January 18, 2005

ARTICLES / NEWS: In France, children's paper bucks trend for troubled press

another article on the French children's media project, this time with a focus on the press:

PARIS (AFP) - At a time of deepening crisis in the French press industry, one national newspaper is at least bucking the trend -- making money and drawing in new readers with a colourful mix of hard news and human interest.

"Mon Quotidien" -- My Daily -- was launched exactly 10 years ago Wednesday. It has a print-run of 60,000, is delivered every morning across the country and like every other paper has splashed this week with harrowing images of the Asian tsunami aftermath.

The only difference with the rest of the pack is the market: Mon Quotidien is a newspaper for children.

"At the start no-one thought it would work, because -- let's face it -- France is not a country where a lot of people read newspapers," says founder and editor-in-chief Francois Dufour.

"But after two years it suddenly took off. Today we benefit from what I call a virtuous triangle: children who like to read news that is directed at them; parents who just like their children to read; and teachers who welcome material which feeds into the school curriculum."

Directed at 10 to 14 year-olds, Mon Quotidien describes itself as the "only newspaper for kids in the western world." Not only is it read by children, it is also partly produced by them -- with a panel of pupils taking part in the morning editorial meeting in Paris.

Such is its success that it has spawned three spin-offs for other age groups: "Le Petit Quotidien" for eight to 10 year-olds; "l'Actu" for teenagers of more than 14; and most recently "Quoti" for very young readers.

Altogether the publishing house Play-Bac produces 200,000 copies every day and has an annual turn-over of 15 million euros (20 million dolars) on which it makes a small profit.

Two-thirds of subscribers are families, who pay 0.46 euros (O.61 dollars) for eight heavily-illustrated pages of brief news stories, captions and cartoons. The rest are schools. The paper is designed to give a child just 10 minutes reading every day, which education experts say is realistic.

"Our motto is 'show the truth,'" says Dufour, who started the paper in 1995 with profits from the highly successful "Brainquest" educational quiz cards in the United States.

"We do not do Walt Disney and we do not paint in pink. We show the reality. Now reality is often shocking enough -- so we do not use the most shocking pictures. But after the tsunami we did show dead bodies. For the younger readers we just had a line of empty coffins."

Indeed Mon Quotidien does not shy away from sensitive issues -- in November it led with the 15-year prison sentence given to a paedophile school-teacher and it regularly treats subjects such as homosexuality and violence in schools.

For its tenth birthday, Mon Quotidien was published in a special edition Wednesday, and available exceptionally in newspaper kiosques. Proceeds go to the tsunami relief fund.

At a time when illustrious names in the French news businesses like Le Monde, Liberation and L'Humanite are haemorrhaging readers to free-sheets and the Internet, the success of a simple, lively and well-targeted paper like Mon Quotidien may provide a useful lesson to editors.

France has long suffered from low newspaper readership, with even Le Monde reaching a circulation of just 340,000 and the combined national dailies selling no more than a million copies a day. In Britain The Times sells 650,000 copies, and the tabloid Sun more than three million.

"It is an incredible fact that 70 percent of the parents who subscribe to one of our papers for their children do not take an adult newspaper themselves. And it turns out that a lot of parents actually read Mon Quotidien as well," says Dufour.

"If I were to advise the owners of the big nationals I would say make yourselves more appetising, and more interesting. No-one wants to read the doings of this or that minister. People want to read about people. It's like the old expression -- 'Speak to me of me.'"

SOURCE: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/afp/20050105/lf_afp/afplifestylefrance_050105171343&e=4

Chris Schuepp
Young People's Media Network - Coordinator
c/o ECMC (European Centre for Media Competence)
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