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Sunny Side of the Doc examines YouTube's issues and opportunities for documentaries


- A conference was held on the 2nd day of La Rochelle's event on the topic of YouTube, culminating in a colourful mosaic of engaging experiences

Sunny Side of the Doc examines YouTube's issues and opportunities for documentaries
Documentary webseries DataGueule

There were no direct representatives of the famed online platform participating in the panel on YouTube, organised for the second day of the Sunny Side of the Doc event this year. But the conference entitled: "YouTube: Issues and Opportunities for the Doc?", comprising a presentation and the obligatory Q&A session, was captivating nonetheless. The participants each explored the opportunities provided by the online video giant, and shared their own experiences, piecing together a colourful mosaic of observations and ideas. 

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Julien Goetz, creator of the highly successful documentary webseries DataGueule – put together with total editorial freedom under the wing of France Télévisions (a brave step on the pubcaster's part), later securing support from the CNC and then, once the online community had grown to reach over 400,000 viewers, from a group of 7,819 fans who contributed €243,000 towards the creation of one of Datagueule’s longest episodes (and also, as it turned out, the most viewed, compared to the 3 to 4-minute episodes at the beginning of the series) – explained that his sole focus had always been to tell interesting stories, without thinking about the audience he wanted to reach or limiting himself to any one format. He went on to describe the healthy relationship he had gradually built up with his community of followers.

Annick Jakobowicz, representing the innovative Nouvelles Écritures department of France Télévisions, where DataGueule first saw the light of day, presented other examples of webseries that pick apart the modern-day world (including one social interest webseries which follows the recognised codes of fiction, and another consisting of audio recordings accompanied by non-figurative animations). She explained how long it takes to build up a YouTube community, but also how beneficial it can be for broadcasters to use a YouTube channel, not only to relay designated online content, but also to relay their traditional programmes.

Synergy can definitely be described as the driving force behind Gilles Boussion's Avignon-based company, Pandora SAS, a cluster of several YouTubers who run a movie theatre and a web design studio. Now also responsible for organising events in other venues, they are on the cusp of creating a federation of web content creators. 

Eva Zadeh (NeXT Originals), who became the producer of Alex French Guy Cooking, a YouTuber who, in her mind, was a great creative talent and who now has over 680,000 subscribers, recalled how she helped him restructure his videos and find sponsors (instead of using crowdfunding, because, in her words, "there is no miracle recipe" and every strategy must be tailor-made).

As Gilles Freissinier (Head of Web Development at ARTE) underlined, a broadcaster looking to explore digital creation should never feel restricted by the codes already in existence on YouTube and should always try to find new angles. In his mind, web creation is a great way to "test" the audience and, crucially, to understand the viewing habits of younger audiences, an opportunity not available to broadcasters who focus solely on their own websites and platforms. His two-fold approach consists, on the one hand, of bringing ARTE programmes to YouTube by adapting their format to the platform, and on the other, creating specific, designated content, traditional or web-native.

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