sense, provides a new section to discover new content. “The apps were launched in August, and we are now ranked first in the French AppStore, in the newspaper category”.

The importance of using data.

The use of data has also played a role in Le Parisien’s overall strategy, Gourmelen said. Decisions are more focused on the data, even in the writing. Among other data, a dashboard allows journalists to know in real-time, for each article, the estimated number of subscribers, as well as impressions on the paywall and clicks on the paywall.

New Multi-disciplinary “squads” replace the old siloes model

To be able to undertake the changes and make them successful, it was also necessary, within this digital-first model, to make important structural changes. “We have moved – explains Gourmelen – from a model where there were separate groups of projects, systems, etc., to a multidisciplinary structure. Now we have created a group responsible for revenue. Another group is in charge of the apps, a third of the thematic channels, and a fourth of the premium editorial content. Each squad has a project manager with someone in charge of systems, apart from the rest of the team. We have a product focus. That allows us to focus on the user.

Main lessons learned.

Seven key takeaways  emerged from the implementation of the project:

  • Design and Do, and execute quickly.
  • Early wins are important: one small step at a time.
  • Make choices: You have to stop doing things you used to do, allowing others to emerge. “The decision to reduced local city news was much discussed and not easy to establish, but we can’t do everything.
  • Set-up KPIs before starting a project, and measure, so that it can be stopped if it does not go the right way.
  • Think audienceS. “Specifically, we wanted to target some communities with content specific to them.”
  • Work with cross-functional transversal teams. “It is better to have people from several areas on board in the same project. We move faster.”
  • Go public: Explain, explain, and explain again. “It’s a long road, with many people involved. You can never explain enough where you want to go.


This article was originally produced by Laboratorio de Periodismo from the Fundación Luca de Tena

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