lundi 11 juin 2018

Social media at the French newsstand: hybridization of influencers?

The press has always taken advantage of other media to create new magazines, even if it was thereby helping its competitors on the advertising market: radio, cinema, television and video games. It is therefore not too surprising to see the digital media give birth to magazines. At the beginning, television networks brought new blood to the press (TV Guide), now social media are injecting their dynamics into the legacy media. We should also remember that the press itself is still a hybrid medium, paper and digital. This hybridization is welcome as well as favorable to an association with digital media and their influencers.

Recently, two major European publishers, Hachette and Mondadori, each launched a French magazine (paper first) to cover young digital stars. YouTube brings an audience of modern youth that the press so badly needs. In exchange, the magazines offer YouTube stars legitimacy and add to their visibility (reach): France boasts more than 20,000 points of purchase for the press. Moreover, these magazines also generate their own online presence, website, and app, re-enforcing awareness and the reputation of Youtube stars and their channels where, as influencers, they advertise and sell products.
YouTube is the new television for the new generation (in addition to Netflix); according to Pew Research Center, it is the most favorite popular platform among American teens (13-17 years). They use it more than Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Will these magazines become a new kind of TV guide for these digital times?

L'atelier de Roxane (Roxane's workshop)
Roxane is a so-called influencer, a "socialtubeuse". She boasts 2 million followers/subscribers on social media. Reminiscent of a woman's magazine, Mondadori publishes L'atelier de Roxane fortnightly for a price of 5.90 Euros (7 USD). Published as a special issue of Closer Teen, it is distributed via newsstands throughout France. The magazine has 68 pages and targets kids, young teenagers and their mothers. No brand advertising in the first issue but every item, cooking tool or fashion, is for sale on an online store (promotion): we count 77 items for sale in the magazine, ranging from 1.59€ (for a dog treat) to 455€ (for a mixer). 77 micro-influences and recommendations, and so well done: no impression of clutter! You want to trust Roxane's bits of advice! Micro-influencers show a new advertising business model for the media.
A digital version can be read on the publisher's website for 4.50€ (4 USD) and on YouTube, of course. Cooking is the major subject (cake design): baking made simple (easy)for everyone ("la pâtisserie accessible à tous"), mostly with recipes for sweets, pastry, and candy. Roxane covers fashion as well: "Mon look of the day".
In "My Life": Roxane introduces her family, her husband and their two kids (11 and 7 years old), and their dog. "Nos abonnés font partie de notre vie, de notre famille" ("Our subscribers are part of our life, a part of the family"). Roxane is 28 years old and trained as a child care worker. She presents herself as a friend and sounds like a fun mom, her tone is somehow demagogue, she seems too old to speak that way. Nevertheless, the magazine is cleverly positioned, both as a parenting magazine (DIY, cooking) and a kids magazine.

WEBUZZ. Le magazine n°1 des stars du web (Number one magazine for web stars)
Launched in February by Hachette Presse, the monthly is almost exclusively dedicated to YouTube and its numerous influencers (although there is also an article about Snapchat, one about Instagram, one about Facebook). 3.95 €, 100 pages.
On the cover, Norman, 31 years old (not a teenager!) is a French star on YouTube who boasts 10 million followers. Most of the magazine content covers YouTube culture with articles such as "YouTube is my only friend" ("YouTube est mon seul ami") or another covering a visit of the YouTube building in Paris. Webuzz presents many portraits or interviews of YouTube stars, mentioning the number of followers.
Who are the advertisers? Fashion, Galeries Lafayette (department store), a hip-hop FM radio station, comic books, a novel (by Zoella). Among the articles: a clever one discussing the communication gap, comparing the younger generation's lifestyle to that of their parents ("Retrobuzz"), articles about video games, a "shopping" page (about fashion, between 7.90€ and 69€), a cooking article (cake with lots of M&Ms, a recipe from Roxane). Conclusion: "Everyone can become a star, send your video" ("à toi la gloire"). With YouTube, every teenager can hope for their 10 minutes of fame.

Both magazines share a style, a vocabulary, teenager slang, allusions, Frenglish, gestures, body language, facial expressions ("techniques of the body", Marcel Mauss), tastes, grimaces. These patterns of a new culture (probably short-lived) call for a new ethnography. Again the social networks are full of "intimate strangers", too intimate to be true ("family", "my only friend"!).

  • Richard Schickel, Intimate Strangers. The culture of Celebrity in America, 2000, 334 p.
  • Ruth Benedict, Patterns of culture, 1934, 291p.
  • MediaMediorum, "Les médias sociaux des enfants passent au papier", August 2018

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