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How Did Charlie Hebdo Stay In Business?

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sold out Wednesday’s initial print run of 3 million copies almost immediately with its first issue after last week’s deadly attack. But before becoming a globally recognized name, how did the magazine remain profitable?

Among French media, Charlie Hebdo was well-known for not running advertisements. Instead, it relied primarily on newsstand sales and subscriptions, as well as the occasional donor drive. Its most recent call for donations was in November, when now-murdered Editor-in-Chief Stéphane “Charb” Charbonneau admitted that “we’ve already cut back on everything: paper, printing, and even salaries.”

And in an age where publications are pushed to generate new online content around the clock, Charlie Hebdo kept a simple website and put out a single weekly print publication. (RELATED: This Is Why Jihadis Massacred Writers And Cartoonists At A French Humor Magazine)

The magazine’s weekly printing, which previously ran to only about 60,000, has been extended to a total of 5 million copies.

After last week’s massacre, the Google-sponsored Fund for Digital Innovation donated €250,000 (about $300,000) to supplement the costs of the extra-large edition. French papers matched that pledge through the French Press and Pluralism fund, and several distributors of the paper agreed to work for free.

The French culture ministry also donated €1 million ($1.15 million) to the magazine in an “emergency release.” (RELATED: Championing Free Speech, France Clamps Down On Incitement)

Charlie Hebdo was founded in 1970, and after a hiatus in 1981, it was relaunched in 1992. Its equal-opportunity offensiveness especially appealed to an anti-authoritarian streak on the French political left, as it crassly mocked racism and Christian and Muslim religious sensitivities.

The magazine’s editors have agreed to donate profits from the special “survivors’ issue” to their slain colleagues’ families.

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