French lifestyle publisher Konbini pivots to news on Snapchat

French pop-culture publisher Konbini is making its Snapchat a little bit more serious, shifting to focus more on hard news versus pop-culture and entertainment.

Since November, around half of its Snapchat content is news, like coverage of protests against Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, youth demonstrations against climate change and a tour of the ruins of Mosul, Iraq. Previously, all Snapchat coverage was entertainment and pop-culture focused, like an interview with Kendrick Lamar or details of a music album drop.

“There is something in the air, a new [kind of] journalism,” said co-founder David Creuzot. “If you have a huge community, you have to report, support, act and engage your community. The volume in terms of views is important; the real measurement is how you are able to act and change something.”

The 10-year-old lifestyle publisher noticed that its younger audiences wanted to read more of its political coverage on site during the 2017 French Presidential elections. Konbini added a sprinkling of news items to its Discovery edition, kicked off by an interview with then-President François Hollande. Branching into news from entertainment and lifestyle content as a way to gain credibility is a common path for publishers, but building up recognition takes time. And so monetization is slower than lifestyle content.

According to the publisher, Konbini has 7.4 million monthly viewers on Snapchat Discover, and 1.5 million unique viewers a day. And 40 percent of viewers return between three and seven times a week.

As well as a daily Discover edition, created by a dedicated team of 10, Konbini publishes a weekly Show, Konbini Original Stories, a mini-documentary series hosted by journalist Hugo Clément. Since January, it has also published a daily Curated Story that features content from other Snapchat users. The publisher said that its Shows and Curated Stories are also getting viewers above a million per episode, and its news content performs as well as its entertainment content. Around 30 people work on Snapchat along with others from the company when needed; in total, Kobini has 180 global employees.

A recent Snapchat Show followed the issues of starvation in the Congo and led audiences to pledge €500,000 ($566,000) in one week, through a Go Fund Me page. Another episode followed a retired man who uses his garden to bury the bodies of migrants who drowned during crossings. Konbini’s Snapchat Show led people to a fundraiser page and within two days had raised enough to buy an additional plot. Another episode followed a factory where the animals were kept in inhumane conditions. The publisher said it attracted the interest from politicians interesting in shutting down the factory.

“These are stories that are emotional, something that’s true,” said co-founder Lucie Beudet. “You don’t see it in all other media, and you can act on it.”

Examples of Konbini’s Curated Stories.

Snapchat’s younger-skewing audience is a draw for publishers. Across social platforms — not including Snapchat — Konbini is 11th in France for the most video views, according to Tubular Labs. In January this year, they had climbed to fifth place, per Tubular. According to data from Mediametrie and NetRatings, Konbini’s site audience traffic has nearly halved to 2.2 million compared to the previous year when it had 3.9 million unique monthly users. Like a lot of publishers, the changing Facebook algorithm had an impact on its referral traffic. The publisher’s internal Google Analytics says its sites have 4.7 million monthly uniques.

Konbini relies on advertising revenue and branded content. It said that its Snapchat presence is profitable, but wouldn’t share revenue. The publisher’s creative department runs workshops with brands on how to create Snapchat-focused content, and it has also has worked with research firm Millward Brown to show the impact of Snapchat to advertisers. According to Konbini, there has been a 30 percent increase on average spend per advertiser from 2017 to 2018.

“There is 10 percent of the market that is perfectly aware of what’s going on [with Snapchat advertising;] then there’s 60 percent who are interested and want to test but don’t have strong knowledge of new ways,” said Creuzot.

“In essence, they are reproducing the general-interest-news model,” said François Godard, European media and telecoms analyst at Enders Analysis. “Many of those general news brands are already on Snapchat and have bigger resources.” And even they are re-assessing the platform: The New York Times stopped publishing to Snapchat in December. “Konbini needs to have a strong view of what they want to cover and a personality.”

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