The French miracle

Circulation of free dailies is declining all over Europe while in all countries titles and editions closed down. France, however, seems to be the exception: circulation increased except for a small drop in 2009 while only one of the 30 editions that ever were launched in France closed down. In 2009 and 2010 four new editions were launched.

Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Rennes/Nantes, Toulouse, and Strasbourg have three different titles in the morning while Paris has a free evening paper as well.

Metro (with TF1 holding a 34.5% stake) was first on the scene in February 2002 in Paris and Marseille. A month later Lyon followed while editions for Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Rennes/Nantes and Strasbourg were launched in 2004 and 2005. In 2009 Metro cut circulation with 10% to 660,000.

20 Minutes (Schibsted, 50% Sofiouest/Groupe Ouest France) entered in March 2002 in Paris and launched seven more editions in 2004 and 2005; in March 2010 a Nice edition was added. Also 20 Minutes cut circulation in 2009 with 10%.

Local free papers by publishers of the local paid paper, united under the Ville Plus brand were launched in Marseille, Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Toulon and Montpellier. Only the Toulon edition did not survive.

Millionaire Vincent Bolloré started in 2006 with free Paris evening paper Direct Matin, while he added Paris morning paper Direct Matin Plus in 2007. In Nantes, Nice, Strasbourg and Toulouse he launched free dailies under the Ville Plus flag as well. The ‘Direct’ brand is also used for his TV-channel and free sports weekly. Bolloré cut circulation of his papers in 2009 with 25%.


In 2009 circulation dropped with 12% but in 2010 circulation increased again because of the launch of 20 Minutes in Nice. The number of editions increased from 5 in 2002 to 23 in 2005 and 29 in 2010.

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