Le Parisien and NTM may have adopted opposing approaches to video in terms of how they produce video content and what its strategic role is.
But what the publishers have in common is the fact that both had a rocky start when they began working on video initially, and they both had to make substantial changes to their video strategies.
The two publishers talked about their diverging approaches to video and how their video outputs support their strategic goals at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe 2023 conference in Vienna.
At Le Parisien, the mistake they made early on was to include all visual journalists within the same team.
“When we started with videos two or three years ago, it was in the same department as the photographers. We thought at that time that ‘it’s an image,’ so we put together photographers and video,” said Sophie Gourmelen, Managing Director & Publishing Director at Le Parisien – Aujourd’hui en France (Today in France).
“It never worked. So we split the two,” she said.
Le Parisien has since then hired new skills to strengthen its video production, and today its dedicated video department has 20 video professionals including journalists, motion graphic designers and TikTokers.
Investing in skills and building the right team
A major reason why the company decided to invest in video is that they saw digital ad revenue growth mainly happening with video content, Gourmelen said.
Le Parisien also wanted to use video to increase their reach among young readers, by building brand awareness among young audiences by using video content on social networks.
Apart from video content about news topics, Le Parisien has three recurring series that were developed for connecting with younger audiences on social media: Food Checking, Crime Story and Biclou (see the image below for details).
Gourmelen explained that instead of just creating videos to complement their articles, the aim is to produce original videos that act as “stories by themselves.” According to her, this approach has been a key driver behind their success with video content.
She also underlined the importance of investing in having the right skills in the newsroom: “If you want to do quality and if you want to get retention, you have to invest in that. It has to be a specialised team.“
“I think this is a very specific competence. … No one can, from one day to another, become a (video reporter).”
Surpassing big digital players in France
The results from the investments and the revised video strategy have been significant: Le Parisien’s ad revenue from video has increased tenfold since 2019, while the viewing figures of its video content have also grown many times over.
The publisher has become an important player especially on YouTube, “where Le Parisien was nowhere two years ago,” Gourmelen said. She added that Le Parisien’s viewership on YouTube now exceeds those of many of the big players in the digital video space in France, such as Konbini and BFM TV.
As for their aim of reaching younger people, she said the average age of their TikTok audience is 18. By contrast, “the average age of Le Parisien’s [print] readers is more like 65. So we know that we are getting younger audiences.“
See also: Le Parisien’s journey on TikTok from zero to 400,000 followers
Although Le Parisien has the biggest audiences for its video content on Youtube and Facebook, Gourmelen said their own website is crucial for advertising revenue. The CPM is the highest on their own site, with Facebook and YouTube having much lower rates. On the other social networks there is no monetisation.
“So most of the money you get on the website, but you need the other platforms to give you the audiences,” Gourmelen summed up.
The company is now creating its own brand studio to boost their monetisation efforts.
“On platforms, you don’t monetise very much on the programmatic … but you can get money by doing native content, so that’s where we are going right now,” she said.
(From L-R) Moderator Gerold Riedmann, Editor-in-Chief at Vorarlberger Nachrichten, with Sophie Gourmelen, Managing Director & Publishing Director at Le Parisien – Aujourd’hui en France, and Jens Pettersson, Head of Editorial Development at NTM. Photo by Roland Rudolph, APA for WAN-IFRA.
NTM’s early missteps with video
Like Le Parisien, NTM had a troubled start when it first began working on video, and the publisher went down a long (and costly) path that it eventually ended up abandoning.
The company, which is one of Sweden’s largest local media groups consisting of 19 titles, launched several TV stations across the country in 2008.
The goal was to produce “old-school-style traditional TV, with the big cameras, and trying to compete with public service and commercial TV stations,” said Jens Pettersson, Head of Editorial Development at NTM.
“We were aiming for the people who were sitting on the sofas and watching TV in an old-fashioned way,” he said.
Pettersson said that the company tried to make this strategy work for over 10 years, and ended up investing over 35 million euros in this approach – before changing their video strategy altogether.
“I must admit that this was quite an expensive lesson to learn. But it was important for us to do this, because we learned a lot of things from it,” he said.
Learnings that shaped NTM’s current video strategy
Their initial video strategy had three main issues, Pettersson said. First, they couldn’t get enough audience data.
“We couldn’t tell the newsrooms, the reporters, and the editors what kind of video content is actually resonating with the audience. They had no idea. It’s like they were driving the car blind,” Pettersson said.
Second, and related to lack of data, monetisation was difficult as the company couldn’t share advertisers enough information about the size and type of viewership that was watching their programmes.
But the biggest issue was that customer behaviour was moving away from traditional TV watching habits, and this change was happening faster than NTM realised.
“We were not supposed to be doing TV for people sitting on the sofa. That’s not a good idea. We should have realised that way faster than we did,” he said.
Video now “everyone’s responsibility”
Jump forward to today, and the company’s current approach to video seems like a complete U-turn from the earlier, centralised model.
Today, the entire company is focused on digital subscriptions, and their overall strategy is geared towards “creating really valuable content for our paying subscribers,” Pettersson said.
Video has an important part in this: “For me, video is part of the storytelling of what’s going on in your city,” he said. “It’s an essential part of the value offering to the subscribers.“
Although video also drives advertising revenue from display ads on websites and pre-rolls on video, “our main concern is to actually make our subscribers happy,” he said.
Having abandoned the “TV studio” approach, the company has adopted a more spread-out strategy for its video production.
“For us, it’s crystal clear that every reporter should be able to bring home a story in text, in pictures, and in video. And the video is supposed to be for our websites and apps and for social media,” Pettersson said.
“It’s not a concern for just a small part of the newsroom. It’s everyone’s responsibility,“ he said.
NTM’s journalists working on the ground are encouraged to use video when the story is best told by video, such as interviews with a “human touch,” he said.
“Also, when it comes to festivals or other happenings in the city, video is for us one way of bringing people along with what is going on,” he said.
Investing in live sports
Video footage coming from a journalist’s smartphone might of course be of limited quality in a technical sense. Pettersson, however, believes that authenticity is more important than quality.
The key is to focus on “capturing the essence of the news itself: ‘This happened here. We have it on video. Boom!’” he said.
“For us, the insight was that it’s not really quality that drives watching. It is the authenticity, if you actually capture the moment of the news. Then it can be quite a crappy video but loved by the customers,” he added.
One specific area where NTM has invested heavily is live sports video, as the company has over the last few years bought the broadcasting rights for local football divisions (below the top tier), as well as for the highest floorball divisions, for both men and women.
Live sports forms a significant part of NTM’s video output: in 2022, it broadcasted 869 sports events live.
“We have consolidated our status as the natural place to go for viewing local live sports,” Pettersson said.
“It’s really good for us. It brings us loyal customers, and they have a higher customer lifetime value. They hold on to us for a longer time and they pay us more since they pay for a premium package,” he said.
Most matches are shot by one person from the location, while commentators broadcast live from the newsroom studio. NTM has also experimented with AI cameras for capturing the matches, but the quality has been lacking so far.
“But the technology is evolving so fast,” Pettersson said. “I think in just one year, we are going to broadcast 20-30% of our matches using AI technology.”