WORLD: MEDIUM OF THE WEEK - New look for 30th birthday of Sartre's Liberation

The daily news magazine is looking to increase regular purchase.

The crusading paper the French call "Libe" has had a facelift for its 30th birthday. Liberation, which has just celebrated its 30th anniversary with a redesign, is almost certainly the only tabloid-format newspaper to have been launched by a philosopher. Jean-Paul Sartre, the French thinker behind existentialism, founded the paper in 1973.

Sartre had long wanted a platform for his left-wing views, and had flirted with journalism throughout his career - founding the review Les Temps Modernes with his lover Simone de Beauvoir, and writing for newspapers such as Le Figaro and the now-defunct Combat in the 40s. Ironically, a few days after Liberation was launched, Sartre suffered a stroke and was unable to continue as the magazine's managing director.

Although it took its name from a wartime Resistance publication, Liberation grew out of the political turbulence of the late 60s, and, at its birth, was something of a revolutionary pamphlet. These days it has a similar position to The Guardian: a bit lefty, a bit trendy and appealing to the demographic the French call "bobos", or "bourgeois bohemians".

"Rather than having a fixed political view, we see ourselves as the newspaper of opposition," says Serge July, the paper's managing director - who is dressed in an appropriately existential black polo neck. "We are on the side of society, and sceptical of those in power."

For a newspaper, Liberation contains surprisingly little news, favouring analysis, commentary and features. The back-page profile, retained after the revamp, is one of the best-loved features in French journalism, with its terrific photographs and in-depth probing of figures from entertainment and literature (Dido and Michael Crichton have been recent victims). The redesign consists of a clearer index on the front page, better signposting within, and two news analyses rather than one.

July says: "We adopted a magazine format several years ago in recognition of the fact that the French don't read a newspaper every day. They prefer the radio and the weekly news magazines. Did you know there are five news radio stations in France? That is the highest number in Europe."

Even so, July wants to do something about the paper's circulation, which fell by 4 per cent last year. The newspaper is the fourth in the market, behind Le Monde, Le Figaro and even the sports newspaper L'Equipe.

"The average reader buys Liberation two or three times a week. If we can raise that to four times, it will make a considerable difference.

We are also hoping to boost subscriptions. The redesign acknowledges that we need to take a broader view of the news, rather than concentrating on the single subject that we consider the most important each day," July says.

July has little money for an advertising campaign, but the paper has benefited from the PR opportunities created by the redesign - which was even covered by rival Le Figaro. The paper has also issued a glossy coffee-table tome telling the past 30 years of French history through Liberation covers; a must-have for every "bobo".

Frequency: daily, Mon-Sat

Circulation: 156,077 (Diffusion Controle OJD)

Average cost of an advertising slot: 49,000 euros (full page, colour),

26,000 euros (half page, colour)

Typical advertisers: Microsoft, Wanadoo (internet provider), Dell,

France Telecom, Thalys (high-speed rail service), film distributors,

classified ads and jobs (jobs supplement on Mondays)

Competitors: Le Monde, Le Figaro


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