Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A New French Recipe: Informatin, the Newest Paris Daily Tries to Tempt Readers with a Colorful, Compact Package and a Low, Low Price

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A New French Recipe: Informatin, the Newest Paris Daily Tries to Tempt Readers with a Colorful, Compact Package and a Low, Low Price

Article excerpt

WHEN THEY PUT you on hold on France's latest national paper, Informatin, you get the gist of what sets it apart.

"Your daily paper ... it's still the same ... gray ... no color," the recording intones.

Then the voice gets perky.

"Now, that's all over! Here's Infomatin, the daily paper that's changing your day. It's all information and only information in a much more practical format. And all in color. Infomatin, it's three francs, yes, only three francs, every morning."

Barely six months old and half the price of some of its competitors, Infomatin is the first new Paris paper in two decades to last more than a few weeks. Its survival remains far from certain, but in its content, format and pricing it has clearly brought something new to the French newspaper market.

"It's gotten a better reception than many expected"' said John Vinocur, executive editor of the Paris-based and U.S.-owned International Herald Tribune. "In a country that is not newspaper-devouring or newspaper-addicted, what no one dares call a success actually resembles one."

France has one of Western Europe's weakest newspaper markets even as it has one of the worlds elite newspapers, Le Monde. France's per-capita newspaper per readership ranks thirteenth in the region, just behind Belgium's and ahead of Italy's. Nine out of 10 French adults read no national paper; only one half read any daily at all.

Infomatin offers odd content for a national paper. It carries little of the kind of partisan commentary and unlabeled analysis that has long permeated Paris papers, such as Le Monde, Le Figaro and Liberation, that circulate nationally.

Only within the past few weeks has a daily column by a staff member appeared. Otherwise, the limited commentary has taken the form of brief, unsigned and labeled editorial sidebars, an editorial panel cartoon and a solitary 250-word column by a different guest author each day.

Editor Mark Jezegabel said that while Infomatin aims to be critical, it remains independent and has no ideological bent.

"We tried to make that very clear from the start," he said. "For example, it was the first-day editorial that declared, |Here we are and here's what political stance we take.'"

Infomatin also looks different. It is only an inch taller and wider than this copy of E&P. All of its 24 highly formatted pages have full color. Every square centimeter is programmed for a certain category of visual content or text. Page two features a daily photo essay. There's a "graphique du jour" on page six.

Journalists write stories to an exact, and relatively short, character count directly into the space allotted on an electronic version of the layout. Longer stories appear - most notably a two-page special report each day - but the overall impression is a speedy read.

"I tested my designs by standing up to see how it would work for someone riding to work on the subway," recalls Infomatin's designer, Albert-Gaston Riou.

The price is also unorthodox. Until 20 years ago, the average daily paper cost somewhere between the prices of a postage stamp and a loaf of bread. Now, the average Paris newspaper costs as much as twice the price of those things. At three francs (About 55 [cents.]), Infomatin costs a tad more than the stamp but less than either bread or any of its competitors.

"Of course, a lower price alone won't attract a reader," said co-founder Alain Schott, "but a high price contributes to discouraging that reader."

French journalist Bruno Pfeiffer spent a day a week for four months in the Infomatin newsroom doing research for a study of the paper's evolution. While not an unreserved fan of the paper, he fondly recalls his first look at it.

"I knew it was truly something modern, colorful. compact and inexpensive," he said.

That reaction was exactly what the paper's founders wanted from the public, too. …

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