Think Tank

Aurélien Viers: “Our aim is to become a regional multi-channel media of reference”

A new logo. A new layout. New web-first dynamics. On Tuesday 30 May 2023, with Upgrade Media’s help, the La Provence newspaper underwent a radical transformation. The short-term aim is to assert its position as a benchmark media outlet in its home territory… at 360°. In print, of course, but also on the web. Meet Aurélien Viers, Editorial Director.

The editorial project you presented to your editorial team was approved last week by a large majority of La Provence’s journalists. Was this an important step?

Aurélien Viers. Yes, the editorial project we presented was widely supported. It’s a project that’s trying to move forward. The journalists needed us to move on to the next stage, all of us together, them and me. It validates the work we’ve been doing collectively for several months, as well as the overall strategy we had in mind when we took over. And it will allow us to move forward with peace of mind!

How did you go about developing this project?

AV. There were several stages. I listened a lot to the editorial team, gathered as much information as possible and met as many journalists and department heads as possible… And then, very quickly, I said to myself that it was time to get everyone together to think and pool our ideas. It was really necessary: we have a lot of departments, nine editions, fifteen agencies, which in the end had very few opportunities to meet. It had been a while since they had been able to work together on important issues like digital or the editorial offering. There was a lot of interesting thinking at the two workshops that fed into my editorial project. These workshops identified 22 areas to work on. Some of these were voted on by the editorial team: the creation of an educational video format, a practical guide for weekends, a long-form story format… We really tried to involve all the driving forces behind La Provence.

“We want to be closer, more open and more innovative”.

Aurélien Viers, Directeur de la rédaction de La Provence

What are the objectives of the editorial project that resulted from this major consultation?

AV. I’d say it’s a transformation of our offering. We want to be closer, more open, more innovative… Closer to local people, closer to their day-to-day concerns. More open to new target groups such as young parents and new arrivals from Provence. More innovative in the way we present information, particularly on the web and social networks. We need to be able to create our own news and, quite simply, become a regional, multi-channel media of reference. We’re already the benchmark on paper, because in some departments and in many areas we’re often the only regional daily. But we also want to become a benchmark on the web, in the face of new players and competition from pure players. A reference in terms of videos, podcasts… That’s why we’ve reorganised the editorial team, strengthening the areas dedicated to reporting, but also to publishing, both in print and on the web.

What are the foundations of La Provence’s identity and its values today, which have guided the creation of this new version?

AV. First and foremost, the credibility of the information, the strength of the editorial team, but also editorial independence. We look at the reader’s interests and base our work on facts. We have an apolitical, non-partisan editorial line, but we can also have democratic commitments, with a desire to keep extremism at bay from a political point of view. Finally, we are rooted locally. And that’s what we want to do more of: showcase even more of the men, women, initiatives, businesses and artists who make our region what it is every day.

Why orchestrate such a change?

AV. I think there was an urgent need to change our identity. We had accumulated a bit of a backlog, particularly in the digital arena. The website hadn’t been changed for a number of years, and neither had the paper layout, which had been in place since 2008. It was high time! Upgrade Media’s Editorial Designer, Grégory Leduc (see our interview with Grégory), has made a number of changes: he’s worked on the flat tints and colours, but also on the whites… The layout has really been slimmed down, with an eye to improving the hierarchy of information. We now have stronger openings and headers, with much better fluidity and, generally speaking, much greater consistency between web and paper.

“We’ve tried to make major changes to the way information is prioritised”.

You talk about the urgent need for change…

AV. Yes, because in my opinion, it’s essential to have a contemporary eye. To live with the times, in short. Readers’ tastes have changed a lot, as have the way we read and the time we spend reading… There have been some very significant changes, and you can see this when you compare the layouts of fifteen years ago and those of today.

In concrete terms, what are the new features of this layout?

AV. As I said, I think the hierarchy of information is much stronger and clearer than it used to be. The format of La Provence is a Berlin format with large pages, which were very dense, with lots of entries… This is sometimes practical, but we were looking for greater clarity. The new layout is a step in that direction: it highlights the photos much more, with fewer colours and flat areas. And it creates more visual cues for the reader.

Nouvelle identité visuelle, nouveau logo, nouvelle page d’accueil pour ⁦⁦@laprovence⁩. Bravo à toutes les équipes qui ont travaillé en un temps record !

— Aurélien Viers (@aviers) May 29, 2023

The logo has also undergone a minor revolution. How does it embody your new ambitions?

AV. Yes, it’s undergone a profound change. We wanted a rounder, more distinctive logo, with a different font. We’ve kept the same blue, which is our identity, but we’ve replaced the red bar with a dot, which is much more meaningful. It’s a punctuation mark that should evoke the image of a credible media, a media of reference. The dot is red, a reminder of our visual identity. It establishes the authority of La Provence, but also echoes our digital ambitions, by recalling the traditional “.com”.

What were the reactions on discovering it?

AV. It was very well received! It did everyone a world of good. It’s a change that was really long overdue. We wanted this clarity, this more airy layout with openings, headers and pages that were much easier to read. It’s been very, very well received by everyone.

How will this new layout help you to promote your journalism?

AV. In terms of both text and photos, I think we’ll be able to showcase the work of journalists more effectively, without it being drowned out by too many flat areas, boxes and ‘drawers’. And we’ll be able to offer a much better setting for stories and reports, as well as news columns, which will be more distinctive and standardised. It’s also the idea that content should drive form, as the Upgrade Media team keeps repeating: we want to be able to create the news, to establish ourselves as a benchmark medium, to have fewer short articles and more strong articles.

“To offer a more contemporary and up-to-the-minute newspaper”.

With this new identity, you aim to conquer new audiences, new territories…

AV. Yes, of course! Conquering new audiences, reaching out to a younger audience in print and on the web… In short, it’s about offering a more contemporary newspaper that’s in tune with the times, with a renewed editorial offering. And that necessarily means a new face, but also an editorial organisation that is consistent with that face.

Why did you choose Upgrade Media? What convinced you?

AV. It’s the experience of major projects successfully carried out by David (Sallinen) and his brilliant team in the press, and more specifically in the PQR: La Voix du Nord, Le Télégramme, La Dépêche du Midi… There have been some very big projects crowned with success. And then there’s our expertise in web/print formats, with the idea of starting from the content and reinventing the form. At Upgrade, we’re used to rethinking web and print formats at the same time, with expertise in both areas. It’s very rare to have such a strong web culture, yet such a deep understanding of print! Working with experts who are able to design templates and line-ups for both print and web is invaluable and reassuring.

It’s said that print audiences are eroding. What role does print play for La Provence, even though your digital project has big ambitions?

AV. Paper remains at the heart of our identity. We’re a newspaper and we’ll remain so for many years to come. Of course, our ambition is to become a 360° medium, which includes the web, podcasts, video, text… But our identity, and we’re proud of it, is the paper. It’s a fundamental part of our business. In fact, we launched a special edition on OM last week! We’re not denying our history, quite the contrary.

Interview by Rémi Capber, Upgrade Media journalist.

About Upgrade Media: Upgrade Media is a creative agency, strategy consultancy, training center and media transformation think tank, through its brand New World Encounters.

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