The French daily newspaper Le Monde is planning a major international expansion as it targets one million subscribers by 2025.
The 77-year-old news brand said it will begin to publish around 70 English-language articles per day and produce an international daily newsletter so it can target new consumers, initially in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Belgium, and Luxembourg, with digital subscriptions.
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Currently less than less than 10% of Le Monde’s subscribers are outside France.
Le Monde has more than 520,000 paying subscribers across print and digital having doubled its subscriber base since 2017, when its digital subscribers surpassed print for the first time.
Some 420,000 of subscribers are digital-only, with a growth rate of about 20% per year. Digital makes up 30% of the newspaper’s revenues.
Eight journalists will choose what articles to translate into English, edit the translated versions and look after the English-language homepage: six in Paris and two in Los Angeles.
Chief executive Louis Dreyfus said growth outside France was “an old dream” but said this was the “first international development for a long time” at the group.
Asked what the catalyst was for this expansion, Dreyfus told Press Gazette there were “two key factors… the rapid progress of artificial intelligence (to speed up the translation and lower its cost) and the wide spread of digital subscription for quality content (greatly helped by the success of platform such as Spotify and Netflix in the western world).”
In an earlier statement Dreyfus said: “I think that with the US there is an important population that will be happy to understand that there is another coverage of news that is not The New York Times, neither The Washington Post.”
The newspaper has always had a focus on international news, as well as investigations and analysis, since its launch in November 1944 but previously this was aimed primarily at the French consumer.
Asked for more details about the plan to rival the NYT and WaPo, Dreyfus told Press Gazette: “We firmly believe that there is a part of the readers of quality newspapers around the world that is eager to get an alternative view on global news. With its 500 journalists on staff, Le Monde is producing every day original reports, investigations and analysis on French, European and global news. Those contents could be an interesting addition to the media readers already subscribe to.
“Le Monde will not produce specific contents for this audience. But thanks to strong partnerships with different networks of professional translators, Le Monde will provide everyday most of its original production translated in English. And plenty of those stories deserve to be read more widely: on French politics at the eve of a major election but also on international news, on Europe, on climate change or on the transformation of the economy and the ways of life around the world.”
The newspaper has done particularly well drawing in new young audiences by showcasing its journalism on TikTok, Snapchat and Youtube: in 2021, nearly half of all new subscribers to Le Monde were under the age of 34.
“When you are an institution, there is a risk to slow down, to fall asleep now that you are profitable and stop developing your activities,” Dreyfus said. “One of my jobs is to share new challenges with the team and say ‘Okay, we’ll be the best newspaper in France but also we need to advance the rest.’
“So we need to be the first French independent media with the young generation, but we need to be the first independent media in France that will be translating internationally. You need to keep the momentum, and that’s very exciting.”
To enable its international digital subscriptions growth Le Monde is using a “single, frictionless” payment platform from infrastructure provider Stripe, which already works with the likes of News UK, Substack and CNN’s NFT marketplace.
Consumers will be able to use the preferred currency and payment method for their country. Lou Grasser, Le Monde’s head of product and marketing, said for successful international expansion they “must anticipate the consumer habits in the targeted country and must be able to offer adapted payment methods”.
For example, she said bank transfers are the preferred payment method in France whereas in Africa mobile payments have “exploded” and in the US bank cards are more often used.
“From my point of view, not taking into account these various payment methods can be really a huge mistake,” Grasser said.
Chief technology officer Sacha Morad said the goal was to have the simplest payment interface possible. He added that investing in tech had been a “huge catalyst in our digital transformation”.
For comparison, The Telegraph in the UK had an average of 741,162 subscriptions in February, comprising 569,640 in digital and 171,522 in print. Its target is to reach one million paying subscribers by 2023.
The Financial Times passed one million paying digital subscribers in February, while The New York Times hit ten million subscriptions in February three years ahead of target after buying The Athletic. The Washington Post does not routinely publish subscriber numbers but at the end of 2020 had close to three million paying digital subscribers.