Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New French Mini-Tabloid Aims at Readers Too Busy to Read but InfoMatin's Niche Market Also Challenges Expensive Dailies

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New French Mini-Tabloid Aims at Readers Too Busy to Read but InfoMatin's Niche Market Also Challenges Expensive Dailies

Article excerpt

MARTINE FAUGERON has a new companion for her half-hour trek to work in the morning - a full-color, quick-to-read, inexpensive daily that is shaking up French print journalism.

Called InfoMatin, the Monday-through-Friday newspaper is an attempt to lure "the nine-tenths of the French who never or no longer buy a newspaper" into reading daily news again, says one of InfoMatin's founders, Alain Schott. The young, the urban, and the hurried are the newspaper's target readership.

Yet while initial sales figures suggest that InfoMatin has indeed attracted new readers, the newspaper is also drawing converts from other dailies - which is likely to put pressure on other publications to follow at least some elements of the paper's format.

"I think I'll be buying it every morning for the trip to work," says Ms. Faugeron, a university engineering researcher who generally reads another national daily, Liberation, before InfoMatin hit newsstands Jan. 10. "The information is more accessible, faster, and then of course there's the price."

InfoMatin costs three francs - about 50 cents - which is half the price of other morning dailies like Le Figaro or Liberation, and less than half the price of the afternoon institution, Le Monde (seven francs, or about $1.20).

"French newspapers are about the most expensive in Europe," says Pierre Albert, director of the French Press Institute here. The young especially are finding no room in their daily budget for a six- or seven-franc newspaper. "The daily press has been pricing itself right out of a readership," he says.

InfoMatin's pricing strategy is already having an impact on the French press. This month another Paris daily, Le Parisien, came out with a national version, called Aujourd'hui (Today), selling for 3.5 francs. And as of its Jan. 20 issue, the weekly Le Point trimmed its price 25 percent, to 15 francs. (The price turbulence in France comes on the heals of an all-out price war among Britain's quality press titles.) More magazine than newspaper

In addition to its price, InfoMatin could influence French newspapers with its style and presentation, which are innovative for France.

The newspaper, even closer to the size of a magazine than that of a traditional tabloid, is printed in full color, with shaded boxes to draw attention to certain information, and with liberal use of eye-catching, full-color graphics. The front page has no actual articles, just headlines and bulleted statements drawing the reader to the related stories inside.

But as different as the new daily may be from the traditional dailies, InfoMatin cannot be easily categorized as a "popular" tabloid or as a "dumbing down" of the traditional press.

"By its simple but serious style, its scope and quality, it can't be associated with the popular dailies," says Mr. …

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