“The challenge now is not just to anticipate the future but to adapt to it”

interviews

“The challenge now is not just to anticipate the future but to adapt to it”

“The challenge now is not just to anticipate the future but to adapt to it”

Comments gathered by Alexandra Klinnik. Photos by Antoine Doyen - Publié le 10 décembre 2017
0
0

Since the year 2000, Thomas Karolak has devoted his career to bringing media publications into the digital age. Today, he is Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of Les Echos, France's biggest financial media group. For 18 months, he poured heart and soul into overhauling the group's website, an intense digital experience he shares with Story Jungle in this interview.

Four months ago, you launched the new Les Echos website. What were your goals and your guiding principles?

We are operating in what we call a VUCA world, a world full of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In such an environment, it is vital for us to position ourselves and firmly establish our status as a leading media player. Our number one priority is being a cutting-edge media organisation that constantly adapts to changing practices, helping our customers and readers in their own digital transformation.

To redesign the website, we analysed usage practices and consumption habits and came up with a list of 10 guiding principles. 

The first was to focus on the idea of routine, because people's long-term reading practices are shaped by the habits they form over time and the experiences they have along the way. We reviewed our editorial offering, introducing new regular features, more engaging newsletters, and exclusive news reserved for premium subscribers.
«People's long-term reading practices are shaped by the habits they form over time and the experiences they have along the way»
Our second guiding principle was based on the following observation: our homepages are our first point of contact with our readership, but, unlike our articles, these pages did not engage the reader. We therefore decided to move away from a click-oriented mentality and focus instead on keeping the reader's attention. That meant offering content-rich homepages with real editorial substance, rather than simple catalogues of content. 

Our second guiding principle was based on the following observation: our homepages are our first point of contact with our readership, but, unlike our articles, these pages did not engage the reader. We therefore decided to move away from a click-oriented mentality and focus instead on keeping the reader's attention. That meant offering content-rich homepages with real editorial substance, rather than simple catalogues of content. 

Newsletters are often a separate experience from the rest of the site. Since the overhaul, we now not only send out our newsletters by email in the traditional fashion, but also offer our readers daily newsletters on our homepage. We do all we can to make sure the user can cut to the chase, save time, and find what they are looking for as easily as possible.
«Today, value lies not in quantity but in quality»

What metrics did you have in mind?

We were looking to create engagement through two experiences. The first was aimed at leads, based on the advertising model, while the second targeted existing subscribers, providing them with a premium environment with fewer ads and optimal reading comfort. Nowadays, the emphasis needs to be placed on functionalities and the reader experience. No one is prepared to pay for extra articles: the idea is to get readers onboard with an experience and work on the way we use our brand through a new, customised offer.

Four months after the new site was launched, feedback has been very pleasing: engagement has been achieved through the experiences offered to both leads and existing subscribers. We have made huge progress in our visibility – a statistic to which advertisers and advertising agencies pay great attention – and have grown our print capacity. As far as the subscriber experience goes, we have increased the number of pages viewed, time spent on the site, and click-through from one section to another.
 
 
HIS LIFE PHILOSOPHY

What is your mantra?

(attributed to Seneca, though there is no evidence he actually said it): “Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.”

Who is your guru?

I tend to be more of a believer in the idea that certain people inspire you at certain points in your life. At the moment, for instance, I really admire Karl Lagerfeld, who I see as the epitome of high standards, perfectionism and humour. He had that ability to look at his own work with an objective eye, and his creativity was simply stunning.

How do you keep your chakras balanced?

Lots of music, lots of exercise, and quality time with my family.

Do you have any particular goal as regards revenue breakdown?

We are lucky enough to be a media organisation with three revenue streams, which is rare in France. We use the advertising model, the subscription model and diversification activities. 

We are very active in pursuing external growth and in developing service activities alongside our media business. That diversification has seen us acquire a number of companies, such as Netexplo, Pelham and Binge Audio, and co-organise events such as VivaTech (with Publicis) and Médias en Seine (with Franceinfo). 

The challenge now is not just to anticipate the future, but to adapt to it. On the advertising front, we continue to integrate new advertising formats in the lead experience – from MRECS, to covers, to wallpaper arches. The idea is to offer brands advertising space in the most appropriate places, and we are increasingly developing special operations and new podcasts and video content to help us meet that need. 

Subscriptions-wise, redesigning the site has propelled us over the 50,000-subscriber mark for the Les Echos brand. Digital subscribers outnumbered print subscribers in 2018.
Redesigning your site means offering new formats. One new format you have launched on the Les Echos website is the La Story podcast. What else do you have in store?Editorially speaking, nothing is off the table. We prefer long-form journalism that explores issues in depth, be it through videos or detailed graphics. People often say Brut has revolutionised video content on social media. They certainly have impressive viewing figures, but I don't know what their business model is. In today's fast-changing world, readers need things explained to them clearly. At Les Echos, we are committed to formats that explain the facts to our readers.

What is your relationship with social media? Are you friends or foes?

Neither. We are in "coopetition": cooperation and competition. In today's world, we can't do without GAFA, economically or in terms of usage practices. The advertising market is dominated by GAFA, but it's also important to cultivate your own ecosystem. We need to find more of a balance. These days, our media experience is less about the other media outlets we are competing with and more about our interaction with these new market players and platforms. It is clear that we cannot do without them.

And finally, what do you read, and where do you get your news?

Les Echos, of course, The Innovator (another of the group's brands), but also a lot of Medium, AOC Media, ADN, Siècle Digital, and tech articles or blogs I might come across on Twitter and Linkedin. And TedX videos for a little inspiration.


bio
Thomas Karolak,
Chief Digital Officer, Les Echos group
Thomas Karolak began his career at French TV broadcaster M6 in 2000, helping launch the channel’s web subsidiary and leading its first forays into digital diversification, as a project manager and then a product manager. After working for TF1 subsidiary TJM in 2007 as Head of Content, he joined Vivendi as Marketing Director of the subsidiary Vivendi Mobile Entertainment, where he remained from 2008 to 2011. He then returned to TF1 to develop the MYTF1 brand on mobiles, tablets, IPTV and connected TV. From 2013 to 2017, he worked for RTL Group, taking charge of the digital transformation of the RTL, RTL2 and Fun Radio brands as CEO of the RTLnet subsidiary. He has been Chief Digital Officer (CDO) of the Les Echos group since 2017, sitting on the management committee and leading a 70-strong team.
JUNGLE
refe
Find the right track
through the content jungle
Story Jungle is a leading independent content marketing agency, specialising in campaigns for premium and B2B target audiences.

With a comprehensive network of international correspondents, the Agency creates editorial strategies in multiple languages throughout EMEA, LATAM and Asia. We are experts in Thought Leadership, Influence, Inbound Marketing, Social Selling and Account-Based Marketing (ABM) campaigns.

Story Jungle was selected by LinkedIn to become one of only 10 certified global Content Partners.

Introducing Story Jungle Agency
The agency
We lead the fight
in the war on boring
We at Story Jungle powerfully believe that your convictions are your commercial weapons.

However: 71% of C-suite executives in Europe believe most branded content is... "boring*". And 64% of them expect a brand to adopt an authentic and original point of view.

That’s why we place such importance on creating content strategies that really make your target audience stop and think. Let’s lead the fight in the war on boring.

*Rconteur, 2017.
Turnover is
the new KPI
All our services are geared to helping you align your sales and marketing teams.

Our expertise? Create a distributed storytelling strategy custom-made for the most appropriate distribution channels (SEO, LinkedIn, Twitter, newsletter...) and produce content in the formats that resonate most powerfully with your audience (video opinion columns, long forms, nanographics...) with the single-minded purpose of enabling you to achieve your objectives: brand awareness, consideration and lead generation.

For us, turnover is the new KPI.
Know-how
Know-how
Know-how
Know-how
Content
Editorial strategy and content production
Story Jungle covers the entire content creation cycle: from establishing editorial strategies (or Content Frameworks) using our unique methodology, to producing innovative, dynamic content using the latest, cutting-edge formats.

Our French and international editorial teams have worked for some of the world’s best-known media outlets and conceptualise and create high value-added editorial content that engages premium and/or B2B audiences.
Know-how
Know-how
Distribution
Web platforms, social networks, LinkedIn, newsletters, podcasts, new media
With its expertise as a publisher, Story Jungle helps brands create their distribution strategy across all established and emerging channels to maximize the performance of their content.

Story Jungle is one of only 10 certified LinkedIn Content Partners worldwide.
Know-how
Know-how
Data and performance
A/B testing, optimization, lead review
Data is at the heart of any marketing strategy. Story Jungle monitors your campaign success throughout its lifecycle, ensuring you achieve your goals: detection of Weak Signals, A/B testing, top angle selection, optimization of content formats, evaluation of the quality of leads generated.
international
impact
With more than 10,000 contributors worldwide and a network of correspondents built up during more than a decade’s experience, Story Jungle's international editorial team produces content on all topic themes, in all formats and in multiple languages for clients throughout the EMEA, LATAM and Asian regions. Our locally-based correspondents ensure content is in-step with local market styles and structures.
Mantras
Mantras
The war on
BORING!
Accuracy at all
costs
R&D is in
our DNA
Don’t bite off
more than you can chew
Audience is king
Do what you
say,and say
what you do
Time is quality
Save the Jungle!

The war on BORING!

Your convictions are your commercial weapons.
However: 71% of C-suite executives in Europe believe most branded content is... "boring".
And 64% of them expect a brand to adopt an authentic and original point of view.

And, be honest, who likes listening to so-called “experts” repeating the same tired old trends that went out of style years ago? That's why at Story Jungle, we pledged to lead the war on boring. That's our mission!

Accuracy at all costs

It’s our guiding star. Factual errors, inaccuracies, approximations... are all banned at Story Jungle. We believe: “Haste makes waste”! Our processes guarantee rigorous fact-checking of all our content.

R&D is in our DNA

Discovering new formats is our specialty. Story Jungle teams are on constant lookout for new formats and content approaches, scouring the Web to unearth innovative attention-grabbing storytelling styles from around the world. Want to find out more? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew

Good creative ideas are worth their weight in gold, right? So don’t twist it out of shape just to make sure it hits every single goal of every single stakeholder. Stay focused! Prioritize. Make some tough choices. At Story Jungle our goal is simple: execute the creative idea, don’t kill it.

Audience is king

At the end of the day, it is the quality of audience engagement that allows you to achieve your campaign objectives, whatever they may be. Story Jungle always demands its content has a “real media” approach, making audience interest a top priority – if its too corporate, no one will read it. Our editors are all tried and tested frontline journalists from some of the world’s leading internationally renowned media titles.

Do what you say, and say what you do

At Story Jungle we try to give you maximum visibility throughout all stages of project development. When we commit to a deadline, we deliver on time, every time.

Time is quality

"All the success of an operation lies in its preparation" (The Art of War). There, I said it! Whether it's responding to a client brief, a call for tender, designing a content campaign or simply a single impactful asset, at Story Jungle, we agree with Sun Tzu. In the words of French poet Nicolas Boileau: "Hasten slowly, and without losing heart, Put your work twenty times upon the anvil: Polish it over and over again, and then polish it once more; sometimes add, and often erase."

Save the Jungle!

If we carry on like this, there will be no more jungle. So yes, the Story Jungle team all voted – yes, we actually sat down and voted – to make projects that promote environmental and social goals a priority. We want to make a real positive impact and play our part in saving the jungle
References
References
Contact us
Contact us
Have a project or question to discuss?
Just want to swing through the Jungle and grab a coffee? Drop us a message
SEND
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Take Part Media, 36 rue du Chemin-Vert, 75011 Paris - Tel : 01 43 47 35 12