TikTok: Le Parisien’s journey from zero to 400,000 followers
“Le Parisien aims to be recognisable as an online media, not only a print newspaper. Video is perfect for that.”
This is the reasoning behind the French publisher’s robust video operation, according to Aurélien Viers, Editor-in-Chief of Le Parisien’s Web Video Department. The team has 20+ journalists, motion designers and other people who produce videos for the newspaper’s own website, TikTok, and all other major platforms: YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
The video team focuses especially on reports from the ground, which are shot horizontally and initially published on the website and YouTube. Many of these are then shortened and adapted into a vertical format for social networks.
Given that users are exposed to these videos on various platforms, it’s important that every video highlights the fact that it is a Le Parisien production by having the Le Parisien logo visible throughout the video. “We are targeting new subscribers, not directly through the legacy brand but through new verticals. That’s why creating brand awareness is so important,” says Viers.
A big part of the team’s strategy is to focus on recurring series. For example, “Food Checking” is a weekly show that fact checks food products at supermarkets, restaurants and bakeries. A typical episode lasts 7–8 minutes and is shot with a mobile phone in POV style. The show features interviews with experts and discusses the price of the products, each episode ending with a blind tasting.
Getting a young TikTok journalist essential
Going back to the beginning of Le Parisien’s TikTok journey, the company took its first steps on the platform in September 2021.
“My first move was to hire the youngest journalist I could get,” says Viers. The publisher appointed Mathieu Hennequin, who had just graduated from a journalism school, as its first TikTok journalist and created a TikTok account with him.
“It was a good bet,” Viers says, adding that the new TikTok journalist’s being at ease with the camera turned out to be crucial.
At first the plan was to focus on explainers, especially on politics during the French presidential elections. But the team has also experimented with many different formats, testing and assessing results continuously.
Some of the key learnings from this process include:
- Hiring a TikTok dedicated journalist is key to success.
- Test & learn mindset is important, for example when experimenting with different lengths (but generally, short videos seem to work best with TikTok’s algorithm).
- Explainers work well – but you shouldn’t forget hard news either.
“We were the first one to report that Kylian Mbappé was staying at the [football club] PSG, and it was one of our biggest hits in months,” Viers says. “So hard news is also important. We see young people getting their news on TikTok right now.”
Having started from zero more than a year ago, Le Parisien’s TikTok account at the end of 2022 had more than 400,000 followers and 8 million likes. (Editor’s note: In mid-2023, Le Parisien had more than 650,000 followers and almost 17 million likes.) There have been ups and downs along the way, but Viers has noticed that as a general rule, growth is largely driven by individual videos that perform well.
“A hit video is also a hit for subscriptions. So you have to post regularly, and the subscribers will follow,” he says.
Although there is currently no way to monetise TikTok videos (unlike on YouTube or Facebook, for example), for Viers TikTok is a critical investment in building brand awareness among the young: “It’s for Le Parisien to exist in this universe.”
The hope is that the teenagers who enjoy the publisher’s videos now will come back later as paying subscribers. “So it’s a long-term strategy. It’s crucial, it’s a matter of life or death actually, just to be there and exist in people’s minds,” Viers says.
Publisher bio: Le Parisien is both a regional (with nine local editions) and a national newspaper (its national edition is called “Aujourd’hui en France”). The company has about 400 journalists, of whom 100 work in the Paris metropolitan area.
In terms of digital products, Le Parisien publishes 25 newsletters and produces a daily news podcast, in addition to having a separate video team. The publisher’s website is among the top 5 news sites in France. Overall, Le Parisien has 70,000 digital subscribers.