Here are a few key dates in the company’s 40-year history:
In the beginning, the Indian Ocean
Independent journalist Maurice Botbol founded Indigo Publications in 1981and launched The Indian Ocean Newsletter. This weekly newsletter was published simultaneously in French and English, without advertising and distributed solely to subscribers.
The aim was to inform professional readers of the political power struggles, the battles for influence and the economic issues in East Africa, southern Africa and the islands of the Indian Ocean.
« The smallest international press group in the world. » – Maurice Botbol, founder
Oil, gas and electricity in Africa
La Lettre Afrique Energies and its English version, Africa Energy and Mining, were launched in 1983 with backing from Antoine Glaser, a journalist specialising in African issues. Its aim was essentially to cover the geostrategic dimension of oil production in Africa. La Lettre Afrique Energies was renamed Africa Energy Intelligence in 2000 at the same time that its sister publication, Africa Mining Intelligence, was launched.
Antoine Glaser founded La Lettre du Continent, a publication devoted to francophone Africa, which, over the years, became the flagship of Indigo Publications. Its aim was to cover the most secret aspects of the Franco-African “village”..
The intelligence services were very active in Africa during the Cold War and Maurice Botbol considered that it was important to know more about how they operated to get a better understanding of events on the continent. Indigo Publications acquired the Paris-based French language publication, Le Monde du Renseignement, and its English edition, Intelligence Newsletter. The publication, which reported on developments in the intelligence services in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the former Soviet Union, became Intelligence Online in 2001.
Focus on the Maghreb
Until 1990, North African news was covered in La Lettre du Continent. It was decided at this point, however, to create a new publication devoted more specifically to the Maghreb countries. It was called Maghreb Confidentiel in French and Maghreb Confidential in English. Published weekly in a short two page format, the publication was distributed essentially by fax.
The switch to digital publication
At the start of the 1990s, big data bases were a rarity in Europe, although they were widely used in the United States. Maurice Botbol contacted the new office of Lexis-Nexis in London and asked it to create a system incorporating all Indigo’s publications in both French and English. Agreement was reached in 1993 and the system was set up with archives going back to January 1 1992. In the years which followed, similar agreements were concluded with Factiva, CD-ROM SNI and L’Européenne de Données. This early digitalisation of Indigo’s archives allowed the company to open its first website two years later with access to three years of archives.
In 1995, Indigo Publications became a pioneer in online news when it announced the “first website for strategic decision-making”, Intelligence Online. The site was a paying one from its first day online. This went against conventional wisdom at the time but proved itself to have been a judicious choice later. Online subscription did not exist at the time but a virtual purse system made it possible to buy articles one at a time.
In an effort to diversify its activities, the group launched a collection of biographical profiles under the title “Les hommes de pouvoir“. Each publication provided exclusive profiles of 100 real decision-makers in an African country.
Africa on the Web
Indigo Publications put on line Africa Intelligence, which was the first professional portal on Africa and which gave access to all the group’s publications on the continent. As with Intelligence Online, launched the previous year, Africa Intelligence was a paying site.
Launch of the Magellan project
As the Web developed, Indigo Publications found itself with three data bases which did not communicate between each other: paper subscribers, paper prospects, website subscribers and prospects. Logically, these three systems needed to be unified but there was no software on the market which met the company’s requirements. Indigo Publications, therefore, launched the Magellan project with the aim of creating a single information system incorporating all its data – editorial, marketing and accounting.This project, which was put in the hands of an IT services company, lasted for two years. From 2002 on, Indigo Publications took over the maintenance and development of the system by setting up its own internal IT service.
Africa Mining Intelligence
With mining and energy activity developing strongly in Africa, Indigo decided to set up Africa Mining Intelligence and to devote La Lettre Afrique Energies exclusively to the energy sector under the new title, Africa Energy Intelligence.
Intelligence Online‘s creation
Le Monde du Renseignement and its English edition, Intelligence Newsletter, changed names to take that of the website housing them, Intelligence Online. A new website was also created. It was particularly heavily consulted following the events of September 11 2001 after having been the first to bring to light much information about terrorism and Al-Qaeda.
The specialised Paris-based press group, Le Moniteur, sold La Lettre Afrique Expansion to Indigo Publications. The publication was incorporated into La Lettre du Continent.
Business intelligence and lobbying
Having become the publication of reference on business intelligence, Indigo created a collection of biographical profiles in 2004 under the title “Intelligence Online Reports“. Unique in its kind, the first publication in the collection presented exclusive profiles of the 100 top decision-makers in the sector in France. A second publication published in 2005 detailed the profiles of the 100 leading corporate lobbyists.
Change of rhythm
At the initiative of its editor, Francis Soler, The Indian Ocean Newsletter, the oldest of Indigo’s newsletters, changed its publication schedule. The printed version, which was weekly, became fortnightly, while the website became more reactive through the publication of alerts to break exclusive news stories.
French power games
Indigo Publications bought La Lettre A from journalist-entrepreneur Jean-Michel Quatrepoint. This weekly publication, founded in 1978, is aimed at high-level French decision-makers. It analyses the business and political power issues of the moment. At the same time, the group launched the LaLettreA.fr website.
Indigo Publications was one of the founder members of the Syndicat de la Presse Indépendante d’Information en Ligne (Spiil), which was set up in October 2009. Since then, Maurice Botbol has been president of the organisation which is devoted to the development of the digital press.
West Africa Newsletter
The newsletter of the Franco-African “village”, La Lettre du Continent, had been published solely in French. In 2010, an English edition was set up under the name West Africa Newsletter.
To mark publication of its 1,500th edition, La Lettre A extended its Internet presence through the creation of the companion site, Entourages. The site followed the last presidential election campaign in France until May 2012 and then went on to explain the main issues facing the new government.
In September 2011, Indigo Publications bought PresseNews, a newsletter set up in 1995 to cover all developments in the printed and digital press.
Continuing with the development of its digital information services, Indigo Publications launched Insiders Series, a collection of original monographs on the power bases of African leaders active both in business and politics. Insiders Madagascar, Insiders Mining, Insiders Kenya were published in 2012 and Insiders Ivory Coast in 2013. These monographs are included in the subscription to the individual publications and the country channels.
PresseNews launches new directory, 4ePouvoir
Indigo Publications launched the professional directory 4ePouvoir which can be consulted on the PresseNews.fr portal. The fully digital publication (available in French only) replaces the printed Guide de la Presse and three other guides edited by PresseNews for the past 12 years. The 4ePouvoir database will be updated with daily entries and real time information on new appointments, latest industry developments, circulation figures and results statements. Offering a highly fluid navigation system from one entry to another, 4ePouvoir aims to offer its readers a constantly up-to-date professional address book.
The discreet intermediaries behind the big contrats
Based on the same model as Africa Intelligence’s Insiders, Intelligence Online launched its own Insiders Series devoted to the discreet intermediaries, often former political or business leaders, who can be found at the heart of negotiations on major international contracts. The first to be published were: Dominique de Villepin, Aaron Frenkel, Iskandar Safa, Dick Evans…
After a long period of preparation, Indigo Publications went 100% digital. The print editions of the publications on Africa Intelligence and Intelligence Online have gone. By way of compensation, the websites have been greatly enriched and improved.
La Lettre A gets a new graphic identity and a new mobile application
La Lettre A inaugurated a new format for its weekly newsletter on August 28. The new, livelier lay-out was realised by Rampazzo & Associés. The new format offered improved readability, easier movement between sections and better highlighting of essential information. It enabled La Lettre A to further its ambition to provide a fresh view of political, economic and media power in France. The new presentation came with a new mobile app which allowed readers to receive the latest edition of the newsletter every Thursday morning, follow information in real time through alerts and consult La Lettre A’s archives at any time. The app was made available on App Store and Google Play.
Africa Intelligence accessible by mobile
Indigo continued to develop, offering readers of Africa Intelligence the opportunity to consult their content on mobile devices (Android, iOS, Windows Phone). The mobile application, which was launched in May 2014, allowed readers to consult all articles, special reports and Insiders as soon as they appeared. Also accessible were nearly 20 years of archives, while alerts to ensure readers were able to keep up with the news. The app was made available on App Store, Google Play and Windows Store.
Equal tax treatment: Indigo Publications applauds major step for the press
Indigo Publications hails the announcement today, 17 January, that the government will apply the same level of VAT to online press as it does to printed press. Until now, despite numerous positions taken by the government and parliamentary amendments, the tax authorities had continued to apply VAT of 19.6% to online press, namely a level nearly ten times greater than the rate applied to printed press (2.1%). The VAT controls Indigo Publications and Mediapart were informed by a bailiff in mid-December stirred a strong reaction from the general public – 30,000 signatures in support on the Mediapart website – and at the highest level of state. On 19 December, the day before the audit was to begin, Maurice Botbol, founder of Indigo Publications, and Edwy Plenel of Mediapart, were received by the three ministers concerned: Aurélie Filippetti (Culture), Bernard Cazeneuve (Budget) and Fleur Pellerin (small business and digital). After their meeting, the ministers published a strong statement on 23 December calling for “neutral taxation across media mediums” (read in French here).
Believing that the discrimination was legally unfounded and went against the fundamental principles of French and European law, Indigo Publications and several Spiil members publically announced in 2011, after notifying the public and administrative authorities, that they would henceforth apply the VAT rate of 2.1% used for press. This legal position was reinforced on 10 November 2011 by a judgement issued by the European Court of Justice, the “Rank Judgement” (read here), which clearly states: “According to the case-law of the Court of Justice, the principle precludes, in particular, treating similar goods and supplies of services, which are thus in competition with each other, differently for VAT purposes.”
As a precursor in online press having created one of the first paying news sites in 1995, Maurice Botbol has been advocating for equal legal and fiscal treatment of printed and online press for many years. In 2009, he cofounded Syndicat de la Presse Indépendante d’Information en Ligne (Spiil), of which he is chair. Since its creation, this professional organisation has continued to advocate for both transparency in public subsidies given to the press (since won) and for the same VAT rate to be applied to both printed and online press.
To develop on both internationally and nationally, Indigo Publications has, over the past 15 years, invested heavily in complex IT systems created in-house, implemented digital marketing methods and tools, launched new online editorial content and more. After months of considerable effort from the entire staff, the group was able to transform eight of its ten publications into fully digital editions.
None of these developments were completed with help from the state. Quite the contrary, French legislation continually put up roadblocks to innovation. Until late 2009, online press was not considered to be press, forcing Indigo Publications to prioritise its printed publications, going against the changing needs of its readers. This fiscal discrepancy continues to hamper online press in France.
Africa Intelligence given a new look
In February, Africa Intelligence unveiled its new portal and graphic identity, with updated logos, attractive colours, greater user friendliness and smoother navigation. The new portal brought together West Africa Newsletter, The Indian Ocean Newsletter, Maghreb Confidential, Africa Energy Intelligence and Africa Mining Intelligence. The new design completed an ambitious digital transition programme which began with the switch to all-digital publication in April 2013, followed by the launch of a telephone and tablet application in May 2014 and new lay-outs for the confidential newsletters in November 2014.
New functions were introduced, giving readers maximum choice by offering a wider range of modes of access to the information they are looking for.
Indigo Publications consolidates its independence by opening its capital to its employees
Paris, June 23 2016 – The Indigo Publications press group has successfully completed an increase in capital reserved for its employees. Half of them subscribed and now hold 3.2% of its capital.
The operation, which was carried out as part of Indigo Publications’ company savings plan and should be repeated in the years to come, aims to assure the long-term existence of the company. The arrival of its employees in its capital fits into the strategy of economic and editorial independence which was at the origin of the group’s creation in 1981. Indigo Publications’ shareholders have always been individual people, most of them from the world of the press.
Indigo Publications’ founder and chairman, journalist Maurice Botbol stressed, “In deciding to invest part of their savings in their company, Indigo Publications’ staff have expressed their wish to contribute to the company’s independence and shown their confidence in its development.”
Thirty-five years after it was founded, Indigo Publications has thus put in place a harmonious transmission process. This increase in capital has taken place just a few months after the donation which enabled Maurice Botbol, 65, to transfer 45% of the company’s capital to his son, Quentin, 28, an engineer, under the terms of a pact which fixed their respective shareholdings for six years.
Atypical in the French and international press world, Indigo Publications will continue to strongly defend its financial independence, which is the guarantee of its editorial independence.
Profitable in 2015 for the 13th consecutive year and with the best operating result in its history, Indigo Publications is proud to have reached this objective through revenues which have been 100% provided by its readers, without recourse to any other resources, whether from advertising, sponsorship, consulting, the organization of events or public subsidies (see here the presentation of our 2015 accounts). “Our vocation is to generate information and solely information,” said Maurice Botbol, who added, “Independence is the basis of our business model and this is what underlies the trust our readers put in us.”
Intelligence Online gets a facelift
In January 2017, Intelligence Online launched a new-look website and a more contemporary PDF version. With its red and black logo, a more striking visual layout and more user-friendly navigation, Intelligence Online aims to cater as comprehensively as possible to its readers’ needs.
The new Intelligence Online will continue to provide exclusive information on state intelligence, business intelligence and surveillance and interception technologies.
There is also a brand-new section called Major Contracts. Encompassing politics, diplomacy and business, major contracts in the defence, energy, aeronautics and raw materials sectors generate colossal profits as well as bringing into play state sovereignty. This section offers the inside track on the dealmaking, reports on the unfolding negotiations and identifies the key players operating in the wings of these major contracts.
Africa Intelligence goes mobile first!
Launched in June 2017, the new Africa Intelligence website is specially designed to be read on a mobile. Subscribers can now access, anytime and anywhere, exclusive breaking news as well as our Insiders and over 120,000 articles containing a wealth of information on the sensitive issues of the African continent spanning the last 25 years.
Featuring the content of five confidential newsletters – the West Africa Newsletter, the Indian Ocean Newsletter, Maghreb Confidential, Africa Energy Intelligence and Africa Mining Intelligence – the Africa Intelligence website chronicles the activities of men and women in positions of power in Africa and unravels the links between political authorities and business networks.
La Lettre A goes daily
Having been a weekly for 40 years, on 19 March, the french publication La Lettre A became ‘the agenda-setting daily about power and influence’ in partnership with the specialist media newsletter PresseNews.
Available from 6.30am from Monday to Friday, the daily edition contains exclusive news and insights into the latest developments in the political, corporate and media worlds.
Fresh new look for our fully in-house Clients/Marketing software!
Created in 1999 to meet Indigo Publications’ specific needs, our back office programme Magellan received new and improved upgrades in 2020 that were two years in the making. This project, which our IT department handled from inception to rollout, gives our customer services and marketing teams an integrated CRM/ERP system able to better serve our commercial and marketing needs.
Africa Intelligence, the new continent daily!
Africa Intelligence becomes the leading digital daily to offer full coverage of the African continent for professionals.
Available as of today, the new publication draws on nearly 40 years of experience chronicling the continent and the combined expertise of five confidential newsletters: West African Newsletter, The Indian Ocean Newsletter, Maghreb Confidential, Africa Energy Intelligence and Africa Mining Intelligence.
Guided by the same editorial line of the five publications on which it is built, Africa Intelligence now provides its readers with a single publication of fully exclusive coverage of national policymaking as well as key regional and continent-wide developments. This publication comes out every weekday at 5 a.m. GMT.
Africa-to-Africa economic, political and diplomatic relations as well as pan-African security issues have considerable grown in recent years. Emerging powerhouses the likes of China, Turkey, Brazil, Russia and India have developed strategies to broaden their presence across the continent. That is why we believe a bi-monthly newsletter or one covering a single region or economic sector no longer fully reflects these new realities.
The new continent daily Africa Intelligence aims to continue to provide its trademark understanding of the workings of power within each African state. The editorial team has grown and will continue to cover the Oil and Gas and Mining industries as well as new key economic sectors with a continent-wide impact: Infrastructure and Power, Defence and Security, Banking and Finance.
This new editorial format comes with a new offer: a single subscription plan that now provides access to all Africa Intelligence content. Preferential rates apply based on the number of readers per subscription.
The website itself has been entirely developed by Africa Intelligence’s in-house IT team to provide a more intuitive and user-friendly browsing experience whether viewed from a computer, tablet or mobile phone. Subscribers can also opt to “scroll” the issue to read it as easily as if it were a PDF.
The new Indigo website is online!
After many weeks of work, we are celebrating the release of our new corporate website! Simplified and modernised compared to its 2015 predecessor, it aims to offer you a comprehensive and precise overview of our identity and of the values that guide the way we conceive our trades.
This new site also presents our editorial line – common to Africa Intelligence, Intelligence Online and La Lettre A – and invites you to explore the websites of our publications.
Paris, February 24th