INTERNATIONAL: MEDIUM OF THE MONTH - A new weekly has profited by anticipating social change in France, Steve Shipside argues

While not as important as their English equivalents on the international stage, French-language weeklies are the cornerstone of news coverage in France. And until six months ago it was a crowded, rather pedestrian market.

While not as important as their English equivalents on the

international stage, French-language weeklies are the cornerstone of

news coverage in France. And until six months ago it was a crowded,

rather pedestrian market.



But then Marianne arrived. Taking its name from the symbol of the French

Revolution, this magazine has stormed the barricades of its opposition,

winning in a few short months almost twice as many readers as any title

in its sector, and 40 per cent of the weekly newsstand circulation.



Marianne’s founder and director, Jean-Francois Kahn, explains: ’I felt

there was a tendency in the press towards a uniform point of view and

there was room for a different stance. A gap between the press and its

readers has become apparent, leading to falling circulations in the

papers that cover politics.’



Kahn has no doubt as to why Marianne has raced ahead of its four main

competitors - Le Nouvel Observateur, L’Express, Le Point and L’Evenement

du Jeudi. ’Those papers haven’t evolved in ten years and, in the

meantime, the French people have been though major changes - the

government, the depression, the markets. Yet the press has stayed the

same and is increasingly seen as a discourse of the elite.’



The answer, according to Kahn, is a more self-questioning liberal

stance.



It also involves a middle-brow approach, snappy news style, and a cover

price - Fr10 - at half the price of its rivals.



’Marianne is there to shake up that complacency. We are cheaper - that

has a lot to do with our success - but on the essential subjects we have

a coherent approach,’ he argues. ’People these days need that coherence,

whether it takes the form of a rejection of the old Gauche Caviar

(champagne socialism) or a questioning of Republican values. It’s clear,

it’s muscular, and it has a lot of shorter news features as well as

longer analyses. We have to be top of the range for politics and

economics, but also cultivate a wider audience - that’s the challenge we

face.’



Kahn’s goal is 500,000 copies. He still has some way to go since

Marianne is averaging 187,000 a week, but the title not only continues

to grow, but continues to undermine the comfortable status quo of the

French weeklies market.



MARIANNE AND ITS COMPETITORS

Title                    Circulation

Marianne                     187,000

Le Nouvel Observateur         84,000

L’Express                     75,000

Le Pont                       75,000

L’Evenement du Jeudi          58,000



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