Top 10 most famous newspapers in France
In a country that changed close to a dozen times its political system in two hundred years, that is known to be revolutionary, that happened to sustain some of the most tragic events, the news bears a central role. If the 8 o’clock TV news report has become the reference in the 20th century, the French newspapers industry is a rock-solid gathering of young and old papers that, taken together, well represent the vast spectrum of opinions of the French.
Two main categories of papers are present in France: the paid-for newspapers and the free ones. If the paid-for papers have long sailed, the free ones are now quite widespread, thanks to a large distribution in the main cities.
In this article, I’m going to name and draw a picture of the ten most famous newspapers in France.
The goal of this article isn’t to make any ranking between these newspapers. The newspapers have been ranked broadly using the number of copies sold per day or week.
Created in : 1826
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 350 thousand copies
The newspaper: Le Figaro is one of the most famous French daily newspapers. It is the oldest national daily newspaper in France. With a mostly conservative editorial line, Le Figaro can be considered a roughly right-wing paper, in the French political spectrum. It is a general news paper,that mostly covers politics, general national news, international news and society analysis. Many declinations, and sections, cover secondary subjects such as health (Le Figaro Santé), culture (Le Figaro Culture) and sport (Le Figaro Sports)
Fun facts about the paper : Originally, Le figaro had little to do with its current editorial line. It was first a satirical weekly paper, denouncing the monarchy’s censorship. It changed into a daily analytical newspaper, in the late 19th century. The name comes from Beaumarchais’s play, the Marriage of Figaro, which mocks the privileges in society. The paper’s motto, stating that « without the freedom to criticize, there can be no true praise” (“Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur”), also comes from the play.
Le Figaro is owned by Dassault Medias.
Sale price : 2.80 €
Created in: 1944
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 320 thousand copies
The newspaper: Le Monde is one of the most popular French newspapers, and one of the most renowned globally, with a widespread diffusion around the World. Its editorial line is less clear than that of Le Figaro – its greatest competitor. Indeed, although the newspaper doesn’t claim any political trend in its line, many consider Le Monde to lean towards the center-left-wing of the French political spectrum. The newspaper presents a relatively classic set of articles, dealing with the general national and international news. Detailed portraits of famous public faces, however, let the paper differ from its counterparts.
Fun facts about the paper: Le Monde is the only daily newspaper to be dated from the following day upon reaching the newsstands. This particularity is historical. Contrary to most of its daily counterparts, Le Monde is published and sold in the afternoon, and includes news of the morning. Therefore, the date on the paper is that of the next day. For instance, if you buy Le Monde on April 24 in the afternoon, the newspaper will bear the date of April 25. This type of newspaper is called an evening edition.
Sale price : 2.80 €
Le Canard Enchaîné
Created in: 1915
Average number of copies sold per week in 2019: about 340 thousand copies
The newspaper: Le Canard Enchaîné (whose name litteraly means “The Chained Duck” but is a play on words since “Canard” is a colloquial term for “Newspaper” in French) is a weekly satirical paper. Contrary to a more provocative Charlie Hebdo, Le Canard Enchaîné takes a more easygoing tone, and is never vindictive. Although slightly leaning towards the left-wing, no political side escapes its ironical and mocking editorial line. Fully independent on the financial aspect, Le Canard Enchaîné can proudly claim that it neutrally points at everything that needs to be pointed at. Famous for its many scandals and revelations, Le Canard Enchaîné has a real traction in the French society and is very listened to, as most of what it revealed proved true.
Fun facts about the paper: A famous section of the newspaper, named “la Cour” (the court) used to depict in a fun and critical way, the life and decisions of the President and Government. This section has now disappeared.
Sale Price : 1€20
Created in : 1946
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 240 thousand copies
The newspaper: L’Équipe is the main sports daily newspaper in France. To understand the newspaper, it is best to go back in time, in the late 19th century, when the French sports news were dominated by one paper: Le Vélo.
A competitor was created in 1900, l’Auto. Despite harsh beginnings, l’Auto launched in 1903 a new competition based on a grandiose idea: competitors would have to cycle around France in the largest cycling race ever created. This was the birth of Le Tour de France. The success was almost immediate, and propelled l’Auto in the front of the news stage. After World War II, l’Auto became l’Équipe, and then began a new era for the newspaper which grew fast and changed hands several times to finally end up owned by the media group, Amaury.
Fun facts about the paper: Today, l’Équipe still belongs to Group Amaury. The group subsidiary ASO is still in charge of organizing Le Tour de France. It is quite fun to note that the winner of Le Tour de France wins a yellow jersey, which is a discrete nod to the original color of the pages of l’Auto. L’Auto was indeed printed on yellow pages to be better distinguished from its main competitor, Le Vélo, which was printed on green pages.
L’Équipe is famous for its very graphic front pages, usually composed of a full-page picture. To date, the most sold issue of the newspaper is the July 13, 1998 issue, titled “For Eternity” which celebrated the victory of the French soccer team against Brazil at the World Cup finale.
Sale Price : 1€80 (except Saturdays : 2€80)
Created in: 1944
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 184 thousand copies
The newspaper: Le Parisien is a local newspaper distributed in the Paris area. Although not national, its high volume of reach makes it one of the top French newspapers. A national version of it, called “Aujourd’hui en France” also exists. Le Parisien covers the local news with a generalist and non-militant editorial line. Each department of the region has its own subpart. Since Paris is the heart of the power in France, and since the country is so centralized, reading Le Parisien gives actually quite an accurate snapshot of the French current matters.
Fun facts about the paper: The first name of Le Parisien was actually « Le Parisien Libéré » (“The Liberated Parisian”) as a reference to the Liberation of Paris by the Allies, which preceded its first printing. Le Parisien belongs to the LVMH Group
Sale Price : 1€60
Le Journal du dimanche (JDD)
Created in : 1948
Average number of copies sold per week in 2019: about 140 thousand copies
The newspaper : The Journal du Dimanche, colloquially called ‘JDD’ (pronounced zhee-day-day), is a weekly paper, published every Sunday. Despite its relatively broad range of topics, quite similar to the other newspapers, the JDD is mostly known as a reference in political news. Apolitical, the JDD is known for its politicians’ interviews, for its many opinions and poll surveys, and for its rankings of famous people.
Fun facts about the paper: In the past, the newspaper tried a Saturday edition but it was not a success. The JDD is owned by Group Lagardere, a vast French media corporation.
Sale Price : 2 €
Created in: 1908
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 130 thousand copies
The newspaper: Les Echos is the reference daily newspaper dealing with the Economy, and the world of Business. It started in a much more humble way, as the main communication tool for a family export business, under the name “Les Echos de l’Exportation”. Slowly gaining traction among small businesses, it only became the main newspaper on the matter of economic affairs after the Wars.
Despite a few attempts to vulgarize its contents, Les Echos offers an in-depth analysis which is directed to a knowledgeable audience.
Fun facts about the paper: Les Échos is one of the first newspapers which turned towards the internet to seek new streams of revenue. Its online experience is broad and in advance on many of its competitor, many of which begin to catch up only now. Les Échos bet on a catchy user experience which captivates the readers and leads them from a subject to the other in a fluid way, eventually suggesting to pay for more content.
Sale Price : 2€80
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 70 thousand copies.
The newspaper: Initially created as a far-left newspaper by Jean-Paul Sartre, in the wake of the riots and events of May 1968, “Libé” as it is familiarly known, then turned towards a more central-left, left-democrat line. Its many changes in tone, its surprising stances, and its sharp political shifts caused much criticism against the newspaper.
Fun facts about the paper: The newspaper was originally independent but it was acquired by Rothschild. The new affiliation, as well as several scandals, many times caused for social unrest within the teams of the newspaper. Fearing for their independence, the journalists several times let know of their disagreement and called for more transparency.
Sale Price : 2€
Created in : 1970
Average number of copies sold per week in 2019: about 60 thousand copies
The newspaper: Replacing the former newspaper Hara-Kiri, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical weekly newspaper. Depicting itself as a left-wing critic paper, it deals with all subjects, often raising polemics. Very humoristicly illustrated, its front pages are often broadcasted in the world and often cause scandals.
Announced for November 2, 2011, a front-page presenting a specially rebranded “Charia Hebdo”, and depicting Prophet Muhammad as the new Editor-in-Chief to –ironically– celebrate the victory of the Ennahdha Party in Tunisia, caused scandalized reactions. On the night of the 1st to the 2nd of November, the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed in Paris, and its website hacked. A long debate on the freedom of press, and freedom of expression in France was triggered. Some saw blasphemy in what some others saw the free speech. The editorial team of Charlie Hebdo refused to show any intimidation, defending their right to express themselves. In the following years, several new caricatures of Muhammad caused the anger of those who saw in the publications of Charlie Hebdo a pure provocation. On January 7, 2015, two heavily armed men stormed the new Charlie Hebdo offices. They shot 12 people dead and wounded 11 others. Most of the editorial head team was killed. The attack marked the beginning of a series of terrorist attacks on the French soil. The surviving journalists announced that the next week’s newspaper would be published: it became the most printed issue of a newspaper in French history, with 5 million copies. In the aftermath of the attack, the sentence “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) became the motto of all freedom of expression defenders around the globe.
Sale Price : 3€
Created in: 1904
Average number of copies sold per day in 2019: about 37 thousand copies
The newspaper: Contrary to the first three newspaper I cited above, L’Humanité is far from being independent as it was originally founded by Jean Jaurès as a socialist paper before becoming the communist party’s newspaper until 1994 when it finally reopened to other left-wing opinions. Although it claims to be broadly gathering all left-wing ideas, its communist past is still very present.
Every year, the paper organizes a large festival named « Fête de l’Humanité » which helps funding its activities. The festival gathers between half a million to 800 thousand people each year and is one of the most popular events in France.
Fun facts about the paper: During World War II, L’Humanité was a clandestine newspaper with a clear anti-fascist line.
Sale price : 2€30