Mike Koedinger says that media content in French and English is required to reach an audience that is well-educated and has a higher income.
Photo: Romain Gamba/Maison Moderne
Two decades after the very first edition of Paperjam was launched, founder and CEO of Maison Moderne Mike Koedinger explains how the publication has developed and looks forward to a promising future.
Delano’s sister publication Paperjam first saw the light of day on 19 June 2000 with the unveiling of a “zero” edition that was distributed throughout the grand duchy. “The real first edition was published in September and was launched at a round table event on e-commerce at the [now defunct] Monnet business club with then economy minister Henri Grethen,” says Mike Koedinger. So, from the start the magazine was heavily invested in the internet and in creating a community that allowed readers to meet up and attend events with high calibre guests--elements that still exist in the Paperjam “ecosystem”.
Indeed, Koedinger says the catalyst behind the launch of a new publication in the grand duchy was the global technology boom and its growing influence on the way people worked and conducted their daily life. But within two years it was clear that there was a market for broadening the scope of Paperjam’s content to include news and analysis of the financial centre and the economy in general.
Mike Koedinger Editions, as Maison Moderne was called back then, had been renowned for its leisure, nightlife and dining out publications as well as its online new technology guide. So some observers were surprised when the publisher entered the business and economy sector of the media. “But we were welcomed by our brethren in the press because we covered subjects that had very little coverage. We weren’t taking anyone’s place.”
Indeed, the decision to publish in French was largely taken because the local media at the time was almost exclusively focused on Luxembourgish or German. “We wanted to create a media that was inclusive. The number of foreigners and cross-border workers at the time meant that Luxembourgish was the language of exclusion. It was difficult to ask someone who was only staying for three or five years to learn a language that is exclusive to this country.” The publication quickly became the media of choice for cross-border workers, Koedinger explains.
The competition at the time, the monthly English-language Business magazine and the French-language weekly Agefi Luxembourg, were what Koedinger calls “austere”. People had advised him that readers of business magazines didn’t really care about the quality of photography or the layout, that they were merely interested in reading the content.
“But we decided that having a more contemporary approach couldn’t hurt. On the contrary it made a difference. We noticed very quickly, in the first three or four years, the impact Paperjam had on the media landscape in Luxembourg.”
Three years after launch the print run had quadrupled, and the magazine was attracting a readership of between 30,000 and 40,000. “We said we wanted to be the reference for everyone who was working in Luxembourg.” The magazine also changed format and the company pursued an aggressive marketing campaign to reach a wider audience. “We realised that otherwise we would remain a niche media. Even if we were interested in covering niche themes--business, the economy, the world of work--we didn’t want to be niche by only reaching very few people.” Luxembourg is a business centre, Koedinger explains, so as a business-oriented media you should be able to attract a large audience. “From one day to the next we everyone was reading us.” Nowadays Paperjam, with its supplements, special editions and live events Club arm, reaches some 150,000 people.
New media law
The progress of the brand also required enlarging its editorial team, improving its audio-visual content and broadening the scope of its live content during the second decade of the Paperjam’s existence.
The way Luxembourg and its business sector has developed, English has become more and more the language of inclusion just as French has become a common language at work. “Today you need to deliver content in French and in English. Those are the languages required to reach an audience that is well-educated and has a higher income.” Delano, as a complement to Paperjam, covers that aspect and English will become more and more important in Maison Moderne’s strategy, says the CEO.
The company’s growth and expansion strategy depend on the adaptation of a new media subsidy law that is currently at the draft legislation stage. On Thursday evening Koedinger and CEO of Saint Paul, Paul Peckels, were the guests of the “Jim Kent Show” on radio 100,7 to discuss the future of the media. You can listen to the broadcast here.
If passed, the new legislation will increase Maison Moderne’s share of the state aid that is currently distributed to publishers and broadcasters to ensure media plurality. Koedinger explains that under the current scheme, as of 2021, RTL will receive some €10 million a year and St. Paul (which published the Wort and Luxembourg Times) and Editpress (which includes Tageblatt and L’Essentiel) will also get a total of €20 million between them from direct and indirect subsidies. Maison Moderne, which employs 120 people, is left with a mere €200,000 per year.
“We need a level playing field. The political class across the spectrum agrees that the old media subsidy law is obsolete. The state aid shouldn’t be used for the profit of the company but to hire journalists. If we get this, Paperjam and Delano will be able to recruit more journalists, offer a different kind of service to readers--more specialised, more advanced and more around-the-clock--than we do at the moment.”
As for how Paperjam might look ten years down the line, Koedinger has a clear vision even if he acknowledges that reality can sometimes be disruptive. “Back in January, nobody saw the impact that covid-19 would have,” he explains. His scenario is that in 2030 Maison Moderne will play an even more important role in the Luxembourg media, with two important brands, Paperjam and Delano.
“We will reach a much more developed audience, and we will access them earlier in the morning and later at night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We will continue to be a business-centric media, but we will also inform readers about what’s going on in politics, the judiciary, society and culture. We will target francophone and anglophone audiences who want a strong independent voice. And we will continue to celebrate people who make things happen, who contribute to the country and its international reputation. And personally, I am convinced that even if the majority of our interaction with audiences is digital and physical, we will still have print products.”