France's oldest paper Le Figaro gets new look

3rd October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 2 (AFP) - France's oldest newspaper Le Figaro gets a face-lift Monday -- with a blue masthead, roomier lay-out and new lifestyle section all designed to stem the title's declining sales.

PARIS, Oct 2 (AFP) - France's oldest newspaper Le Figaro gets a face-lift Monday -- with a blue masthead, roomier lay-out and new lifestyle section all designed to stem the title's declining sales.

After a year of readership studies and several dummy runs, the conservative daily -- property of aircraft manufacturer Serge Dassault -- is being relaunched with a five million-euro publicity campaign promoting an image of openness and modernity.

"We want to move the newspaper forward, make it more lively, and also to affirm our personality by pushing a clear editorial line and making the paper open, committed, liberal and European," said editor-in-chief Nicolas Beytout.

The main changes will be the introduction of blue -- judged to be 'European' -- as the thematic colour for masthead and borders, and a slightly narrower page with better-spaced stories and greater prominence to photographs and graphics.

In addition the paper will now come in three sections: general news including sport; economy; and a new section entitled 'and you' which will focus on culture, books, travel, leisure and health.

Founded in 1826 and a daily paper since 1866, Le Figaro has in recent years successfully shed an image of reactionary fustiness -- but like the rest of France's national newspaper industry it is fighting an uphill sales battle against inroads from free-sheets and the Internet.

Figures released last week showed that with sales of 326,690 Le Figaro has overtaken the centre-left Le Monde as the most popular daily, but that success nonetheless masked a decline in circulation of 2.41 percent on the year before. Le Monde's decline was even bigger.

The leftwing Libération is in even worst straits, having lost a massive 9.8 percent of sales in a year to hit just 134,600, and faces the prospect of major job cuts.

Le Figaro's management said the paper's relaunch is aimed at drawing in a new readership among 35-45 year-olds -- especially in the educated and higher-income brackets -- as well as among students. The paper's Internet site also has a new look -- ahead of a major redesign next year.

Dassault, who angered some newspaper staff a year ago when he appeared to question journalistic independence, said he approved of the new launch. "It is good. It is going in the right direction," Dassault said.

Le Figaro made its name by being the first to publicise the Dreyfus scandal in 1894. In 1914 its director was famously murdered by the wife of the finance minister, and in 1942 it was banned from publishing by the occupying Germans.

In recent years it has been broadly supportive of the government of President Jacques Chirac, while adopting an editorial line that is increasingly free-market liberal.

The new Le Figaro retains its sale price of one euro -- as well as its slogan, a quotation from the Marriage of Figaro of 18th century dramatist Pierre de Beaumarchais: "Without the freedom to blame, there is no such thing as flattering praise."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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