The newspaper Liberation is deadly sick. Journalists, friends and outside observers are desperately looking for a solution. Is it possible to save the sinking ship?
Let me first compare the daily to two other news providers, La Croix and Mediapart.
3 years ago, the circulation of Liberation was, at 130000 copies and la Croix's sales hardly over 90000. In 2014, the two dailies are at about the same level, 95000. The circulation of la Croix is growing slowly but steadily by 1% a year. For Liberation, the fall has been close to 30%. The two dailies are heavily subsidized by the taxpayer, about 6 millions euros a year each. However, la Croix, with a small staff and a loyal public of subscribers breaks even, Liberation with few subscribers and an errand readership has been in the red for several years.
Take Mediapart. The pure player has 80000 subscribers, not so far from the two dailies. It has a small but dedicated newsroom, a very attractive content. Its audience is growing and it is profitable.
What could be then a recipe for survival for Liberation? Lets be honest, there is no silver bullet but maybe something to try.
I think that the daily should stop being a daily. It could combine two weekly print publications on Friday and Monday combined with a website. Access to both could be done through a subscription. There would be no free offer and sales of the print in a limited number of newsstands.
The main thing would be the content. Liberation should chose a field which is not well covered by the other national news providers and which is the urban life. Its staff should work on Paris conurbation and 7 or 8 French big cities. A smart combination of scoops and in depth reporting would satisfy a public which is not very well informed about what is really happening in his city.
The publisher should aim at a population of 50000 subscribers to break even. If you consider that the population concerned would be over 15 millions people, it seems attainable.
However, the objective is to catch a loyal readership through a reliable and comprehensive information. There are many young journalists who are eager to comply.