A note to our readers

Our purpose & funding: tackling the challenges of 2019 at L’Orient-Le Jour

L'Orient-Le Jour and Le Commerce du Levant's team. Picture Michel Sayegh

“Lebanon lives on freedom and would die without it”

Michel Chiha

Dear Readers,

As we celebrate our 95th anniversary, L’Orient-Le Jour is facing a highly challenging environment. Despite this, the wealth of opportunities within touching distance keeps us confident in our future. With our capital increase now behind us, we wanted to take this opportunity to state our aspirations and explain how we operate, with a concern for transparency that is all too often found lacking in the Lebanese media.

Unwavering commitment to our mission coupled with a clear vision for our publications

Our core mission is to inform and provide clear insights about Lebanon and the Middle East, to strengthen the connection between the Lebanese diaspora and its homeland, to defend freedom, and to raise the profile of the French-speaking world. To accomplish this, we believe in qualitative journalism, and so we have invested in L’Orient-Le Jour and Le Commerce du Levant’s editorial offering. Our team of fifty journalists are on the ground around the clock, cross-checking sources, analyzing information and sharing commentary to ensure that your newspaper and your magazine, whether offline or online, are the gold standard when it comes to understanding Lebanon and the region.

In line with this ambition, we have decided to no longer confine ourselves to sharing our expertise in French. At the end of 2018, we started providing a selection of L’Orient-Le Jour and Le Commerce du Levant articles in English. Far from diluting our francophone identity, this selection of translated articles aims to make our content accessible to as many readers as possible.

Promoting fundamental values thanks to our independence

At a time when freedom of expression is curtailed throughout the Middle East and considering the desolate state of Lebanon’s media (newspaper bankruptcies, political interference), we consider this mission to be more crucial than ever, and our responsibility all the greater. We are proud of our heritage – L’Orient-Le Jour is the oldest Lebanese newspaper in circulation while Le Commerce du Levant is the oldest business periodical – but more than anything we derive our strength from our independence. We are proud to be independent from all political parties and we do not receive funds from any of them.

The following fundamental values are the building blocks of our mission: freedom, promoting culture (particularly among the young), and human rights. We strive to show these values through our pages, such as when we condemn the scandalous treatment of migrant workers in Lebanon, and when we give the utmost priority to the fight for environmental protection (investigating the quarries, #mabaddaplastic campaign) and for Lebanese architectural and cultural heritage. Transparency and civil rights are at the heart of our everyday work in a country where the State is in decline.

Creating a new business model

Faced with declining traditional revenues (from newsstand sales and advertising), we have launched a strategy to develop new revenue streams: in 2018, around 25% of our turnover was generated from our digital editions (subscriptions and advertising), and from diversification (projects and events). The components of our business model are as follows:

- Traditional advertisements, which are shrinking in the print version, and are negligible in the digital version, mainly due to the stranglehold of the Google-Facebook duopoly on the market

- Revenues from print sales and subscriptions, which are holding up despite a slow decline in circulation

- The emergence of sponsored editorial projects, and the development of our events business

- Our growing online edition and our digital subscriptions, spread evenly between Lebanon and abroad – a clear sign of diaspora support.

It is to our subscribers that we owe this success, which is the foundation of our business model for the future. To rely first and foremost on our readers, what could be more a noble aim for a newspaper? Our new model is making progress every day, but it is not yet able to compensate for our dwindling print revenues. Hence our focus on increasing growth further in coming years. To achieve this, we are committed to continuously improving our editorial content and digital formats, and we invite you to support us by subscribing online.

More transparency on our revenues

Sponsored projects, events and advertorials constitute new sources of revenue. In recent years, we have launched several projects which are in line with the values we defend. Most of these projects are supported by partners joining forces with us in our ongoing civic engagement (Fransabank, SGBL, CMA CGM for instance, and institutions such as the AUF or the UNDP). This allows us to offer you richer content, while adapting our advertising offering to a changing market. With each of these partnerships, we respect a golden rule: editorial content is always kept separate from the commercial objectives of the advertiser. Likewise, we will continue to be transparent with our readers when news content is sponsored or there are advertorials. Finally, in our complex digital transition, we have benefitted again this year from the precious support of the French media development agency, CFI, through professional training and advice.

A solid financial footing

In order to finance this ambitious editorial strategy in such a tough market, we have completed a USD 1.2m fundraising, our first in nearly 15 years. The shares were placed among our existing owners (mainly Michel Eddé, Choueiri Group, the Pharaon family and the Rizk family), 97% of whom participated in this fundraising - testimony to their shared belief in our model.

In return, we stand fully committed to both our owners and to you, our readers. That is the bedrock of our strategic plan. With this plan and your support, we are convinced that we can return to self-sufficiency as soon as possible and safeguard our financial independence, without which there can be no political independence.

Here is our promise to you for 2019: to cover all major political, economic, cultural, and sporting events; to analyze, surprise and entertain with the same focus on quality and honesty. We will also celebrate the 90th anniversary of Le Commerce du Levant, the business periodical founded in 1929, and we have an outstanding event planned to show that this publication is as vibrant as ever.

We would like to thank you for your trust.

L’Orient-Le Jour and Le Commerce du Levant

“Lebanon lives on freedom and would die without it”Michel ChihaDear Readers,As we celebrate our 95th anniversary, L’Orient-Le Jour is facing a highly challenging environment. Despite this, the wealth of opportunities within touching distance keeps us confident in our future. With our capital increase now behind us, we wanted to take this opportunity to state our aspirations and explain how...