Created in March 2018 by journalist Mara Luquet and actor and screenwriter Antonio Tabet, the Brazilian journalism channel on YouTube, MyNews, completed two years in 2019 with a growing audience of 345,000 subscribers, about 30 people on staff and more than half a million Reais in profit (about US $99,000).
The channel was one of four Brazilian initiatives that received investment from YouTube News Innovation Funding in 2018, which distributed US $25 million dollars globally. "YouTube told us that we are the benchmark for journalism on the platform in the world," Luquet told the Knight Center during a meeting in São Paulo in February prior to the recording of the program Segunda Chamada.
The director of news and sports at YouTube Brazil, Eduardo Brandini, told the Knight Center, by email, that MyNews is "an important journalism initiative that since its launch has focused on YouTube as its main production and distribution platform.”
A presentation document about the channel, published on the Google News Initiative website, says that in the first eleven months of 2019, MyNews had a 130 percent increase in subscribers and doubled the average monthly views, going from 1 million to 2 million. In the same period, revenue grew 16 times, and the average time watched went from 12.5 minutes to 15 minutes.
Currently, the channel has 14 programs on YouTube, in various formats and free to watch, which include debates, interviews and columns, mainly on politics, economics and finance. Among them, Segunda Chamada (Second Call), the most watched program on MyNews, which airs every Monday at 8:30 pm, discusses topics of the week with interviewees and authorities, such as president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, or general vice president Hamilton Mourão.
In Google’s analysis, the freedom given to journalists to innovate and test new formats is considered crucial to the sustainable growth of the channel. MyNews experimented with videos focused on a personality, where the presenter is always the same. This model generated a lot of engagement because the audience feels closer to the presenter. Explanatory and debate formats were successful with young people, according to Google's analysis.
As tips, the document suggests encouraging the team to use new technologies and be patient in order to gradually create a digital video strategy. "Create a culture so your teams enjoy the creative discovery process as much as production,” the analysis said,
Luquet said that the entry of Tabet, the screenwriter, to the initiative was very important, because he brought, among other things, his experience with the humorous channel Porta dos Fundos (Back door), on YouTube.
"He arrived on the Internet when there was nothing. We learned from him that YouTube is not TV. For example, in one of our first meetings we were defining programming. And he said: 'Internet is not like that. You launch two or three programs and, if it works, you keep it. If it doesn't work, it’s taken down. 'The programming grid is formed over time, according to people's feedback," explained Luquet, who has a career in print and television journalism.
One of the big differences, according to her, is the interaction with the public, which has a high rate of participation. "Our boss is the audience, they send story ideas, criticism. We read everything, absorb it, and use it to build the channel,” she said.
As the format of MyNews is considered innovative and there are few references of its kind on the Internet, learning takes place through trial and error. Luquet cited the case of Segunda Chamada, which lasts an hour or more. "Everyone said that we were crazy, that on the Internet the videos needed to be two minutes long to go viral. Today, Segunda Chamada is our most watched program, it has already had more than one million views. People stay until the end and comment. And they’re not robots,” she said.
In the case of MyNews, some programs are more informal than television journalism, but Tabet says that this is not a rule. "I do humor because I'm a comedian, but it doesn't have a specific language, we are creating our language. We are on the leading edge in this respect. It is completely empirical, this model has worked with us, but it may be that others work, it doesn't mean that we discovered gunpowder," he told the Knight Center, while making a quick snack before recording a show.
Regarding informality, Tabet comments that it is "quite liberating" to be able to treat authorities with a different tone, which they are not used to. And that creates a more relaxed environment for interviews. When the Knight Center attended the live recording of Segunda Chamada in February, Tabet started the program, with ex-president Michel Temer, by asking: "Are you missing your ex? MyNews brings the ex back.” The comedian's comment drew a smile from the former Brazilian president, known for his formality.
Another piece of feedback that Google gave to MyNews is that the channel has been bringing an audience to YouTube that was not on the platform, those over 25 years of age. In addition, the channel's audience has migrated from cell phones to smart TV. "There are families watching," Luquet said.
One of MyNews' assets is to take advantage of partner studios to reduce costs, instead of setting up a structure in each city. They use a stock exchange studio in São Paulo to record a program on the economy and YouTube Space in Rio for Segunda Chamada. In addition, MyNews rents spaces in São Paulo and Brasília and helps its journalists set up studios in their homes. The channel currently has about 30 permanent employees and 20 collaborators – all journalists and columnists are paid.
Luquet said that, with the new technologies, journalists now "have the means of production in their hands.” "YouTube lets us use YouTube space in Rio, in New York, in London, Los Angeles. You get there and have equipment, technicians. We would need to set up a studio, have a TV concession, we wouldn't have the money for that. We are just a group of journalists.”
Luquet is enthusiastic about the success of MyNews which, according to her, shows that "there is an enormous demand from the audience for journalism.” "It became fashionable to say that journalism is over, it irritates me deeply. It is not over, on the contrary, you can do a lot of things. The journalist has never been more important than now," she said.
Credibility, integrity and a commitment to quality are fundamental to the growth of MyNews, according to the case study published by Google. They went through a "rigorous hiring process" and developed a code of ethics, so that the entire team was aligned. "Right from the start, My News have put credibility and integrity at the center of their strategy. They’ve found prospective partners and new audiences respond well to this approach," the document says.
In institutional videos, the channel sells itself as "journalism with freedom" and "without ideological bias." And it says it will bring diversity and plurality of ideas to combat polarization in Brazilian society.
Tabet said he decided to get involved in journalism because he was disappointed in the press. "I saw a lot of journalists doing biased stories, which had interests behind them," he said. When he learned that Luquet was interested in creating a project, Tabet wanted to participate. "I was a fan of listening to Mara on the radio," he explained.
He said that, in times of polarization, the traditional press has not done a good job of promoting plural debates. "Usually, the biggest outlets either have a current of thought that is majoritarian in their editorial line or they confuse plurality of opinion with very extreme opinions on both sides, with extreme left or extreme right columnists to attract bubbles. You don't see common sense being privileged, you see the click-hunting policy. Common sense has become a coin of little value," he said.
According to Tabet, MyNews differentiates itself by bringing different people and promoting balanced debates, in which people "agree to disagree.” He argued that many journalists have confused interviews with convincing, and that MyNews' goal is to extract from interviewees the best they have.
"We don't want to convince anyone of anything. When the mainstream press invites the extremes, it usually calls at the same time to generate a conflict, they want to see the fight on the air, I don't want that. I want a guy on the right to listen to a person on the left on our show and think, 'Hey, isn't he right on that?' And the opposite, too."
Luquet agreed. She said the channel’s commitment is to "listen to everyone." In addition, the journalist reinforced that she is concerned with the accuracy of the news. "We cannot afford to give something that has not been checked and rechecked, because we are starting our life, and all I want is for the public to trust us," she said.
Currently, the channel is financed with a mixed business model. Most of the revenue comes from sponsorships and a small part comes from subscriptions and AdSense (Google's advertising service).
Those responsible for MyNews do not reveal sponsorship values, according to them, for contractual reasons. They explain that the format is always customized, built together with the sponsors. In the beginning, some companies decided to invest in the channel as a whole, there were also cases of programs created under the name of some brands, such as Economia é Genial, which no longer exists –the name came from the brokerage Genial. Empiricus, home of investment analysis, sponsors a program on MyNews, Baita Grana, for example.
The channel’s goal, however, is to increase the share of subscriptions and AdSense in revenue. Luquet is betting mainly on increasing the number of subscribers, who pay R$ 7.99 per month. She hopes this will become MyNews' main source of revenue. Members receive exclusive content, can see programs before others and send live questions, for example. "I interrupt the program to ask the subscriber's question. He's our king, he's the guy who supports journalism," she said.
Initially, the idea was to offer mugs, t-shirts and other products to members. "But they [Google] showed us, with a survey, that what most attracts the subscriber is differentiated content, which is really cool. People want quality journalism," she said.
Luquet, who worked in some of the main outlets in the country and made a career in economic journalism, decided to quit her job at TV Globo to start her own business in 2018. At the time, she opted for the new path not because she was dissatisfied at TV Globo, where she worked for almost ten years, but because she had the desire to become an entrepreneur.
The journalist said she is passionate about technology and saw the new tools as an opportunity. "I did this several times in my career, I left the magazine, I went to the newspaper, then to TV. I like challenges. I was doing the same columns for 10 years, I saw this digital world and I knew that a lot of cool things could be done in journalism,” she explained.
For her, the big communication companies are not handling the new technologies well. Instead of investing to change the business model, they choose to fire more journalists, Luquet said. "I saw a lot of good, experienced people outside the newsroom. We have to take advantage of that."
It was not necessary to save a lot of money to start the channel, the journalist said, because they had sponsors from the beginning. And, about six months later, she was already receiving some remuneration for MyNews. "Today I earn more than I did at Globo," she said.
Asked what tips she would give to other journalists thinking about opening channels on YouTube, Luquet answered in a simple way. "Do it, because there is a demand for information.”