2020 was a trying time for the Lebanese, and a devastating year for the country’s economy.
For local media outlets, the pressure we faced in 2020 was almost unparalleled in our recent history. Our economic model was hard hit by the currency devaluation and the collapse of advertising. We have come under tremendous pressure with the outbreak of COVID-19 and successive lockdowns, and were deeply affected by the Aug. 4 Beirut port blast. The impact was massive.
And yet, 2020 has been a promising year for the L’Orient-Le Jour Group with its three publications (L’Orient-Le Jour, Le Commerce du Levant, and L’Orient Today). This is evidenced by our strategic developments, the upgrading of our editorial production, as well as the success of our digital model drawn by the growth in subscriptions.
We have also been able to preserve our editorial independence — a crucial principle during this pivotal and uncertain period in the history of Lebanon. It is during times like these that our mission takes on its full meaning: delivering news, with a focus on fact-checking and analysis; investigating the bankruptcy of our system; and finally, sparking debates: Which Lebanon do we want for the future?
Our message, as objective as it can be, is not neutral. It upholds the defense of values: freedoms — starting with the freedom of expression — democracy and human rights, tolerance, equality among citizens, but also a requirement for transparency and accountability for those in power.
Three main axes: strengthening our digital presence, investing in human capital, and diversifying into English
April 2020 witnessed the birth of the new L’Orient-Le Jour: a streamlined, more fluid website integrating the production of Le Commerce du Levant in order to better serve our readers and boost subscriptions.
We have also enhanced our focus on valuing the women and men who work in our group and recognizing the importance of recruitment. If a media outlet is inherently dependent on its human resources, it is even more so during this period of collective depression, when emigration has become an option by default, and talent all the more scarce.
Finally, the launch of L’Orient Today in October opened up prospects for growth, with a new ambition: establishing ourselves as the multilingual pioneer of Lebanese news.
A significant increase in subscriptions, and a model changeover
Clear evidence of our business success and our growing readership can be seen in the number of our digital subscribers, which increased by 32 percent compared to 2019 and has tripled in three years. Digital subscriptions now account for half of our group’s turnover. L’Orient-Le Jour has therefore become a primarily digital business.
Of these subscribers, more than 50 percent are based abroad, members of the Lebanese diaspora or foreigners interested in the Middle East.
Print sales, on the other hand, continued to decline, affected by successive lockdowns and the closure of newsstands and bookstores. Despite everything, the substantial increase in newsstand prices to LL5,000 by the end of the year had little impact on our readers and subscribers — a sign of their loyalty.
Finally, advertising continued to fall, negatively impacted both by the fragile situation of advertisers and by competition from digital giants.
In light of these tough challenges, we took a gamble on expediting our digital transition by halting the print edition of Le Commerce du Levant, as well as the publication of L’Orient-Le Jour Junior.
Strong, long-term support form shareholders
In 2020, the L’Orient-Le Jour Group carried out a new fundraising campaign led by the existing shareholders.
They committed themselves to continue their contribution over the period from 2020 to 2025, if our strategy proves successful.
This financial support stems from strong confidence in the team and the newspaper’s vision, and leads to a common perspective: the need to achieve financial break-even in 2025, in order to ensure the group’s autonomy and sustainability.
Why is this objective of paramount importance to us? Because we are convinced that political independence is achieved only through financial independence.
What to expect from the L’Orient-Le Jour Group in 2021
Our main challenge is to keep improving and to establish ourselves — just as we have done in French — as a reference in the English-speaking media landscape on Lebanese politics, economy, and social issues.
The demand is there, but the task appears challenging, as it is not only about producing the best quality journalism but also about boosting and eventually monetizing our readership, even though L’Orient Today is still a fledgling publication.
In order to achieve this, we are focusing above all on the quality of the new team, but also on translation and synergies between the editorial teams, which will complement each other.
We will also rely on technology, crucial to producing and disseminating our content in the best possible way.
Launching L’Orient Today’s English-language mobile application will be our flagship project for 2021, in parallel with a stronger newsletter offering, improved subscriber services, and an ever more compelling user experience.
Yes, quality journalism can be sustainable
Against all expectations, we have proven that traditional press — notably in French — has a future in Lebanon. Our mission continues: report, explain, expose, and spark debate.
And while Lebanon is collapsing, we still have one weapon — a weapon that has become extremely rare in the region and “only wears out if not used”: freedom of expression.
It is up to us to make the best use of it and to defend it at all costs, against all threats.
The management committee of the L’Orient-Le Jour Group:
Nayla de Freige, Chairperson & CEO
Michel Helou, Executive Director
Sahar Al-Attar, Managing Editor, Le Commerce du Levant
Élie Fayad, Managing Editor, L’Orient-Le Jour
Hanaa Jabbour, Marketing Director
Benjamin Redd, Managing Editor, L’Orient Today
Émilie Sueur, Managing Editor, L’Orient-Le Jour
Michel Touma, Managing Editor, L’Orient-Le Jour
Read our annual reports from previous years:
Dear readers,2020 was a trying time for the Lebanese, and a devastating year for the country’s economy.For local media outlets, the pressure we faced in 2020 was almost unparalleled in our recent history. Our economic model was hard hit by the currency devaluation and the collapse of advertising. We have come under tremendous pressure with the outbreak of COVID-19 and successive lockdowns, and...