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Lionel Laparade, editor in chief of La Dépêche du Midi: “a new format to accelerate digital-first”

Interview with Lionel Laparade, Editor-in-Chief of La Dépêche du Midi – a title that has seen its digital audience soar by 95%.  As the title launches a totally revamped and more accessible digital format we ask how, and what comes next for a newspaper clearly going places.

David Sallinen – Why the need for the relaunch, and what were the key objectives for the new format?

Lionel Laparade – We needed a more modern and comfortable format in terms of reading, because the previous one had aged a lot in relation to graphic and typographic standards.

The new formula offers a range of various formats that enable us to better promote our subjects. We are also going to give more space to surveys, files and interviews to provide a greater wealth of content. This new formula also enhances our Grand Sud content which constitutes the richness of La Dépêche du Midi.

DS – How will the new approach help achieve your ambitions?

LL – We want to be more demanding in terms of quality, which for us means more varied local content with more depth. All the more so as we are the dominant media in our region with the largest number of professional journalists and this imposes on us greater demands and rigor. La Dépêche is the most precise, the most considered, and most accurate mirror to life in our area. That’s critical for us because the first lever of conversion to digital subscription is local content. In addition the new approach also facilitates our multimedia positioning by having a print layout that accelerates the digital-first thinking, logic with the help of suitably adapted formats.

We also wanted to keep the single-title front page that we experimented with during lockdown because we only had one section and not two. We were able to measure the interest and the impact  of putting forward a single subject, something made all the more forceful by the Berlin format of our newspaper. It worked so we decided to keep it.

DS – What did you learn from the pandemic?

LL – During the first containment, our distribution network stopped. Most of our points of sale shut up shop, and the postal service became erratic. Thanks to the efforts and involvement of the carriers during this difficult period, we were able to limit the damage and maintain this link with the reader.

Thus, in spite of the instructions to stay at home, and in spite of the difficulty even finding La Dépêche du Midi, 7 out of 10 readers continued to read our print newspaper and we increased our digital audience by 95%. This unprecedented situation revealed the powerful brand loyalty to our title, and our ability to attract new audiences. This new formula is here to help us continue our efforts.