PARIS Its the success story of a French start-up that has set Parisian inboxes abuzz for the past few months. Providing local news while at the same time giving useful tips and promoting e-commerce, MyLittleParis has broken the boundaries of traditional newsletters. Sent for the first time "to 50 friends" four years ago, MyLittleParis has since become a real buzz machine -- and a profitable business.
The website is read by more than 800,000 people, nearly 500,000 of whom have subscribed to the newsletter. All of this achieved without any kind of public advertising.
"I wasnt expecting it to be such a success," says Fany Péchiodat, the young founder of MyLittleParis. "At first, I just decided to do it because I wanted to share my tips with my friends, and I was a bit fed up with conventional newsletters."
Six months and 10,000 subscribers later, Fany Péchiodat quit her job as head of sales in a cosmetics firm to devote herself completely to the project. She created a start-up company, with an initial 5,000 euros in capital. "The key was to expand without ever losing the original spirit", she says. "Now were writing to 800,000 readers but each one feels like theyve received an e-mail from their friend." This explains why MyLittlePariss newsletter gets opened more than the average and why click rates go as high as 12% - compared to the typical 1%.
The secret of MyLittleParis lies in its particular advertising method: Once a week, the newsletter is specifically devoted to a partner, in a sort of advertorial that allows the start-up to keep control of whats in the e-mail and how things look. For example, to promote trips by train to London, MyLittleParis issued a newsletter telling its readers about its favorite restaurants in the English capital, and slipped in mentions of deals offered by the advertiser in the different articles. "It is more effective than traditional banners," says Péchiodat.
The start-up now employs about 30 people: one third in the editorial team - including five "dénicheuses" (spotters) responsible for finding top tips and good deals - one third in the commercial team and one third in the technical team. MyLittleParis has also expanded by adapting the brand to other cities like Lyon and Marseille and by launching themed sites devoted to children (MyLittleKids) and weddings (MyLittleWedding), as well as creating a male-oriented version of the website (MerciAlfred.com).
In terms of online media, Péchodiat and her team have invented a unique model by adding e-commerce to their activity. Every month, subscribers can receive MyLittleBox, a package of various cosmetics, books and surprises for a monthly fee of 15.50 euros. Launched four months ago, the "box" has so far attracted more than 25,000 women and could represent 40% of the sites revenue in 2012. The turnover of MyLittleParis may soon exceed 10 million euros.
Read the original story in French