We met up with co-founder Walid Ghanem, who graduated from the École Polytechnique in 2013. Walid has a master’s degree in entrepreneurship from HEC, a master’s degree in Probabilities and Random Models from the UPMC and a master’s degree in Mathematics Applied to Human Sciences from PSL Paris Dauphine. Walid is a former member of the joint project team DYOGENE (CNRS, ENS, PSL, INRIA).
Could you describe Pressmium in a few words?
We began with the observation that, in the modern world, the media, social networks and other information stakeholders no longer respond to our consumption habits: 99% of French readers are prevented from accessing premium digital content, which is for subscribers only. These subscriptions are expensive, because you need more than one (you want to be able to read match reports on L’Équipe, but you also want to be able to catch up with the news from Latin America on Courrier International, etc.). Quite often, quality information requires a paid subscription. What this means is that readers have less and less access to content which, when it is free, is often made available in a linear format without any analysis or emphasis, and with so many adverts that reading is practically impossible. Whether it’s administrative complexity, poor quality content or financial costs, all of these factors frustrate readers.
That’s how Pressmium was born (the platform for which was officially launched on 24th October 2019): one monthly subscription for one single platform dedicated to reliable, high-quality information, enabling easy and unlimited access to all of our partners’ content (customisable and targeted), with reading-related services based on AI algorithms (recommendations, classifications, synthesisation, automatic control, audio playback, etc.).
The user-friendly design of our platform is one of its main assets, moving away from more traditional digital newsstands to offer readers a more fluid, more dynamic experience. Above all else, it’s more interactive: the social aspect is very important for us.
Now, for €12.99 a month, our readers can access paid content from more than forty different French and foreign titles, without any adverts (on the web), using just one online platform and the app, which is available from the Apple Store and Google Play.
What are your ambitions?
When we set up Pressmium, we wanted it to be a sort of Deezer for the press. Today, our ambition for the future is to make Pressmium Europe’s leading social network for information; a single platform containing all written media content - and possibly video and audio content as well. We place a strong emphasis on the active social component, i.e. not just reading information, but also reacting to it and interacting with it, whether by sharing it or in the comments section. Today, consumers pay for content, but they also pay for a service: you buy Deezer’s simplicity, you buy the application’s features, as well as the music. In the future, the giants of information will offer more than just news, and at Pressmium, we intend to lead the way by anticipating this turning point.
Is competition fierce?
At the moment, our competitors are digital newsstands who have a more old-fashioned way of managing information. In France, our three main competitors are: Le Kiosk, E-presse and SFR Presse. All three offer linear reading options, with relatively little in the way of ergonomics and no way of interacting with the content.
There have been a few other initiatives, such as Blendle in The Netherlands, which is based on a “pay per article” business model as opposed to a subscription for unlimited content; or Smart News in Japan, which has just raised 92 million dollars in funds.
The most intense competition comes from American heavyweights like Apple, which launched its own press Netflix (Apple News+), or Facebook News, a “quality” news feed set up to stem the tide of fake news that was designed alongside media professionals. At the moment, these are only available in the USA. Our aim is to create something in Europe capable of rivalling GAFA and their growing power.
What about funding?
Pressmium was awarded a French Tech grant from BPI France, in addition to winning an Entreprendre grant.
We are hoping to raise funds sometime around February 2020 in order to fund the technological aspect and to launch a mass marketing campaign.
What role did Inria play in your project?
Inria first started supporting us in April 2019. Thanks to Inria, we were able to build a 5-year trajectory with a genuine vision. The partnership was based on strategic assistance and human support. Inria also gave us access to a working environment that was conducive to entrepreneurship, the recently created Startup Studio.
The best thing about Inria, however, was the access the partnership gave us to researchers: we work with them on all aspects relating to machine learning, natural language processing and big data. We need an algorithm capable of classifying relevant information quickly, but there is also an awful lot of work relating to synthesising and contextualising press articles, and that's something Inria has been able to help us with. Technology is something that really helps us stand out, helping to perfect the user experience. Our goal is to help readers to develop a better understanding of the news through technological innovation, something that will also enable us to break free of traditional players. In short, the aim is to rethink the relationship between readers and information, and technology is very much central to that.
So, what's the next step?
The next step will involve capitalising on a technological asset, which will be the subject of the second part of our support from Inria. We are currently in a fund-raising phase, which should make three things possible: (1) to accelerate commercial development, (2) to accelerate technical development, (3) and to add new partners to our media catalogue.