One of the most influential weekly magazines in France is a satirical paper that has eight pages, overpaid employees and a miniscule online presence: Le Canard enchaîné, “The chained duck”, first published in 1915, has become an institution in France, beloved by its readers and feared by the rich and mighty.
France´s media landscape is a mess: Nearly all big and influential newspapers are in the hands of French industrialists, conglomerates or big media groups, with a clear left/right division and poor investigative capabilities. Le Figaro, for example, the second-largest daily in France, is owned by Serge Dassault, a dodgy businessman, former arms dealer, politician and now owner over 70 French press products. Independence can be interpreted generously.
What is even more peculiar: nearly all French dailies receive subsidies from the state (!), which distributes over 1.2 billion Euros to its ailing newspaper-sector to ensure the “plurality of opinions” in France; it can be asked in how far this plurality counts when it comes to entanglements of l’état (or its high servants) himself.
No wonder that the French count as lame newspaper-readers; impartiality and independence is the least one can expect from its press. Le Canard enchaîné is, in this respect, beyond any doubt: It has never allowed any advertising in 98 years, is partly owned by its writers and finances itself solely with revenue from the weekly sale of its magazine. Around half a million French highly appreciate this business model and get the magazine week by week, all politicians included. Shortly said, it is the most trusted, and most feared, gazette in France. Its business model might seem anachronistic, but it is at the same time its USP and formula of success. There is by far no magazine that has revealed more scandals in and around the Elysée palace than this chained duck. It has an excellent network of informants, highly skilled scribblers and the right mixture of anarchy and integrity.
The duck´s “snoopery” has brought it frequently in front of a judge, but thanks to a “warchest” over 120 million euro, all reserves from its weekly sales, it can tangle with pretty much everybody for a long time. Needless to say that its employees receive one of the highest monthly salaries amongst journalists, of course fifteen times a year.
Le Canard enchaîné seem like a crazy bird with an archaic business plan, yet its way of doing journalism has enriched it with the most valuable asset in this day and age: trust. Quack Quack!