A CHANGING SOCIETY
DIGITAL FORMATS AND AUGMENTED REALITY
“When we launched Sept.info in 2014, one of our main aims was to find possible new business models for the newspapers of the future”, explains Patrick Vallélian, Editor-in-Chief of the online journalism platform. This “laboratory of information” is the first of its kind in Switzerland to focus exclusively on the provision of investigative and literary journalism. Its pure play approach has paid off, with Sept.info making a name for itself well beyond Switzerland’s borders. For example, it made the shortlist for the prestigious Albert Londres Prize in 2016, and recently won the Nicolas Bouvier Award for Journalism in Geneva. Unlike most of its online competitors, the media company based in Villars-sur-Glâne opts for long-form reports and investigative articles that users pay to access. As Vallélian explains: “Our philosophy is to afford ourselves space, time and depth.” Indeed, Sept.info has mastered the fine art of fusing the speed of the digital world with the slowness of reading. Sept.info management, though, have not abandoned the print world entirely. Twice a month, the platform publishes a "mook" [combination of "magazine" and ‘book‘] featuring a selection of the best of its online content. The periodical is now also sold in Belgium, France, Canada and Luxembourg.
However, this is not a retrograde step. “Augmented reality allows us to offer a three-dimensional reading experience.” By scanning pages of the mook using their smartphone, readers gain access to additional content, such as 360° videos and 3D images. “Essentially, it is a circular process: the web feeds the paper, which in turn feeds the web and ultimately the virtual world”, notes the editor-in-chief. As part of its unceasing quest to offer its readers innovative, custom solutions, Sept.info has launched a free-pricing system on its website. This means that the reader pays an amount of their choosing to access their preferred content. “This service is aimed first and foremost at younger readers who prefer to buy per article rather than take out a subscription.” Let’s hope that this creative rush will continue in 2018 when the MEDIAparc group, which includes Radio Fribourg and la Télé, comes on board the Sept.info ship.
Print and digital press – the best of both worlds
While national and supraregional newspapers have been finding it hard to compete against free online content, the local press has had no such worries. “Our readers have a deep attachment to the paper”, notes Jérôme Gachet, editor-in-chief of La Gruyère. “We even have a handful of subscribers in Canada who refuse to change to the PDF version even though the print edition is much more expensive and arrives in their mailbox days later!” However, these three local papers are anything but complacent. “Our website not only showcases our paying content, it also offers a platform to advertise tomorrow’s paper by offering snippets from articles that will appear in full in the print edition”, explains Serge Gumy, managing editor of La Liberté. As for La Gruyère, which is published three times a week, the newspaper uses digital channels to post articles based on press releases so as to “tide our readers over between issues and keep them interested”, explains Jérôme Gachet. At the same time, the PDF version of the Bulle-based paper “lets our subscribers read that day’s paper from around 5 or 6 in the morning, even when they’re on the move.” As for Freiburger Nachrichten, Fribourg’s German-language daily, its digital revolution got under way in earnest in 2016. Not only did it give its website a facelift and developed a mobile app, it also advertised for a full-time digital content and social network manager. However, editor-in-chief Christoph Nussbaumer is quick to add that “the success of our digital strategy will be down to the entire team. The role of the new member of staff will be to guide us, particularly when it comes to the launch of our online video service.” La Liberté has two members of staff whose sole job it is to manage the broadsheet’s online and multimedia content. Nonetheless, the entire newsroom also has to play its part. “Besides providing short, fast news, our mission still is to offer an insightful analysis of current affairs to our readers, who are increasingly bombarded with a growing volume of information,” adds Serge Gumy.