In the last 12 months, American publishers, including Mashable, Business Insider and, as of last week, Forbes, have set their sights on France as its latest region for international expansion.
“Western Europe has traditionally been more difficult to enter due to entrenched local competition,” said Mike Federle, president and COO of Forbes Media. “The internet changes that somewhat.” Forbes France is the business title’s 37th international edition and the first one where it’s entering with its website first and a print magazine planned for the following year, mitigating some of the risk of expanding in a new region.
It’s also hard to ignore the upcoming French presidential election next spring. Feelings of anti-gloablization and populist sentiment have surged with the rise of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, making her the third significant frontrunner in the race. “Post-Brexit and post-Trump, next year’s French elections could hardly be less predictable or more important and influential,” said Douglas McCabe, CEO at Enders Analysis, “and so the global media circus around it will be substantially greater than French politics would expect to attract in more routine years. Given their own countries’ recent pasts, U.K. and U.S. media will take a particular interest.”
Last month, BuzzFeed, which launched in Paris in October 2013, brought on another journalist to just cover politics, bringing its staff count up to 13, its second-largest European presence after London. Frédéric Filloux, former managing editor of Libération, has previously written that “[in] France, advertising is cheap and not very sophisticated. By setting up in France, this allows them to say they are all over the world.”
To hit the right cultural nuances — both in selling and editorial tone — tying up with local partners helps. Mashable launched in March with France 24, the 24 hour news TV channel, and now has eight employees. In September, Business Insider launched with European publisher Prisma Digital.
Forbes has struck a licensing deal with publishing house 360 Business Media, which will sell the ads for Forbes France. Forbes.fr is unlike French news publishers like Le Monde and Le Figaro in that it will not have a paywall and will publish 70 percent of content on current affairs in France and Europe, written by its local team. The rest will be sourced from Forbes.com. Currently, it has 10 people across editorial, marketing and sales, with 25 local contributors.
Forbes already sees 1 million monthly unique visitors from France for its English-language content, according to internal Google Analytics numbers, so there’s already brand equity and awareness among advertisers. Forbes France already has Cisco as an advertiser on its books, launching on its native ad product, Brand Voice, which lets brands upload thought-leadership articles straight to the content-management system.
“France is a crowded like other continental ad markets,” said Dominique Busso, CEO of 360 Business Media. “You need a good knowledge of the French market. It’s dominated by French advertising agencies, and if you’ve not been in it for 15 years-plus, then it’s very difficult. Cisco is our launch partner on Forbes.fr, and they have known our head of sales for many years.”