How Le Figaro gets people to spend 15 minutes watching live video

French newspaper Le Figaro is getting people to spend more time watching its live videos by adding interactive features.

The right-leaning daily rebooted its video player and has been running most of its videos on the new player since September, including about 60 hours of live video a month. With the new player, viewers can comment (after logging in on Facebook), and post reactions, and they will soon be able to vote on video. Along with driving engagement and subscriptions, Le Figaro hopes to build a more accurate picture of its viewers for advertisers with the logged-in data.

“Interactions are so important because we don’t want to be TV,” said Bertrand Gié, Le Figaro’s head of digital. “The key is being user-centric.”

Le Figaro is seeing roughly two dozen interactions per video on its rebooted video player, Gié said. More interactions take place on Facebook than on-site, as users are already logged in and conditioned to comment on the social platform. On Facebook, comments on Le Figaro’s regular show “Points de Vue,” where journalists discuss topical events, like Marine Le Pen’s aide Florian Philippot quitting the right-wing National Front party, tend to get 50 to 80 comments.

Le Figaro’s video ranges from under a minute to an hour depending on the show, and on-site, the average watch time for the videos is between 10 and 15 minutes, said Gié. Other publishers are thinking more about watch time: Bleacher Report has previously reported completion rates of between 60 to 85 percent for a five-minute video, and on YouTube, Great Big Story reports between 70 and 80 percent.

Some of the bugs are still being worked out, such as the best way for people to find the chat function. First, Le Figaro put it to the side of the video. Its high visibility there led people to talk a lot (interactions per video were in the hundreds), but often about unrelated issues. Now, users have to click a button to participate, but Gié feels it’s too hidden for people who want to engage to find it.

Le Figaro is also trying to figure out which formats get the most interaction. General discussions with politicians don’t typically get much interaction from the audience, but having a journalist cover live events like sports — such as this video covering the semi-final of the chess world championship — or protests and answer viewers’ questions does better. This video about space probe Cassini’s mission to Saturn is representative of the added value of video on digital, said Gié: The video is broadcast, then the audience asks the experts questions. On Facebook, the video has 174 comments. Soon, it will merge the Facebook and Le Figaro chat feeds, so commentators on both platforms will see all the interactions.

For now, the videos are all free to watch and monetized with pre-roll ads, but the hope is that interaction levels will lead to subscriber growth. A similar strategy is in place at publishers including The Times of London and Financial Times, which have found that those who comment on written articles are more likely to subscribe. Le Figaro has about 60,000 online subscribers, according to the publisher.

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