Case Study: Mediapart (France)

The name of the publication and / or company

Mediapart

Established

2008

Web Address

www.mediapart.fr

Form of the company

Société par actions simplifiée (similar to US LLC)

Describe your site or business in few words.

“Mediapart** is an online newspaper launched in 2008 by Edwy Plenel, former executive editor of Le Monde. Its intent is to provide independent journalism with a strong emphasis on investigative stories along with scoops on politics and economics. Since the launch Mediapart stressed the need of creating an alternative to the “”dangerous liaisons”” which – according to its founders – exist in France among the political, economic and media worlds. Often very critical of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Mediapart became internationally popular in 2009, when the website published the first secret tape recordings that stirred up the Bettencourt-Woerth scandal. The case created a political earthquake in France.

From the very beginning Mediapart adopted a radical business model: no advertising at all and most stories protected by a paywall (ca. 9 Euro per month or 99 Euro per year). The editorial staff is composed of approximately 30 journalists, many of whom come from the most prominent French media outlets. In 2011, thanks to the larger visibility gained with the Bettencourt case and a reputation of being an independent and dauntless media outlet, Mediapart reached 58,000 paying subscribers and for the first time in its history it was able to break even. Currently Mediapart is one of the few French pure-players than can be considered sustainable.

** Mediapart did not reply to our interview request. Answers have been filled with primary and secondary sources available online.”

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

29

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

11

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

After several years in the red (in 2010 the operational loss reached 1.3 million Euro), in 2009 Mediapart eventually achieved economic sustainability. In an interview given to the French magazine Challenges, Edwy Plenel said: “Mediapart’s revenue will exceed 5 million Euro in 2011, with a 66% yearly increase in one year. The net surplus is expected to reach 500,000 Euro. Currently Mediapart has 58,000 paying subscribers under different subscription options, which generate 95% of our total revenue. The remaining income comes from content sales.” When talking about the expectations for 2012 Plenel stated: “Mediapart is a horizontal publication based on independence. Its constant growth depends on an audience that has changed its own approach to accessing information on the web. The fact that readers are paying for our product has shown how much they value it. We don’t believe that a “”free of charge”” option can actually produce information with greater added value.””

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

Around 5 million euro in 2011

What about profit?

As stated in the 2010 budget, which is publicly available online, Mediapart’s main goals are “to strengthen the editorial office with further investments in publishing, marketing and technology.”

Do you sell following physical products?

Books.

Other revenue sources

Content syndication, Membership or subscription fees (Continuity Programs)

Do you see your publication as your main product?

Considering that 95% of the profit comes from subscriptions, Mediapart.fr can successfully be considered a major asset in itself – rather than a marketing tool for other products.

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

The most important factor for full sustainability is a further increase of subscribers, as Edwy Plenel explained in an interview with the magazine Challenges: “We are cautiously optimistic and expect for 2012 the same growth as in 2011. At this pace by next year we should reach about 68,000 subscribers. These figures do not include an additional growth possibly triggered by the Presidential election campaign. Currently there are more subscribers to Mediapart than people buying the daily newspaper Libération.”