Play Bac Presse stays “reader-centric” by keeping adults in their place

By François Dufour

We are a “reader-centric” publishing group. Play Bac Publishing is an independent publishing group, founded by the inventor of the U.S. flash-card series Brain Quest.

Between 1995 and 1998, we launched three newspapers for children and teenagers in France.

Since our first issue, we’ve had kids working as critics and as editors for a day. Once the Internet made greater engagement possible, we began weekly and monthly reader panels.

We will soon celebrate issue number 5,000 of Mon Quotidien (for 10- to 14-year-olds), number 4,000 of Le Petit Quotidien (for 7- to 10-year-olds), and also number 4,000 of L’ACTU (for 14- to 17-year-olds). Combined, we have 150,000 subscribing families, at €10 a month, all over France.

I’m 51 years old. My readers are between the ages of 7 and 17. Every day, they read one of the three newspapers I edit for them with a news staff of 40. 

To make sure we are interesting to them, we operate on a  “reader-centric” model. How?

1. Apart from big breaking news (around 10 times a year), our staff submits a list of 15 possible cover stories to readers via the Internet each Friday. The week after, we publish the stories the readers most want to read.

2. To double-check after publication, we consult with readers a second time at the end of each month, also via Internet, to establish their top-flop picks among our cover stories. The monthly results are published in the newspapers.

3. Each day, I invite four different readers from one of our newspapers (two boys and two girls) to come to our Paris newsroom to be “editors for a day.” Our journalists propose stories for each section, and our guest editors choose from among them. 

While they do not write anything, they do select what they want to read in the next newspaper. They also pick the photos of the day from among a selection offered by the photo desk.

4. Also on a daily basis, three different readers critique a new film, book, Web site, TV show, product, etc. No adult critic has ever been published. 

5. Our French journalists are the same as journalists all over the world. I simply ask them to stick to straight journalism, write agency style, and annually sign the U.S. Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

By the way, our company is not a media company first, and our newspapers have no Web sites. But that is a different story for another time.


About François Dufour

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