The pun in “Mediapart” refers to “participation”, but also to “à part”, French for “different”. Difference lies first and foremost in the price: Access to the site requires a 9€ (£7, $13) monthly subscription. Quality journalism must be paid for, they say. These subscriptions will feed forty journalists, many of them coming from major traditional outlets.
The barrier is also supposed to allow for more qualitative contributions. Trolls must all be greedy, then.
Mediapart already raised three out of the four million Euros (£3m, $6m) needed to run through the first three years of exploitation. Once into stride, the budget will reach €7m (£5m, $10m). That means 65,000 paying subscribers.
TimesSelect had 227,000 paying subscribers on its deathbed. Three times as much, for a market seven times as big. And for a world-famous brand, century-old archives and top-notch columnists. Oh, and the price was three times lower.
Mediapart wants 10,000 pre-subscribers for the official launch, in March, and acknowledges having “too few, way too few” of them today. French blogger Versac predicts Mediapart will go free after 18 months.
Partisan journalism holds the future, but the French media landscape is already saturated with socialist-leaning brands. In a country where only 25% of the population votes for the moderate left, any market analysis would tell you to go for the extreme-left or right-of-centre consumers.
Mediapart is convinced to be innovative, but the venture is merely replicating offline models. No news site started out of huge investments. The HuffPost, roughly the size MediaPart ambitions, started as a lone blog and Salon started with $60,000. Plenel brought lots of journalists around him, but they don’t seem to be prepared for discussion, as Philippe Couve noticed. Finally, and most importantly, publishing behind a paywall shields articles from the beneficial snowball effect, and eventually prevents growth (in reputation first, then in subscriptions).
We’re far from the 21st century newsroom…
This article was written by Nicolas Kayser-Bril, one of the Online Journalism Blog’s Virtual Interns.