Since 2021, La Voix du Nord has launched the Athena project with David Sallinen and Upgrade Media. The aim: to establish a strategy for premium content to recruit and retain its audience. Interview with Pierre Mauchamp, editor-in-chief.
What was the genesis of the Athena project?
It has been some time since we embarked on the mutation of our editorial team. In 2012, we had a bi-media organization that consisted of putting online first on the web what we published the next day in print. In 2017, we accelerated on digital by entering a content-centric logic: from then on, what was important was the subject and how to treat it according to the support. On the Internet, it was necessary to exploit the features of digital, video, interactivity, live… But we were struggling to get results. Clearly, we had to be more precise, even more attentive to our public and more regular in our editorial promise. The produced content was often of high quality with long formats, infographics, but it remained too sporadic. This is what David Sallinen brought us: he gave us the brick that consolidated the wall with a much more structured approach in the choice of subjects and themes, in the way of approaching and presenting them and, finally, in the way of promoting them to our audiences.
‘The Athena project is a cross-cutting project’
What does this approach consist of?
It is an approach that must lead us to work as a team, 360°, with our respective expertise. In the past, journalists were relatively versatile and generally self-sufficient. Today, they depend on colleague journalists who are experts in content presentation and formatting, but also on colleagues from other services: marketing, data lab… All oriented by the will of the management who must make the whole work. So this Athena project is a cross-cutting project. And that’s probably what makes it so different from previous projects. With Upgrade Media, we were able to bring together around the same table marketing to help us promote our content, but also our data experts who provide precise answers to many questions: how does the content live? When should it be published? Do we have to rework the headline?
It’s not easy to create synergy between such different services…
Indeed! With this cross-cutting dimension, new problems have arisen: the constraints of one service are not those of another, the calendars are not the same… Marketing sometimes needs to know what we are going to do two months in advance. Thus, to keep the editorial promise, we must be in anticipation and have a process, a real step-by-step approach structuring our approach to digital.
The goal? ‘To have a sufficiently regular, structured and attractive paid offering’
Finally, this project provides a manual.
Yes, with Upgrade Media, we are also working to further customize their manual to have a tool perfectly adapted to our needs, in order to then deploy it on other teams. What journey should be followed to ultimately achieve a good Athena subject with the adapted digital dimension, the necessary interactivity, the approach for mobile, the good methods to promote the subject according to its format? We need to provide references for our journalists.
What is the ultimate goal?
To have a sufficiently regular and abundant paid offering, structured and attractive. Free content must convince people to consult us and paid content must convince them to subscribe and then stay. To achieve this, we must have a promise: whether or not it is current affairs, you will find interesting things to read every day. We must show what we are capable of and meet the standards of the digital market. Previously, we waited for the public to come to us. Today, it is up to us to go and get it. Understand that our audience does not have an expandable wallet. From then on, our competitors are no longer other newspapers, they are Netflix, Tik-Tok, Spotify, social networks… It is necessary for us to adapt; this implies interacting with our audience in advance, accompanying and promoting our content on networks… A subject today is not just an article, it is a whole process.”
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