Widespread criticism, distrust, and avoidance – red flags are everywhere concerning the state of news in France. French media companies face a drastic drop in interest, along with one of the highest percentages of disconnection from news. However, some key existing players are reporting increased digital subscription numbers and new digital initiatives on investigative and environmental journalism are emerging.
This year, only 36% say they are very interested in news, compared with 59% in 2015. The same proportion (36%) say they sometimes and often ‘actively’ avoid the news. They have developed various strategies online, including ignoring or scrolling when they see news on screen (24%), and on mobiles they unsubscribe from notifications (13%). There are also selective avoiders who choose to avoid specific subjects: the war in Ukraine is the topic mentioned most often, with politics second, and COVID-19 third, revealing a new aversion to hard news. It’s a dramatic change from last year when the Ukraine crisis sparked a renewed interest in news.
There’s been no increase in the low level (11%) of paying for news in France. However, some brands’ pay models are succeeding and our French survey respondents are unusual in paying for an average of two – rather than one – online news sources. Le Monde with its 547 journalists has the highest level of digital-only subscribers at almost 500,000 this year, an impressive increase of 25% on last year. Le Figaro with 500 journalists has 275,000 digital-only subscribers compared with 250,000 last year and the pure-player Mediapart, with its 73 journalists, reports 210,000 subscribers. Despite these success stories nearly half (47%) of French non-payers say nothing could encourage them to pay for news online, and 29% say they might reconsider if the cost was lower. In practice publishers are tending rather to increase prices to cover costs and emphasise the ‘premium’ nature of their content.
The proposed merger of the M6 and TF1 TV groups has been halted by the French competition authority on the ground that the merged group would be dominant within the TV advertising market. As a result, their attempt at creating a ‘French Netflix’ called Salto ended in March 2023.
Media policy has been quiet, in part because while President Macron was re-elected in 2022 he lost his parliamentary majority shortly afterwards and has since been engaged in an – at times bitter – fight to push through his pension reform. Nevertheless, his election promise to abolish the annual TV licence fee (€138) has been implemented and will be replaced by a direct government grant. The public broadcaster France TV is changing its line-up and from September will remove national TV news from its regional France 3 channels, in favour of more regionally managed news and features and more content online. By the autumn, the government is organising an event called the ‘Estates General of the Right to Information’ to address issues including press independence and news in the age of social media.
Social media remains one of the main access points to online news while direct access to news apps and websites is declining. In France, TikTok’s use for news is growing (8%), with nearly twice that level (15%) for 18–24-year-olds. Among those producing social videos tailored for TikTok are individuals such as Hugo Décrypte (with his explainer videos), digital start-ups, and mainstream operators such as 20minutes, BFM TV, and even TF1.
All major media organisations have committed to a charter1 to improve journalism in the face of the climate emergency. France TV now has a major TV environmental programme in prime time. There are also new digital-born initiatives focused on environmental journalism such as Vakita, which is also active on TikTok. Another start-up focused on investigative journalism is L’Informé, which launched in October 2022. It employs 15 journalists, aims to have 50,000 paid subscriptions, and is advertising-free, but also has some well-known investors, including Xavier Niel, owner of the telecoms company Free and a part owner of Le Monde.
Podcast use is stable, with 28% saying they had listened to a podcast in the last month – and of these almost half (45%) who spent the same amount of time listening as last year. Hard news podcasts are less attractive than personal development and entertaining podcasts. However, Radio France is performing well, with a 30% increase in the past year in audiences on its own podcast platform, which it established to reduce dependence on third parties such as Spotify and Apple.
Executive Dean, Sciences Po, Journalism School
TV and online remain the top two sources, with TV slightly ahead this year. Printed newspapers have been in long-term decline but have remained steady around 15% since 2020.
Pay for online news
Listen to podcast in the last month
Trust in news overall
Trust in news I use
France still ranks low for overall trust in news by international standards at 30%. Most brands have increased their trust levels, with regional or local papers being most trusted, followed by public service brands and Le Monde, the leading quality newspaper brand. Commercial TV brands tend to have lower trust levels.