Case Study: Rue89 (France)

The name of the publication and / or company

Rue89

Established

2007

Web Address

www.rue89.com

Form of the company

Société par actions semplifie (similar to LLC)

Describe your site or business in few words.

“Rue89 was launched in 2007 by five professional journalists, some of them previously involved with the leftist newspaper Liberation. From the very beginning, the website stood out for its unique approach to digital journalism, clearly stated in its initial slogan: “Information with three voices: journalists, experts and you!” The term “”Rue”” (street) symbolizes the opening of a new way, while the number 89 recalls three symbolic events in history: the French Revolution (1789), the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), and the invention of the Web (1989).

Despite its effort to disrupt certain rigidity of French journalism and to encourage open discussions among its users, Rue89 cannot be defined as a citizen journalism website. Most stories are produced by a 20-journalist team, while encouraging contributions by experts and netizens, which are always evaluated by the editorial staff prior to publishing. Thanks to its unique voice, Rue89 has quickly become one of the most popular French independent news websites (with approximately 2 million unique viewers per month). Although most revenues are based on advertising, additional sources have been developed as well: training courses, website design for third parties, donations and a monthly magazine (soon discontinued.)

In December 2011, the Rue89 company was acquired by Claude Perdriel, owner of the editorial group including Le Nouvel Observateur, Sciences et Avenir, and Challenges. The business, marketing and sales divisions of Rue89 were then absorbed by Le Nouvel Observateur, while the editorial office remained totally independent. “

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

15 (10 reporters + 5 editors)

Content creators, paid half time

4

Content creators, paid freelancers

7 (on a regular basis)

Content creators, unpaid

50 (not so regular)

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

Because of its 3-voices approach to journalism, Rue89 encourages contributions from experts and citizens.

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

Since the above acquisition, most journalists are involved only in news-gathering and content production (only one works in the training division).

Business, marketing & sales, paid full-time

4

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

“In 2010 Rue 89 almost balanced its budget (about 300,000 Euro liabilities on a total revenue of 1,879,733 Euro), while in 2011 it registered a loss of about 400,000 Euro. This brought its creators to eventually accept the acquisition offer made by a larger editorial group.

Pascal Riché, founder of Rue89, explains: “By joining Le Nouvel Observateur (LNO) network we reached full sustainability. LNO is the third largest editorial group in France, after Le Figaro and Le Monde. Thanks to their marketing capability, they will be able to sell more advertisement at a better price on our pages. Being part of a larger group allows us to target a larger and more diversified audience.”

Before the acquisition, 42% of Rue89’s revenue came from advertisement sales (797,492 Euro), 32% from the magazine (614,641 Euro), 16% from training and web development (307,039 Euro) and the remaining 9% from other products. “

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

Around 2 millions euro in 2011

Where does your revenue go?

“Staff wages are our largest expense (1,2 million Euro in 2010). Another significant portion (about 500,000 Euro) used to cover of our magazine, now discontinued exactly for its high production costs.”

How much do you pay to your contributors?

“We pay our freelancers according to the kind of content provided (short stories, inquiries, reportages). We do not provide any compensation to users and experts for their voluntary contributions to Rue89.”

What about profit?

“We would like to invest more in the development of new data journalism projects and visualization products.”

What kind of advertising you sell?

Ad Networks, Cost Per Impression (CPM), Cost per Click (CPC), Sponsorship, Job Boards or Classifieds

Do you sell virtual or physical products?

Online courses, Software, plugins or apps, Webinars, Merchandise, Special editions of content

Other revenue sources

Freelancing – non journalism, Training, Consulting, Design, Donations

Do you see your publication as your main product?

“Absolutely yes.”

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

“Our first priority remains to increase audience and traffic on our pages. We need more readers, but at the same time we want to retain our unique identity, relying even more on an on-going cooperation among journalists, developers and designers.”