WORLD: MEDIUM OF THE WEEK - Change of press day boosts L'Express circulation

The weekly news magazine has added nearly 50,000 to sales. Mark Tungate reports.

L'Express exploded a small grenade in the competitive French news weekly market when it announced it would hit newsstands on Mondays, not Thursdays.

The news surprised the magazine's main competitors - Le Nouvel Observateur and Le Point. The consensus had always been to come out on a Thursday to net weekend readers. But L'Express's president and editorial director, Denis Jeambar, thinks otherwise.

"The market has been driven by competition rather than by logic," he says. "When Le Point launched in 1972 it came out on Monday. Later, at the end of the 80s, it shifted to Saturday. And everyone else back-pedalled to even earlier in the week to compete. The upshot was that our deadline became Wednesday - hardly an ideal platform from which to analyse the week's news."

Jeambar felt that a news magazine that appeared on Monday could provide a complete overview of the previous week. "In fact, our deadline is now Friday night, so we will hit newsstands in Paris as early as Saturday - certainly by Sunday morning."

Other facts supported Jeambar's move. The French adoption of the 35-hour week (to which they religiously adhere) means Friday is no longer a working day. Many French people head off to weekend retreats on Thursday night, and are not around to buy news magazines. "Our research showed that the best day of the week for newsstand sales - across all titles - was Monday."

The move seems to have paid off: Jeambar claims that since the change of issue date, the magazine's newsstand sales have increased from 84,000 to 130,000. At the same time, L'Express has redesigned the magazine for the first time since 1998.

"Things have changed a great deal since then," Jeambar explains. "At that time, we were talking about the end of history. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, economics took centre stage. Business and lifestyle seemed more important than current affairs. But now, hard news is back in the spotlight."

To reflect the new situation, the magazine's pagination has been increased by 20 per cent to 105 pages, and politics, investigation and French regional matters have been given prominence over business and economics. An entirely new debate section will allow intellectual heavyweights to discuss topical issues of the day in fields such as social trends and philosophy. All cultural and arts subjects have been transplanted into the magazine's lifestyle supplement - Le Mag - which was previously a fairly lightweight listings product. The result is a weighty, serious-looking wodge of printed matter - and good value at three euros.

"Above all, the arrangement is logical," Jeambar says. "You have the news magazine for your professional life and the arts magazine for your cultural and recreational life."

Frequency: Weekly (Monday)

Circulation: 424,784 (Diffusion Controle OJD 2003)

Average cost of a full-page colour ad: 25,200 euros (£17,215)

Cover: price 3 euros

Advertisers include: Mercedes, Peugeot, Roche Bobois (furniture), Omega,

Volvic Competitors Le Point, Le Nouvel Observateur

Launched: 1953

Ownership: Socpresse

Typical reader profile: "A thirty- to fortysomething businessman who's

rich, well-travelled and intellectually curious."

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