PARIS: Vincent Bolloré, chairman of French advertising conglomerate Havas and the thorn in the side of UK-headquartered media buying group Aegis, is extending his media empire in the direction of giveaway newspapers.
His latest project, however, is not just any free sheet: this is matinPlus, a daily title distributed to 350,000 Parisian commuters who want to read cerebral articles while they travel on the Metro.
The A4 sized giveaway is sister title to the more trivia-orientated evening freebie Directsoir, which Bolloré launched last year with television talk show channel Direct 8.
Cover stories in matinPlus have featured Russian-Saudi relations, US diplomacy in Israel and the TV performance of French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal. In addition, there is sport and entertainment news, but not the celebrity-heavy stories published in many of its rivals.
The concept has not found favour with everyone. Thunders Juan Antonio Giner, vp of Innovation International Media Consulting: "I think this is madness for a free popular newspaper. If you want to attract the elite, they're not going to read matinPlus, they're going to read Le Monde."
And he may have a point. The paper has found it difficult to sell advertising and in a recent 28-page edition managed just four ads.
Bolloré, however, appears unconcerned, saying critics just "don't like the new thing" and, for now at least, is resigned to the €50 million ($66m; £34m) he believes it will cost before matinPlus becomes profitable some three or four years down the line.
Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff