✅ Inside the Revolution: Unmasking Le Monde's Social Media Triumph with Insider Olivier Laffargue
Since 1944, Le Monde has been at the forefront of journalism, adeptly navigating every tech revolution - especially the social media wave. As a result they have succesfully cought on with the Gen-Z. We sit down with Olivier Laffargue, a journalist from Le Monde's cutting-edge vertical video department, to dissect this phenomenon. Read on for his insights on engaging Gen-Z, and how Le Monde plans to convert this young audience into loyal readership
Q: Introduce your team?
A: I am the head of the Vertical Video Department at Le Monde. We are a team of around ten people responsible for Le Monde's content on Snapchat Spotlight, TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Reels. We started in 2016 with Snapchat, and the other platforms gradually joined, with TikTok being added in June 2020. Initially, we had a daily edition on Snapchat that summarized the main news for young people, adapting the narrative to their interests. However, recently, we have replaced this summary with two or three longer videos per week on Snapchat, which allow us to delve deeper into a topic instead of just skimming through it. Previously, our priority was the Snapchat summary, which was a challenging pace to maintain every evening. This change is mainly due to Le Monde adapting to Snapchat’s demend.
The project was born with Snapchat in 2016 when the newspaper realized it was not reaching young people. Daily news consumption is not instinctive for Generation Z; unlike previous generations, they don't take the time to read newspapers, listen to the radio, or watch the news every day. We had to adapt to this generation. Our goal was to adapt Le Monde's content for Snapchat and make it more understandable. We never simply copy-pasted Le Monde articles onto Snapchat; the content is always original and tailored to that specific platform. Our team's objective is to provide educational information and give young people a dedicated source of news while maintaining Le Monde's brand image and the credibility it offers.
In the past, if we wanted to reach young readers, they were all on Snapchat, which is why we started there. Today, Le Monde is present on various platforms used by young people.
Q: What is the editorial line of your department?
A: We have always believed that we are providing an offer rather than providing for a specific demand. When we started on Snapchat, we could have focused solely on video games and celebrities, but that wouldn't align with Le Monde's image. We have always trusted the younger generation and believed that they are interested in current affairs. We have noticed their interest even in challenging and complex subjects.
Q: What is the process of creating a video?
A: The production process is complex. Longer videos, around three minutes in length, require three days of work, while shorter videos, around one minute, require two days for the main editors. These days include generating ideas, conducting research, writing scripts, filming, and editing (including motion design and face-cam footage). Between these stages, there are verification steps. The scripts and the final product of the longer videos are checked and approved by the editorial team leader (myself), the department head, and the editor-in-chief. The shorter videos are verified and validated during the scriptwriting phase. Script verification is essential, and we never overlook this step. It is easier to make modifications before filming rather than realizing an issue during the editing phase.
We are very attentive to the information we convey in our videos. As generalist journalists providing vulgarising content, there is a higher risk of inaccuracies. Therefore, journalists often request assistance in verifying their scripts because they personally represent the content in the videos and are more committed to its accuracy. Previously, we managed to do all of this in a single day, but it was very restrictive.
Q: Do you have a target number of videos to post within a given timeframe?
A: Yes, we aim to post two videos per week on Snapchat and one video per day on TikTok and Instagram.
Q: Do you differentiate the content based on different platforms?
A: When we started in 2016, I used to say, "We don't put the same videos everywhere." Today, the platforms and their audiences have started to resemble each other, and their algorithms as well, so it's less restrictive, and sometimes we allow ourselves to do it. The audience differs between YouTube and social media, and the Snapchat community is very loyal, but everything is becoming more homogeneous in terms of communities. Only on TikTok does the idea of "trends" and conversations that interest only the platform's audience still persist.
Q: What is your current social media audiences?
A: We have 1.5 million subscribers on Snapchat with 200k views per day. We have just passed 800k on TikTok, and we have 1.7 million subscribers on Instagram. On TikTok, the number of views varies a lot, with an occasional viral video that boosts the account.
Q: What allows you to choose one topic over another?
A: We are attentive to what will interest young people at a given moment, such as the Baccalaureate or Parcoursup. It is important to understand what is happening around us.
Q: What techniques do you use to adapt Le Monde's content to the platforms?
A: We remove the author's special writing style (that can be witnessed in Le Monde’s articles), we ensure that everything is explained and that the reader is never lost. We use a lot of bullet points with figures. We aim for natural transitions and dive straight into the heart of the subject in a "straight to the point" manner. We consider the accessibility of Le Monde: the articles found there are not written for young people who do not have the context. The goal is therefore to remove the difficulty, simplify the writing, and use simple vocabulary (or explain complex vocabulary when necessary).
Q: What are the future plans for your department?
A: We plan to consolidate what is already in place and observe what happens. Nothing is certain at the moment, and we do not plan to launch on other platforms for now. We are considering starting live streams on social media, similar to Twitch, with a guest (e.g., the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet) who would answer questions from the chat. We make this effort to read the comments under our content and respond as much as possible, but it would be more direct and interactive in a live format.
Q: What is your business model for social media?
A: Our content is generally monetized to a very limited extent, and we have a strategy of making contact and getting known among young people. During the lockdown, there was a surge in subscriptions to print media, and the age group that participated the most, accounting for 50%, was young people. We have no way of knowing today if we had anything to do with it, but our goal is to become known among young people who will become young professionals in a few years. When they consider subscribing to print media, we hope they will remember our content and subscribe to Le Monde rather than, for example, Le Figaro. Currently, our service is performing well. It has been running for six and a half years, and a young person who read us on Snapchat at the age of 16 is now 22 or 23 years old, the age of a young person who just started working and who might be looking for a media outlet to subscribe to.
What can we learn from Le Monde's social media
Le Monde always uses the same faces in their content and they edit their videos in similar ways: that way their audience can easily reconize their content. The people adressing the audiance in their videos is bearly ten years olden then said audiance. They read through their comments regularly and tackle topics of interest, topics related to news or both. They explain the most difficult to grasp geo-political and scientific topics in simple terms by using smart editing with appealing visuals. They are posting very regularly (once a day per platform) which the algormiths are none to enjoy. This factor is clearly used for boosting their videos as well as their clever way of using hashtags. Their content is easily sharable with friends another algorithm-friendly factor.