'Le Monde', bastion of French society, gets a modern new look

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The paper boasts an intellectual and highly educated readership and has always favoured a traditional, intellectual style. Long, dense articles and sparse use of colour were its hallmarks. But it was long overdue for a change. The last time the paper adopted a new format was in 1995 - before the face of the media was changed by the internet, television networks and mobile phones and the proliferation of free newspapers.

The paper's director, Jean-Marie Colombani, recognised that readers were looking for easily digestible news. "Le Monde has reinvented itself, whilst remaining loyal to its values and its savoir-faire, using over 60 years of experience to innovate and adapt itself to the new media environment."

Financial problems have no doubt played a part. Le Monde remains top in terms of total circulation (in France and abroad), with 372,310 copies, ahead of the sports daily L'Equipe (357,731) and its conservative rival Le Figaro (343,594). ButLe Figaro's 326,690 readers in France beat Le Monde's 343,567 this year. M. Colombani predicted a 3.5-point drop in its global circulation for 2005.

Le Figaro's revamp adds further pressure: sales of Le Figaro increased 4.9 per cent between its relaunch on 3 October and 26 October - no mean feat in the current economic climate.

Le Monde's new look was designed by Ally Palmer and Terry Watson, former artistic director and editor respectively of The Scotsman. The next few weeks will reveal whether France takes to the new image of what has become a bastion of French society.