Digital, video, social media

In March 2018, we published a post about the new short video phenomenon in France, looking into their unique presence on social media. As we are launching our new website, we wanted to check if they were still on an upward trend two years later.

In 2019, Brut put its best yellow forward

Without a doubt, 2018 and 2019 were the years which saw Brut come under the spotlights in France and the company founders have the “yellow jackets” protesters – among others – to thank for their success.

Indeed, while all French and international media focused on the “yellow jackets” protests, Brut was the only one appealing to protesters and, as Eric Drouet highlighted in a poll held on his Facebook page, this put Brut in the lead amongst “free media that could put out [their content] on a ‘yellow jackets’ media page”. It is important to bear in mind that this survey took place in an atmosphere of loss of confidence in all press and media in France reflected in the Kantar 2019 Barometer of French Confidence in the Media: at the time, radio registered a loss of confidence of 50%, written press went down by 44% and television by 38%.

Brut’s success was also boosted by Rémy Buisine, a journalist who made a name for himself in 2016 with a series of videos showing the General Assemblies held during the “Nuit debout” movement via Periscope. From the early stages, he set out to analyse and dissect in real time all aspects of this new kind of grass-root movement, falling victim to police tear gas attacks and brutality.

Every Saturday, Brut strengthened the confidence in which it was held by the “yellow jackets” and the public at large, and its videos were watched by 20 million people, thus succeeding in changing its image from a millennials’ social medium to a reliable source of information.

2019 was made complete for Brut when it raised 40 million dollars in order to accelerate its growth in the US. In October of the same year, the company reported 30 million active viewers worldwide and videos seen over 1.1 billion times in September.

Time to “buzz off” for Maxime Barbier et Laure Lefèvre, founders of Vertical Station

The picture was not quite so rosy when it comes to other video and digital media. Take Vertical Station (formerly known as ‘MinuteBuzz’), for example. Whilst, in January 2018, Maxime Barbier declared to the review ADN that the change in algorithm by Facebook would not affect MinuteBuzz contents – he was counting on the engaged community and strong bonds between the founders and Facebook European leaders – it is now obvious that the results were not the ones he expected.

Indeed, a strong dependence to Facebook and the limited visibility of its contents due to the new algorithm signed the end of MinuteBuzz – or rather its founders’. By the end of 2019, they were evicted from the company by French television channel TF1, which had held a majority interest in the company since 2016. However, it would seem both parties “buried the hatchet” since an agreement was found for TF1 to buy back the 29% shares held by Laure Lefèvre and Maxime Barbier, so that the French television channel now owns the medium in its entirety.

YouTube, king of the jungle?

One of the major evolutions that took place in recent years is YouTube’s metamorphosis from a platform almost entirely dedicated to entertainment (at least if we consider the channels with the greatest number of followers) into a main source of information. Even if we set aside television content, more and more video channels analyzing hot topics are popping up every day. HugoDecrypte, managed by Hugo Travers, who does not hesitate to go to Beyrouth, Lebanon, to meet face-to-face with the victims of the recent explosion that obliterated part of the city, and AudeWTFake by Aude Favre, who is trying to set up a antifake collaborative editorial committee, are two examples of this trend.

What about the others?

In our previous post, we made references to French media such as Explicite, Monkey, and Gneu. Unfortunately, these did not meet the same success as Brut did. On January 31st of 2019, daily newspaper Le Monde announced that the online info medium Explicite had ceased its activities – less than a year after it was launched. There were many reasons to this: lack of investment, low subscription rate (Explicite became a paying service in September 2018), and a rather blurry editorial line. Like Vertical Station, Explicite’s untimely end shows how hard it can be for an online medium to set up a sustainable economic model. Although everything seems fine for Brut, since in 2020, they diversified their activities by partnering with Spotify and Paradiso to launch a podcast service, questions about the medium’s sustainability as well as its economic model’s remain.

Lastly, for the ones who fancy parodic media, Gneu – which used to repost altered Brut video contents, replacing written text by the onomatopoeia “gneu-gneu-gneu” (to be read as “nyeu-nyeu-nyeu”) – has now been replaced by Broute, a satirical medium featured online and on French television channel Canal+ that distorts current social issues. Highly recommended for those who need a good laugh (in French)!


Alexandra Corbelli