Want to discover France? MyLittleParis reinvents the online newsletter

Forget France.fr for a moment  and consider MyLittleParis. With over 200K subscribers, it’s probably hard to imagine that these unique newsletters came about by pure accident – but it just so happens that that’s the case. Turns out the founder, Fany Péchiodat, was asked non-stop by friends for her creative ideas and insider information on the best places in Paris and eventually found herself with only one option: to launch an e-newsletter.

Only 50 or so of her friends subscribed to the first edition of the newsletter in 2008 – and the userbase has grown naturally via word of mouth ever since. Today, the famous free newsletter is distributed 3 times a week for the Paris region, Marseille and Lyon. And rather than the founder scouting out the latest and greatest offers herself, local teams in each town dig-out deals for her, whether it be the best bar in Paris to watch the final World Cup match or a tango marathon in Marseille. The site also lets users register and save their favorite places on an interactive map, which is way more inventive than the traditional star-system for marking favorites.

But even more interesting is the rather traditional way that the newsletters are created. Even though the information itself is distributed via email, a fair deal of the creation is done à l’ancienne or the old way. For example, the charming drawings done by Kanako are not done with Photoshop but by hand (and then scanned). And the articles are written with extreme care by the founder’s sister, Amandine Péchiodat. But that doesn’t mean that MyLittleParis avoids tech or isn’t tech savvy. Au contraire! The iphone application in all its glory is incredibly original, well developed and doesn’t stop shy of exploiting the touch-screen capabilities.

As internet users are being spammed from all directions by advertisements, newsletters, banners and whathaveyou, this start-up has done a fantastic job attracting users as a result of its authentic approach. The ad-based revenue model (1 out of every 3 emails is a “partner” email) requires MyLittleParis to pay close attention to the presentation of the offers in order to remain consistent with the habitual mailing format. Advertisement in disguise? Apparently, Kanako’s drawings also contribute to a rather high clickthrough rate for the banner ads on the website.

At the same time, one can only hope that MyLittleParis won’t become a victim of its own succes. Obviously, a key aspect of  its business is that the offers are not very well known. Thus, as the userbase grows and more people have access to the information, the offers and deals will naturally lose their exclusive touch. But not to worry – the team is apparently in the process of developing a model to deal with this issue.

While the start-up was intitially positioned on a predominantly female market (95% of subscribers are women), MyLittleParis is launching its male-oriented version in September. The publication of a traditional guide (yes, a physical book) is also expected for the end of this year.

Oh, but the best part is that you don’t have to read French ! The English-language version launched last May already counts some 20K subscribers that take advantage of the insider deals when traveling in these selected French cities.