When Julien Pain started working at France Info, he was given four months to get the new TV channel off the ground.
Pain is editor in chief of new formats at France Info, an initiative from France Television, and he and his team have two challenging tasks: creating videos that work both on television and on social media, and reaching a younger audience.
One thing that helped get the channel from the drawing board to broadcast in four months was knowing the team was allowed to fail, Pain explained, speaking at the News Xchange conference in Denmark on 30 November. As long as some of the videos reached new audiences and thus met their brief, it did not matter that some did not fare so well.
“We add a lot of text, a lot of data, a lot of infographics. We broadcast live a lot, but not on France Info, we do it on Facebook mainly.
“We very often mix humour and news… because we believe that we can learn things and at the same time, have a good time. If young people are not having a good time, they won’t listen to you as a teacher,” he added.
The channel started broadcasting on 1 September 2016, and its relatively new presence on social media has proven to be effective.
France Info gets more than one million video views a day on Facebook, Pain told delegates, and the average age of its audience is around half that of France Television’s news bulletins, which are watched by viewers with the average age of 60.
But it has not been easy to find the right video formats to suit the channel’s initial brief. France Info started broadcasting videos without sound, as news organisations tend to produce for Facebook.
As viewers watching the TV at home cannot give it their undivided attention at times and read all the text on the screen, the strategy shifted.
“We had to reintroduce voice to the TV packages. Given the short experience we have, success on digital is really in the detail.”
France Info’s also been using a format native to YouTube, “draw my life”, to tell its own story as well as other news, under the name "draw my news".
And with the French elections coming up in 2017, Pain has also been focusing on fact-checking. He explained simply posting the fact-checks on social media, whether that was through his own accounts or France Info, was not an effective strategy, as the echo-chamber effect means you are fact-checking for people who already believe you.
As such, he has been taking fact-checking to the streets of France.
“Every week I do a Facebook Live in the streets, and I come with my fake news and I talk to people about that.
“I know my impact is limited, it’s a drop in the ocean. I know I won’t convince most of these people they should listen to us journalists more than Facebook pages. But it’s a fight we need to take to the streets.
“If we don’t want to lose this fight we all have to think differently and do our job differently.”