Elections put French press in poll position

The French presidential elections have given a much-needed boost to the country’s national press, with some titles recording sales increases of up to 20 per cent.

In the weeks running up to yesterday’s first round of voting, the French public appears to have flocked to newspapers and current affairs magazines to help them make a decision on which of the 12 presidential candidates to vote for, from centre-right favourite Nicolas Sarkozy and socialist rival Segolene Royal, to candidates from the Revolutionary Communist League and the Front National.

Speaking to the liberal broadsheet Le Monde, Dominique Quinio, the director of Catholic daily newspaper, La Croix, said the sales uplift was largely due to “indecision among our readers and a real need to understand [the issues]”.

“To get a deeper view, there’s nothing better than the written press,” Quinio said.

The liberal news magazine, Marianne, which splashed last week on a feature on “the real [Nicolas] Sarkozy – everything the mainstream media doesn’t want or doesn’t dare to tell you”, saw copies fly out the shops at such a speed that the 300,000-circulation title decided to print an extra 140,000 copies to cater for the demand.

The country’s biggest current affairs magazine, the 500,000-circulation Nouvel Observateur, has reported a year-on-year rise in newsstand sales of between 15 and 20 per cent, while the weekly business news magazine, Le Point, has seen sales increase by 17 per cent since January.

Faced with this voracious appetite for news and opinion on the presidential elections, a number of weekly current affairs titles – which typically hit the shops in Paris on Wednesday – have pushed forward their publication date by a day.

Meanwhile, the French national daily newspapers – which have for several years been hit by a series of circulation declines – are also enjoying something of a lift.

Le Monde said its total circulation (made up of newsstand sales and subscriptions) had risen by 2.2 per cent year on year.

Its sales director, Hervé Bonnaud, said: “Our [percentage growth in] newsstand sales in Paris has become a positive figure in February – something which hasn’t happened in several years.

“There’s been a real appetite for the subject. Our readers are much more engaged than they were during the 2002 presidential elections.”

The French public’s appetite for election news is a far cry from the 2002 general election, when voter apathy enabled far-right presidential candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen to make it through to the second round.

This time, voter turnout is reported to have hit a record-high of around 80 per cent.

Other newspapers to benefit from the boom include the left-wing daily, Libération, which in terms of circulation has been one of the worst-hit titles in recent years, and conservative newspaper Le Figaro (pictured).

La Croix has reported a 15 to 20 per cent rise in newsstand sales, although these represent only a small percentage of the paper’s overall circulation, which is mostly subscriptions-based.

Although last night’s exit polls show the election being a two-horse race between Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal, it will not be until Wednesday evening when the official result of the first round is announced.

As none of the 12 candidates is thought to have received more than 50 per cent of the vote, a second round of voting will be called on 6 May.

The two most popular candidates will go head-to-head for the presidency, with the winner announced on 10 May.

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