Unlike other countries, France only saw a growing number of free newspaper titles and editions in the last 10 years. It started with a genuine newspaper war in Paris and Marseille in 2002 when trade unions tried to prevent free dailies from being distributed and printed.
After Metro (February 18, Paris & Marseille), local paper La Provence started MarseillePlus while 20 Minutes launched in Paris in March. Metro grew to 12 editions in the next yeras while 20 Minutes increased the number to 13. More local Plus editions started in Lille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulon in 2004.
A boost in circulation was brought about by Vincent Bolloré’s media group in 2006 and 2007 when they launched an evening (Direct Soir) and a morning paper (Direct Matin) in Paris. The group of morning papers carrying the Plus/Direct brand increased to 14 in the last years.
Only one free paper ever stopped publishing in France, the ToulonPlus edition (circulation 10,000) which was published in 2004 and 2005.
In total 37 free editions are published in France. Total circulation increased to 3.2 million at the end of 2011. A third of French circulation is free.
20 Minutes and the joint morning Plus/Direct papers each have a circulation of more than a million. In readersship, however, 20 Minutes is leading with 2.7 million readers. Metro is second with 2.4 million readers.