Rejecting online in favor of print: Why scarcity works for Le Canard

I joyfully read a WSJ article about Le Canard Enchaine, a French weekly satirical + scoops newspaper (think The Onion, but with some real breaking news) that knows their audience, is confident in who they are – and is breaking the rules of media publishing today. How?

They refuse to go online. And they refuse to accept ad revenue.

If you go to their site, according to the article (as I don’t read French) it says  “Our job is to inform and entertain our readers with paper and ink….See you Wednesday at the Newsstand!”

You gotta love a rebel.

The paper sells a ton and makes a good profit – and does not rely on one ounce of advertising (can you imagine an ad-free paper? Bliss.)  It’s owned by the journalists themselves and doesn’t do any marketing. So why the hell, in this age of boosktores closing and online media exploding, does their model work?

  • Clear purpose: They want to offer news that people want to savor and read, not skim on their iPads. “Why should we give away great content for free?” is their motto.
  • Real customer insight: By taking a stand, they appeal to their off-mainstream following simply by refusing to conform. Their mix of real information, combined with satirical and punny humor, is exactly what these folks want that a mainstream paper can’t offer.
  • Scarcity is a badge of honor: They make their content more precious by making it harder to come by for free. They maintain a cult following and create value simply by creating a product that requires effort to obtain, unlike their competition.
  • Independence equals access: Former Le Monde journalists tried to start a rival paper and website that runs on subscription and is the most serious threat. But Le Canard’s independent (and humorous) perspective is what keeps it fresh and enables it to have access to more sources and info.

By breaking the rules, they stand apart and appeal further to their non-conformist audience. This works because of their brand image and may not work for every player.

And PS, you can place your print subscription order through Amazon.

What rules can you break to stand out from the crowd while appealing to your target audience at the same time?

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