Fans of Olympique de Marseille will appreciate the metaphor: “the “recovery” of “La Provence” has begun”, according to its general manager, Gabriel d’Harcourt. Redeemed last summer by the shipowner CMA-CGM, at the end of a long battle , the Marseilles daily published an interview with Emmanuel Macron, visiting Marseille, at the start of the week. An exclusive that confirms the revival of a title in full transformation.
Under the leadership of the director of the new Media division of CMA-CGM, Laurent Guimier (formerly of Europe 1, Radio France and France Télévisions), appointed in March, the general manager, Gabriel d’Harcourt, who arrived in the fall of ” La Voix du Nord”, and the editorial director, who came from “Le Parisien” in January, Aurélien Viers, are putting in place the first bricks of their “Winning Mistral” plan.
“The idea is to give ourselves three or four years for La Provence to be a leading regional media in France, first in terms of editorial quality, then innovation and digital, and finally commitment and social responsibility. and environmental. To do this, we must implement a global transformation plan for the company,” sums up Gabriel d’Harcourt.
The editorial project, which received the support of 94% of the editorial staff during a vote, aims in particular to bring the newspaper closer to the concerns of its readers, but also to go “to the bottom of the subjects”, through investigations and reports. .
Since the end of May, the paper newspaper has also had a facelift, with a new layout and a new logo. “Returns are unanimous on the quality of this new formula”, maintains Gabriel d’Harcourt. Its launch was accompanied by a promotional campaign in the region, on the theme “La Provence is changing, so we are changing La Provence”.
Another project and not the least: digital transformation. The online versions today represent only 16% of the circulation of “La Provence”, according to the ACPM, the daily remaining very dependent on kiosks, which provided more than 38% of its circulation in 2022. This is then amounted to 69,000 copies on average (-6% compared to 2021).
59 departures, almost as many hires
A new site and a new application are expected at the end of October, in order to increase the portfolio of digital subscribers, to approximately 10,000 today. Different verticals should appear there, in particular on health or OM. The home page of the site has alreadybeen recast and the first results are there.
Driven by a rich news, “we experienced the strongest growth of the PQR on digital in April and May”, welcomes Gabriel d’Harcourt. The newspaper estimates that it is on time to achieve its objective of increasing its digital audience by 30% by the end of 2023.
By accelerating on digital, “La Provence” hopes at the same time to rejuvenate its readership, in particular thanks to video and TikTok. “We are very active there and have good coverage of urban crops, when the singer Jul opens a store in Marseille, we are there and that generates commitment”, illustrates the general manager. While continuing to address its loyal base, “La Provence” wants to broaden its audience by attracting newcomers to Marseille. In total, “La Provence” and its cousin from the same group, “Corse Matin”, are investing 5 million euros in 2023 in digital transformation.
This mutation induces organizational changes. Out of a total of 180, 59 employees took advantage of the departure clause, opened following the takeover (as well as 11 employees of “Corse Matin”). Almost as many new hires, including 25 permanent contracts and the rest on fixed-term contracts, compensated for these departures. “We are not replacing position for position, because the current organization is not completely in phase with what will allow us to re-adhere to the market”, underlines Gabriel d’Harcourt. Some recruitments concern positions of “community manager”, video manager or data specialists.
Some in the editorial staff, however, cringe. “It’s not just the older ones who left,” said a journalist, who would also have liked to see more experienced profiles arrive. “We are coming out of many years of lethargy, those who remain want to be part of the future. The real test will be in a few months, to see if the project works,” adds Audrey Letellier, SNJ delegate.
Back in the green
With 12 million euros in losses in 2022 out of 50 million euros in turnover, “La Provence” must also return to the green. “We hope to be halfway there by the end of the year, in particular thanks to the performance of our advertising management, which is currently positive compared to last year”, specifies Gabriel d’Harcourt.
This one, in full transformation, has the vocation to become a “consulting agency”. “We are moving from a position of seller of advertising space to that of a provider of solutions – digital, video, brand content or paper – for advertisers”, sums up the general manager of “La Provence”.
To supplement its income, the daily also develops in the organization of events. Synergies with “La Tribune”, currently being acquired by CMA-CGM , are considered. “As part of La Provence’s diversification strategy, it is important that the newspaper be a producer of events in the region, and La Tribune’s expertise in this area can help us”, confirms Laurent Guimier.
The management of the title hopes to reach operating equilibrium within two to three years. “It’s very important, he insists, one of the founding principles of CMA CGM Media is to have the absolute certainty that profitability can be found, whatever the segment. »
La Provence”, which will move to downtown Marseille next year, should be able to rely at the end of 2024 on the common printing plant in which the newspaper is investing with “Nice-Matin” (owned by Xavier Niel) , as planned at the time of the takeover. A transition to tabloid format is envisaged on this occasion.
Stéphane Loignon, Fabio Benedetti Valentini, Marina Alcaraz (@stephloignon, @FabioBenedettiV, @marina_alcaraz)