If you're not French, or francophone, there is little chance that you have heard about the French news site : Le Post. The site has been launched a little bit more than 18 months ago, by le Monde interactif, publisher of lemonde.fr, the website of one of the most famous newspapers in France, le Monde, and the largest general news site in France.
According to Nielsen, Le Post had, already, an audience of 2 million in November 2008, more than 7 million visits according to the OJD (the equivalent in France of the audit bureau) for January 2009. Pretty impressive for a new site.
Le Post is a news website, covering national news. For many, it leans more towards the "tabloïd side". It is true that its content, its tone, its look and feel are very different than le Monde. But, its main difference comes from the way the content is produced. It is a mix of pro and am.
Benoît Raphaël, the editor in chief of Le Post, gives us some details about a site that I think is one of the most innovative news sites produced by a media company in 2008. It should break-even in 2010. Not bad at all.
The uniqueness of Le Post is that the content is produced by pro and am. How many professional journalists in the team?
BR: We have one editor that manages the newsroom of nine journalists :
- 4 specialized (crime and accidents, politics, media, internet),
- 2 at the desk (in charge of the HP, aggregating content, organizing the news in different formats in order to make things easy for the readers and animating the conversation),
- 1 video journalist in charge of non-stop "zapping", a video "collage" from different sources,
- 1 coach journalist in charge of the community. Among his work is to check the information sent by the citizen-journalists, look for witnesses, etc.
How many amateurs contribute to the site?
Our community has 25,000 members. 1% produces content and a 1,000 are very active. Among the active, you have what we call "guests". They are bloggers and columnists that are paid on a revenue sharing basis. Amateurs send 400 to 500 contributions and write 6,000 comments a day.
What is the rest of the team?
- One editor in chief (me),
- one product manager,
- one marketing director,
- one ad sales representative,
- two developers
- and we are sharing some other team members with lemonde.fr
On average, what is the percentage of content produced by pro versus am?
It is 10% pro, 90% am. In other words, we publish 400 am articles a day versus 40 from pro. But, it does not mean anything because in fact the newsroom really takes advantage of the community, reacts to what they are sending, checks and updates information. The majority of the articles that appear on the HP are a mix of pro and am. In fact, our goal is to co-produce the content, not to have on one side the pro and on the other side the am.
Do you double check am content?
We do double check the am content that we publish. Absolutely.
How do you proceed?
We have put together different processes. All the content is filtered, a posteriori, by a team of moderators. We want to make sure that there is no illegal content, that am follow our guidelines and that they are not propagating rumors. Then, the newsroom also looks at it. The coach goes first, then the specialized journalists. Each journalist manages a small community of am that he trusts. So each interesting content that we receive is checked according to our techniques of "fast fact checking" that we have developed.
What do you mean by "each journalist manages a small community of am"?
Active amateurs help us to collect and add value to information by proposing smart angles, aggregating, finding witnesses, etc. They are also "the eyes of the newsroom". They are following the news for us, on print, tv, radio, news sites, but also blogs. They are sending us valuable links with quotes.
And sometimes, they are helping us on fact checking. It is because of an amateur that we have been able to figure out that a video about Gaza was a fraud. France 2 (the French public television chanel) published the video without fact checking it.
What is the job of a journalist at Le Post?
He is, at the same time, a news producer, an aggregator and a community organizer. Because of the way he approaches information, he is first a network journalist. He checks first what has been said and published in other media. He aggregates the best content from different sources, including blogs, Twitter, You Tube, etc. and traditional medias. Then, on some of them, he brings complementary information, new elements, adds value and fact checks. Even the news published by other journalists.
The newsroom of Le Post looks like the one of a radio station. The information is a permanent conversation that is built step by step by the community of am and the journalists.
Each journalist is also in charge of a small group of active amateurs. He is their coach and teachs them the basics of the journalist job, tries to encourage them and even meets them in person. He understands that information is a conversation. He does not produce an article but more a process.
How much does a journalist make?
They are new and young journalists, so they are making the minimum salary for the job.
How about amateurs?
Only guests make some money. As I said, we have a revenue sharing system (50/50) and we guarantee a minimum of around US$500 (350 euros)/month.
Are you making money?
Not yet, but we should break-even next year.
(Disclosure: Benoit is a friend. I have worked with him right before he became the editor in chief of Le Post. We launched together (and with other talented persons) the very successful site for the French presidential election: quelcandidat.com. It was for the local newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré. Mignon-Media also worked for the new formula of Le Monde, a few years ago, rethinking and reorganizing the informational graphics department)