How a social reform inspired an audience at L’Opinion

The daily newspaper started its Table Stakes project with the aim of accelerating its digital transformation and leveraging its 10th-year anniversary event to increase its digital subscriber count. When the news agenda disrupted their roadmap, L’Opinion’s Table Stakes team quickly identified a new focus audience: people who want to make the most of their last 15–20 years of working life.

L’Opinion is a French daily newspaper founded in 2013 that focuses on politics, economics and international news. The publication is aimed specifically at “key influencers”: the C-suite, politicians, investors and opinion leaders. L’Opinion has a daily print circulation of 39,000 copies and employs a staff of 40, including 30 journalists.

In January 2023, as the Table Stakes Europe team at L’Opinion was refining its project, the French government introduced a pension reform, raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

The announcement was followed by weeks of massive protests and heated parliamentary debates. Being highly engaged in political and economic subjects, the editorial team of L’Opinion was deeply involved. Within the TSE project team, addressing this reform and considering the needs of the related audience became a central concern.

Close to 58 percent of the newspaper’s digital users are over 44 years old, and just over half of existing subscribers fall in the same age category (the average age of new subscribers in 2023 was 48). Although retirement may still be some time away, many employers view their 50+ workforce differently from younger staff. Indeed, the French retirement reform quickly evolved into broader conversations about how to change mindsets in companies and enable experienced employees to regain control of their professional lives.

Rémi Godeau, Editor-in-Chief of L’Opinion (also Vice President of Bey Médias), summed up: “Nearly 2 million people who are part of our potential audience are or will be impacted by this reform: what can we offer them?”

Building X.O.: A newsletter for later-career professionals

Rémi Godeau personally invested in this somewhat atypical project for L’Opinion’s editorial team. He defined an editorial mission and found a title for the newsletter that would address this target audience every Friday: “We decided to name our newsletter X.O., as in ‘eXtra Old,’ because, like a good Cognac, age improves quality. X is for experience (or expertise), and O for Optimum, with a nod to the first letter of L’Opinion.”

“Our promise is that reading X.O. will optimise the last 15-20 years of one’s active life from a professional and personal perspective – stress-free! It will provide useful and inspiring information to build a fulfilling end to a career and discover original analyses on management, assets, health, etc.,” he said.

The initial reaction from journalists was somewhat sceptical: What topics could possibly interest this audience? Would reporters have to abandon the sectors they were used to covering? However, L’Opinion already publishes a lot of content that could interest this audience.

The challenge for journalists was more about ensuring that they consider the needs of the X.O. audience when writing their articles.

In addition, the newspaper has a partnership with The Wall Street Journal that expands its range of topics. Godeau also chose to integrate a freelance journalist into the project, whose mission is to find original angles, to discuss life and career changes, entrepreneurship after 50, etc.

Finally, the team used one of the Table Stakes tools, which is to establish partnerships. A significant organisation, APEC (Association pour l’emploi des cadres), has made optimising end-of-career its key focus for the coming years.

Godeau and Cécile Desjardins, the Editor-in-Chief in charge of events at L’Opinion, created the first X.O. conference with the financial support of APEC. The next step would be to involve them in the newsletter, perhaps in the form of a thematic series written by their experts.

The new newsletter quickly found its audience: according to Stéphanie Elorin, Marketing Director, and the analyses of her team (Nolwenn Benmamar and Lucie Debray), X.O. is already L’Opinion’s best-performing newsletter in terms of open rate and reactivity. It is approaching 5,000 subscribers, and Benjamin Gentil (Editorial Products Manager) and Raphaël Proust (Digital Desk Manager), who joined the TSE team this summer, will also publish the newsletter on LinkedIn to expand its visibility.

The strong performance of X.O. raised questions about the publisher’s other newsletters: the alignment of content with the desired audiences, the form, tone, and design.

During the summer, the team revisited the positioning of two flagship newsletters, one on taxation and the other on Europe, including more personalisation and recommendations from their expert journalists in these fields. The initial results showed an increase in subscriber interest – a promising sign to build on in the coming months.

Deploying digital organisation, enhancing subscription tools

During its Table Stakes year, L’Opinion experienced some upheavals that could have destabilised its audience projects and the transformation work in the editorial department.

Among these were a total overhaul of its digital platforms and the deployment of a new paywall solution (Piano) with all the new features for analysis, orchestration of customer journeys, content personalisation, and multiple possibilities for testing commercial offers. In collaboration with Guillaume Tardy, the group’s Digital Director, Stéphanie Elorin and her team will be able to test all the new possibilities in 2024.

For the TSE team, the main goal in recent months was to stay on course and guide the editorial team toward a digital priority, freeing themselves from print constraints.

“In the morning, the editorial meeting begins with a review of audience data. Then, we decide on the articles that will be at the top of the newsletters at 1 pm and 6 pm, even before discussing the front page of the print newspaper. Our next step is to focus throughout the day on digital audiences and at the end of the day to deal with the print product,” explained Rémi Godeau.

In parallel, Benjamin Gentil is deploying a toolbox for journalists, giving them access to digital tools that can facilitate their work and communication between different editorial services: “The journalists’ workday must be smoother and more efficient so that they can focus on the rhythm of digital production,” he said. “Our toolbox was designed to support them in their various tasks.”