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Le Monde launches new mobile app feature to combat news avoidance & information fatigue

According to the latest  Digital News Report, 36% of people worldwide choose to avoid news. In France, the Jean Jaurès Foundation found that in 2023, 53% of people suffer from information fatigue. From a business perspective, this represents a significant number of readers who may never subscribe to any news title or are at risk of unsubscribing soon. For the French newspaper Le Monde, this matter is taken seriously. This is why their team launched "Découvrir" ("Discover" in English), a new tab in their  app that showcases mainly positive and feel-good stories. We met Quentin Leredde, Product & Audience Director, who led this project.

Hi Quentin! We're thrilled to meet you. To start, could you tell us a little about your role at Le Monde and how the teams are organized ?

Sure! I joined Le Monde two years ago, and my official job title is “Product & Audience Director”. When I first came on board, my main mission was to implement a multidisciplinary product organization from scratch. We set up five teams, which we refer to as the “feature teams”. Each of them focuses on a core subject:

Each feature team gathers a Product Manager, a Product Owner, a Developer, and a Product Designer. The role of “Product Manager” is new to us, we created it in 2022. Their mission is to lead product strategies that will bring value to users.

“Découvrir” is a mobile app feature that was developed by our mobile app team, but in fact, it was an idea born during a hackathon we organized last year…

Tell us more about this hackathon!

So in October 2022, our CTO/CIO, Sacha Morard, and Lou Grasser, Chief Marketing & Product Officer, brought 60 members of our digital teams together into one room for two intensive days. They were tasked with brainstorming new and innovative project ideas for Le Monde. We had just established this new product organization and wanted to get everyone working together. This was obviously a team-building event, but we organized it as a competition, with cash rewards for the winners!

Twelve groups, each with five members, were formed. We had PM, POs, product designers, marketers, data analysts, and developers on board – but no journalists. Each of them had to create a prototype of their idea, which had to be functional by the end of the hackathon.

To rank the projects, we used four criteria:
• Reach and impact: how many users will benefit from this project?
• Quality of execution
• ROI: business value for Le Monde
• Speed of implementation

The jury was made up of Le Monde management, including Jérôme Fénoglio, Le Monde's Director, and Louis Dreyfus, Le Monde Group's CEO.

Out of the 12 projects presented, two made it to our 2023 roadmap, and both have since been released, with “Découvrir” claiming the first prize.

Ah great ! Do tell us more…

The team who came up with this idea had the latest Reuters Digital News Report in mind. It reveals that 36% of people worldwide now chose to avoid the news, a significant increase from the 29% recorded in 2017! They also gathered insights from many of our unsubscribed readers, who emphasized the negative impact of news – how it was often depressing and anxiety-inducing. These readers expressed a strong desire for more positive stories. In France, the Jean Jaurès Foundation reported that, in 2023, 53% of people suffer from information fatigue…

From a business standpoint, this represents a substantial number of readers who might never subscribe to Le Monde or may soon. That is a serious business challenge for us, and all news media outlets worldwide.

So, Florence Pouvatchy, Nicolas Viry, Jérémie Chambrion, Agnès Bregeon and Georgia Gaye had this brilliant idea. They wanted to give our readers some ‘breathing space' within the mobile app, quite the opposite of the busy, fast-moving home page. The plan was to curate uplifting content to provide readers with some relief from anxiety-inducing news. At the same time, they wanted to shine a light on those hidden gems of content, the kind that often gets buried in the constant news flow.

The project, which code name was “Escape with Le Monde”, had three dimensions:

  • an immersive experience to reinforce the escapist effect,
  • introducing a mood selector with reader purposes (get inspired, enjoy, understand, act…),
  • and integrating personalization based on the reader's interests.

But the last two items are not included in the current version yet.

The project mockups made during the hackathon

What business goals are you pursuing with this project?

With “Découvrir”, we have two primary objectives:

  • Combat the disengagement of our products
  • Improve subscriber

Why did this project win the first prize in the hackathon?

This project stood out because it aligns perfectly with Le Monde's mission. Fighting news avoidance and information fatigue is a priority for Le Monde. Of course, this has an impact on our bottom line, but it also leads readers to seek alternative, sometimes less reliable sources of information. So it's becoming a democratic problem, and for Le Monde, it's a major source of concern.

Another advantage of the project was that it didn't require additional editorial production. All the articles featured in the “Découvrir” tab already existed; they were just not very visible.

A couple of years ago, we launched the “Fil Good” (play of words with “Feel good”), which sends our subscribers a selection of feel-good stories. This weekly newsletter has been a huge success. We're constantly on the lookout for new ways to showcase the positive content we produce, which often gets overshadowed by negative news as I explained earlier.

Did you take inspiration from other media for this new section?

When working on new projects, we always like to benchmark against what other media outlets are doing, especially overseas.

We've been looking at The Guardian's mobile app feature, “Discover”, which presents long-format stories in a dedicated tab for subscribers.

We also explored 's “Well Being” vertical.

Technically speaking, how does “Découvrir” work? How are articles selected to appear in this section?

First, in terms of themes, it's important to note that “Discover” not only features “feel good” articles, but also content that accompanies readers in their daily lives, with topics on culture, love, health, cooking, lifestyle, and more. We keep the news content to a minimum, or break down news to help readers better understand current events. We take great care in ensuring that “Découvrir” is not just a repetition of the home page…

Functionally, we've selected about forty eligible tags for “Découvrir”, and it's a fully automated feed. There is no human editor involved. In total, we present between 10 and 15 articles a day.

How did this project go internally? When did you start working on it and which teams were involved?

We kicked things off last spring. As I mentioned earlier, the idea came up during a digital product hackathon, but it was a highly editorial project, so we had to include the newsroom from the very beginning. Francoise Tovo, Le Monde's deputy editor-in-chief, worked closely with us, and her expert eye has been incredibly valuable. The journalists were immediately seduced by the idea, but we wanted to validate our intuitions with User Research.

We learnt a lot from our focus groups :

  • Readers easily grasped the section's philosophy, which was good news!
  • They liked the diverse content mix, so we held off on developing content filters.
  • The storie's intro paragraph that appeared to be useless, so we hid it

As of now, “Découvrir” only exists on your mobile app. Do you plan on launching it on your website Lemonde.fr as well?

For now, it's only on our mobile app, where we have our most engaged users. We may consider launching it on our website in the future, but our roadmap is currently full of projects!

What has been the most challenging aspect of this project?

Finding the right name! We wanted something that sounded like “evasion” or “escape”, but neither of these options worked… so we settled for the simple “Découvrir” (“Discover” in English).

It's been a week since you launched “Découvrir”, what's the initial feedback?

Initially, we had planned to launch on October 11th, but due to the Israël-Hamas conflict, we decided to postpone it for a week. We realized that this horrific event wasn't going to subside anytime soon, and we couldn't delay the launch indefinitely. However, the initial reception we got from our readers emphasized the need for this kind of editorial content, particularly during such difficult times.

We launched a quick survey among our readers: 82% told us they were satisfied or very satisfied with “Découvrir”. What pleased us the most was that people clearly understood our objectives: less news, more information, nice visuals, and no anxiety.

Which Key Performance Indicators will you be monitoring in the coming months?

Engagement is our core focus. We'll be looking at:

  • Frequency of visits over a week and a month among both our subscribers and free readers.
  • Retention of subscribers during the critical first few weeks. We'll track subscriber retention after 3 months, 6 months, and a year.

We'll also look at our qualitative surveys, where news fatigue is often mentioned – do those signals calm down over time?

What are the next phases of development you have planned on this project?

There are no further developments planned for the remainder of this year. In 2024, we'll be introducing personalization to align with reader's interests, and deploying news filters.

We're really happy with the product as it stands right now. The digital team has perfectly grasped the challenges faced by major general-interest daily newspapers, like Le Monde, particularly in terms of information avoidance and subscriber retention. This editorial project has the full support of our editorial team and, in its early stages, has been met with satisfaction from our readers.