Are you kidding?
At a time of deepening crisis in the French press industry, one unlikely national newspaper is bucking the trend - making money and drawing in new readers with a colourful mix of hard news and human interest. It's also a publication with potential interest for expat families. Hugh Schofield reports.
Mon Quotidien – in French, My Daily - was launched 10 years ago this month. It has a print-run of 60,000, is delivered every morning across the country and like every other paper has splashed this week with harrowing images of the Asian tsunami aftermath.
Mon Quotidien claims to be 'the only newspaper for kids in the western world'
"At the start no-one thought it would work, because - let's face it - France is not a country where a lot of people read newspapers," says founder and editor-in-chief François Dufour.
"But after two years it suddenly took off. Today we benefit from what I call a virtuous triangle: children who like to read news that is directed at them; parents who just like their children to read; and teachers who welcome material which feeds into the school curriculum."
Directed at 10 to 14 year-olds, Mon Quotidien describes itself as the "only newspaper for kids in the western world." Not only is it read by children, it is also partly produced by them - with a panel of pupils taking part in the morning editorial meeting in Paris.
The paper is designed to give a child 10 minutes daily reading
Altogether the publishing house Play-Bac produces 200,000 copies every day and has an annual turn-over of EUR 15 million (USD 20 million) on which it makes a small profit.
Two-thirds of subscribers are families, who pay EUR 0.46 (USD O.61) for eight heavily-illustrated pages of brief news stories, captions and cartoons. The rest are schools. The paper is designed to give a child just 10 minutes reading every day, which education experts say is realistic.
"Our motto is 'show the truth'," says Dufour, who started the paper in 1995 with profits from the highly successful Brainquest educational quiz cards in the United States.
"We do not do Walt Disney and we do not paint in pink. We show the reality. Now reality is often shocking enough - so we do not use the most shocking pictures. But after the tsunami we did show dead bodies. For the younger readers we just had a line of empty coffins."
'Most parental subscribers don't read a daily, many read MQ instead' says Dufour
For its tenth birthday on January 5, Mon Quotidien was published in a special edition, and available exceptionally in newspaper kiosques. Proceeds went to the tsunami relief fund.
At a time when illustrious names in the French news business, like Le Monde, Libération and L'Humanité, are haemorrhaging readers to free-sheets and the internet, the success of a simple, lively and well-targeted paper like Mon Quotidien may provide a useful lesson to editors.
France has long suffered from low newspaper readership, with even Le Monde reaching a circulation of just 340,000 and the combined national dailies selling no more than a million copies a day. In Britain, The Times sells 650,000 copies, and the tabloid Sun more than three million.
"It is an incredible fact that 70 percent of the parents who subscribe to one of our papers for their children do not take an adult newspaper themselves. And it turns out that a lot of parents actually read Mon Quotidien as well," says Dufour.
"If I were to advise the owners of the big nationals I would say make yourselves more appetising, and more interesting. No-one wants to read the doings of this or that minister. People want to read about people. It's like the old expression - 'Speak to me of me.'"
Subject: France, press, media, news for children, Mon Quotidien