Journalism in France: What Next?

January 19, 2015 • Digital News • by

Twelve dead in a newsroom, many injured people. Most of them were working for Charlie Hebdo, a Paris-based satirical magazine. They were writing and drawing the news to be published. And they found death during the first editorial meeting of the year.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, on January 7, 2015, France has woken to a terrible atmosphere. It was a shocking beginning of year for the country, especially for journalism, freedom of speech and freedom of cartoons.

Knowing this tragic situation, here are six possible scripts for journalism in France in 2015: a display of solidarity, a switch to mobile, a fight over push notifications, a complicated equation between Web and TV, the return of the newsletter and more artificial intelligence within the news.

Display of solidarity

Liberation newspaper welcomed Charlie Hebdo survivors to its offices, the French State gave one million euros to help publish the next edition, and France Television, Radio France and Lagardere group offered their means, their human resources and their channels to help. “Because the pen always overcomes barbarism. Because liberty is a universal right. Because you support us, Charlie will be released again next week!” proclaimed Charlie Hebdo’s website, now redesigned in black. The latest issue contains images drawn by the dead cartoonists, like Tignous, Charb, Cabu, Wolinski. A way to say that freedom of cartoons is not dead.

The switch to mobile

“On the Web, the market is already mature, whereas on the mobile, usages are exploding,” said Antoine Clément, former Executive Deputy General Manager at Next Interactive, during the Assises du journalisme, held in Metz in October 2014.

The figures are proving his point. In France, 75% of apps have experienced a huge traffic increase, while 60% of websites have seen a decline, according to an AT Internet study.

Half (50%) of L’Equipe’s traffic is coming from mobile, according to its Editorial Manager, Fabrice Jouhaud.

At Le Monde, it has been two years since mobile overcame desktop Web in terms of pages views.

With 43% of France’s population now using phones (smartphones and feature phones) to surf the Web, French editors should now know where their future news consuming audience is going to come from.

In conclusion, in 2015, there will be no need for anyone to break their backs on desktop Web. In fact, it may be better to skip this old step in order to focus on mobile standards, as Bret Taylor, ex-CTO of Facebook, said in 2012: “Facebook mobile is the version of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg would have made in his dorm room at Harvard if the technology existed at the time.”

The fight over push notifications

On monday, December 22, 2014, I received on my mobile: nine breaking news ‘push notifications’ from BFTM TV, eight from Le Point, eight from Le Figaro, four from Le Monde, four from France TV Info, five from Europe 1, eight from L’Express, seven from France Info. That was not even a special day. The high number of notifications reflected the fight between French newsrooms to occupy users’ mobile screens.

In 2014, worldwide “users who enable push have a nearly three times higher retention rate compared to those who disable push,” according to a study by Localytics. This strategy actually matters in France too. We estimate that one push notification alone can generate 20,000 to 30,000 visits to a news application, like Le Monde, provided it is not sent carelessly.

This is a huge challenge for French newsrooms. They need to understand their readers’ needs, to segment their audience into various categories, so as to personalize their push notifications and to send them at the right time of the day. This will  increase the engagement rate and build strong links, and trust, between journalists and readers.

The complicated equation between Web and TV

Will we see a news program one day which could mix digital culture and TV formatting?

In France, there are several on-air broadcast experiments, coming from the Web, like Le Point quotidien on France 4, made by Vice News. However, it it is not as rock ‘n’ roll as we could have expected: “Web is free, open, careless, rebellious. TV is the opposite: calibrated, strict, institutional. We need to stop mingling fire and water,” said Cyrille de Lasteyrie, who has produced different programs for France 5.

French TV producers are not eager to change, despite the transformative digital era. This may be because television “remains the favorite equipment to see live-programs (93% of France’s population use it as such)” in the living room, according to a Crédoc (the French Reserch Center on living conditions) report.

But “we clearly need to develop new nomenclature that fits our multi-platform, multi-screen world,” Roy Sekoff, president of HuffPost Live, implored on Mashable.

“Internet, TV, it does not mean anything now: people are just facing screens,” concluded Mouloud Achour, producer of the platform Clique.TV, which was previously a TV show.

The newsletter returns 

We thought this format was old. But it seems that newsletters are back in 2015. From Time To Sign Off to Brief.me, the project recently launched by Laurent Mauriac, formerly of Libération and Rue89, news can be spread by email. This allows users, flooded and sometimes harassed by a continuous stream of news, to have a “slow moment”: they will be able to access the most important news, tailored to them, no more, no less, at a time they themselves choose – whenever they decide to open the email. “That is something we need more than we probably ever have”, wrote Mathew Ingram on Gigaom.

The challenge now is that “the broader you become, the less valuable you become for each individual reader (…). So what do you do if you are already a broad media entity like a newspaper? Think of all the niche interests and micro-markets you could segment your content into, and figure out a way to put a voice and a curatorial intelligence behind it,” Ingram wrote.

More artificial intelligence

Robots that can speak like a TV anchor, videos completed in 5 seconds – when a human needs 20 minutes to do the same – algorithms able to select and produce content.  News can count on artificial intelligence in every area and journalists should get used to seeing robots as colleagues.

In the United States, Forbes and The Los Angeles Times have published articles written by robots on their platforms, but France has shown more reserve on this topic, by so far only using social media robots.

France TV Info experimented with a Twitter ‘bot’ to help voters know the results of local elections in March 2014, as soon as they were available. Similarly L’Equipe uses its “automatic score” to provide the latest football news and scores.  Emmanuel Montecer, community manager at L’Equipe, said that this bot could generate traffic from social media (lequipe.fr had 50 to 70 million monthly visits, only 1 to 2 million coming from Twitter, when the “automatic score” was launched in November 2014). The bot could also relieve the (human) team – there are 10,000 mentions of @lequipe on Twitter each month, among which 70% concern football.

What’s next? L’Equipe is thinking about an automatic score for rugby as well. And big TV channels like France Televisions or TF1 could operate their packages with Wibbitz so as to produce almost real time news in motion.

 

Sources: 8 prédictions pour le journalisme en 2015, Slate.fr

http://blog.slate.fr/labo-journalisme-sciences-po/2014/12/25/8-predictions-pour-le-journalisme-en-2015/

 

pic credit: Flickr/Creative Commons/valentinacala

 

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