Le Drenche helps readers form their own opinions

Le Drenche bills itself as "the only openly right-wing, centre, and left-wing newspaper." The concept: bring together reasoned viewpoints on issues in the news, written by "legitimate, skilled, and engaged" contributors.

Defending the Pros and Cons

The idea of Le Drenche stems from a personal need: to form one's own opinion on a number of issues, using articles in which the authors express a clear opinion and develop their arguments. Its two founders, Florent Guignard and Antoine Dujardin, like to tell the story of a poll they read about shale oil: 85% of French people were against it, 9% were for it, and just 14% were able to explain what it was. "There are a lot of debates in the news, like this one, on which we form an opinion based on preconceived ideas and hearsay," says Florent. "Seldom do we take the time to settle down, weigh the arguments, and figure out what we really think. Yet that's just the kind of work that matters in a democracy." Dreaming of a paper with debates that lay out the Pros and Cons in a balanced way, but not finding it in the French media landscape, they decided to create it!

Newcomers in the press

It's hard to launch a media outlet when you don't know much about the press. When Florent and Antoine shared their idea for a newspaper of debates that defends the Pros and the Cons, the media establishment told them they were crazy, that it would never work. But the two young men believed in their project and, in 2015, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund their website and demonstrate that readers were interested in the formula. It was not until 2016 that the paper version of Le Drenche appeared, and 60,000 copies of the first issue went out.

Making every individual into an engaged citizen

"The reason we're here is to give our readers the keys for reading debates on the issues, and the tools to take part, with the goal of making every individual into an engaged citizen." Promoting citizen participation through a three-step process - get informed, take a stance, get involved - this is the first social impact of Le Drenche, which fits into both Civic Tech and the Social and Solidarity-Based Economy (SSE). The paper also lets readers (1,500 per day on average) step outside their "filter bubble," a concept theorised in the United States to illustrate the way web users are shown content that's selected based on their supposed personality and political orientation, and the social enclaves that result. "The more sealed-off these bubbles are, the harder it is to bring contradictory viewpoints together," asserts Florent. "By setting the Pros and Cons face to face, we develop curiosity, understanding, and tolerance of differing opinions."

These values also result in democratic governance, i.e. a transparent, participatory way of doing things (readers contribute to the life of the paper; they suggest and vote on issues that interest them, and give their opinions on strategy choices) and the desire to respect equality and political diversity among users.

From economic model to matchmaker - the role of supporting structures

From concept (over a beer between friends) to creation, the story of Le Drenche is built on helping hands. The very first support they received, from the Université Paris-Dauphine, was decisive. It allowed them to find their business model, which is based primarily on advertising in the paper version and, to a lesser extent, on subscriptions. As to their connection with MakeSense: "MakeSense supports you with everything you might need, from values to communications to web development to team management," says Florence. "It was at once perfectly suited to what we are, and also extremely comprehensive. I think it's the best thing going in Paris for startups in the SSE."

The Le Drenche team is now hosted on #LePlateau. "Our project is getting to be fairly mature, but we're still having trouble getting in touch with the right people. But we have to do that to speed up our progress. And that's exactly what Le Plateau offers. It connects us with the various entities in the Societe Generale group. They identify the people that might be worthwhile for moving the startup forward, and put us in touch with them."

For Flore Jachimowicz, Head of Le Plateau and Partnerships, it was natural to welcome Le Drenche "to a place like #LePlateau, where you have very different people crossing paths, like Societe Generale employees and beginning start-uppers, a place that promotes discussion, sharing, and valuing differences." She added, "We've already begun to find the right levers for cooperation and peer support. For instance, Le Drenche hosts interactive debates on #LePlateau, including one on the values conveyed by sport and innovation."

We've already begun to find the right levers for cooperation and peer support. For instance, Le Drenche hosts interactive debates on #LePlateau, including one on the values conveyed by sport... Flore Jachimowicz, Head of Le Plateau and Partnerships

Now Florence and Antoine are confident about the next stages in their development: expanding circulation for the paper version throughout France (it is now circulated in the Paris area) and conducting a partnership with universities (Sciences Po, Université de Cergy-Pontoise, and UTC) under a research programme on the sociology of opinion. "On the website, we ask web users to state whether they are pro/con/neutral on the issue at hand, before and after reading an article," Florence explains. "This allows us to analyse how an opinion is formed and how it evolves, and we want to help advance the scientific research in this area." Fuel for the debate... about opinion itself!