Konbini is a new generation media company reaching 60 million unique visitors a year in over 30 countries. With their fresh take on journalism and relaxed vibe, Konbini has become a major player in the world of pop culture.

Konbini in figures

Konbini may already have made its mark among millennials, but their international success story is as yet unknown. David Creuzot and Lucie Beudet set up Konbini in 2008 to provide mega brands with a global platform capable of reaching young people throughout the world. An aim they have definitely attained ten years later with offices in Paris, London, New York, Mexico and Lagos. David and Lucie take a look back at Konbini’s international journey with TextMaster. They now have over 100 staff worldwide. Take a behind the scenes look at a business model which put globalisation at the heart of everything they did, right from the start.

Konbini generates two thirds of its audience internationally. What point are you at in terms of growth and what are your aims?

Konbini has experienced strong growth of around 150% every year. We have grown considerably on an international level since 2011 and international visitors make up two thirds of our audience today. We have already opened offices in London, Paris, New York, Mexico and Lagos in Nigeria, amassing a staff of around one hundred, almost half of whom are journalists.

We are now concentrating our growth within emerging markets. These are really active regions where the number of millennials (people born between the 80s and 2000) and the proportion of smartphones means they hold great promise for Konbini.

Following our success in Mexico and Nigeria, we are planning to launch in India, where we have already started a testing phase. We are also working on a version of Konbini in South Korea. We have decided to leave China for the time being due to the relative difficulty of accessing social media, an essential outlet for Konbini.

Our growth right now is focused on emerging countries. They offer a particularly dynamic and promising opportunity for Konbini

How do you choose which countries to target?

Our aim is to position ourselves in every geographic location where millennials hold a dominant position.

We use three main selection criteria:

  • The proportion of millennials in the population: there are several regions which have a high population of young people including millennials who are our main target market. There are around 90 million millennials in Mexico, for example, representing 70% of the population, and more than 70 million in Nigeria.
  • The proportion of mobile equipment: our key content is generated via mobile networks, so this is a primordial concern.
  • Social media penetration: this is one of our main ways of distributing content so good reach is essential.

Once the country is selected, we carry our test campaigns to gauge the interest of both our audience and advertisers.

This phase is three-fold:

  • 1) Testing the audience with content in English: we select specific English content in order to gauge the interest within a new market and measure engagement (number of likes, shares, etc.) This step has the advantage of being run easily from London or Paris via social media.
  • 2) Testing the production of content locally: this step requires more engagement as we observe the impact of local content on the audience and measure their interest. We also test this local content in other countries to ensure that it can be shared.
  • 3) Gauging the interest of advertisers: we check that Konbini’s main advertisers are interested in these new markets so we can ensure monetisation.

We use this system for all new target markets and we take a step by step approach. Take for example Nigeria, we entered the market by creating a partnership with LagosPhoto Festival allowing us to meet the key insiders.

One of our advantages at Konbini is that some of our main advertisers are large global brands and they follow us into new territories.

Has it been more difficult to monetise Konbini’s audience internationally?

Everything is a question of audience share. It is very difficult to monetise anything below a 10-15% audience share. However, once we reach that target, advertisers identify us as a key player and monetisation is triggered exponentially.

Today, we cover 7 million millennials in France, more than 50% of the target cover. From now on we hope to replicate this strategy in all of our target countries, becoming the main point of contact for advertisers.

One of our advantages at Konbini is that some of our main advertisers are large global brands and they follow us into new territories. We prioritise globalising budgets over increasing local advertisers. This strategy has already proved fruitful, particularly with Coca-Cola which now works with us in several countries.

All pop everything

What has been your growth model?

We believe it will become very difficult to launch into a new market without some kind of in-country presence. So we decided to open offices in each country, in Paris, London, New York, Mexico and Lagos.

However, we strongly believe in pooling our resources whether that be in terms of creating content or sales.

We have already established a strong ethos for content sharing, which means certain content that has been produced in other countries can be recycled. Konbini’s content in Mexico for example, brings together American, British and French content which has been translated.

This content sharing works because of a key trend: millennials and the content they consume is becoming ever more globalised. Although certain local barriers may still exist, they are progressively disappearing, paving the way for a much more uniform, globalised culture.

The proportion of shared content varies according to country. Only 20% of local content is produced in Mexico, whereas we plan to produce more than 50% in Nigeria for cultural reasons.

Our advertising department is even more globalised with a limited sales presence in Paris, London and New York in line with our strategy for targeting global advertisers.

Millennials and the content they consume are becoming more and more globalised. Although there may still be some local barriers, they are slowly disappearing, paving the way for a more uniform culture.

How much consideration have you given to localising your content?

Experience has taught us that simple duplication of our content doesn’t always work.

For example, we launched in the States with an editorial that was very similar to our UK version. We had hoped to replicate our model by reproducing content which ensured our success in entertainment in Europe. This was not sufficient to contend with the host of players in this field in the States.

We lost at least 6 months before we started to see things from a different angle. We finally identified a strong community around environmental content, and we managed to become part of it. This then enabled us to enter and then grow within the American market.

What difficulties did you experience internationally?

We took a while to find the right methods and understand the different markets we were expanding into. Sharing absolutely everything in the same way doesn’t work.

Probably the biggest challenge is to be taken seriously and to be seen as trustworthy on a local level. Recreating a professional network is hard work and requires a lot of energy and patience.

Lucie and I lived through it ourselves when we decided to move to London to assist with Konbini’s growth. We had to start from scratch, all the while ensuring that everything in France was running smoothly in our absence.

We also ran into difficulties when we first tried to globalise Konbini’s office culture. We hit several road blocks and it took both patience and sticking to our guns to ensure that all international teams were part of one sole entity. Globalisation was initially seen by the teams as a risk rather than an opportunity.

Globalisation was initially seen by our teams as a risk rather than an opportunity.

How do you manage your teams long distance?

As globalisation is at the core of our culture, it is essential that we maintain links between our different offices. We have placed great importance on technology which allows us to share content, dashboards and feedback with a strong focus on collaboration.

This hyper-connectivity has allowed us to create a real company culture and to strengthen friendships between staff who have not necessarily ever met in person. That is one of our great successes.

Today we see Konbini as one big team spread-out throughout the world.

We have also refused to adopt a hierarchical organisation. As the founders, we favour hyper-accountability over a hierarchy. We do not check or sanction content produced by our teams but prefer to support them with a more iterative approach.

France is such a complex market, that anyone who is successful in France has no reason not to be successful internationally...

What advice would you give to other international entrepreneurs?

I think the best piece of advice is to be extremely flexible. Always question what you are doing and don’t try to impose your model, exactly the way it is, in another country, at all costs.

You also need to have a team around you who you trust completely. You can’t start an international adventure without a solid management team so you can delegate operational issues.

On the whole we believe that global movement is inevitable, so you have to start thinking internationally as soon as possible. Your home country should be considered as a test market, giving you the ability to lay the foundations for international growth. France is such a complex market, that anyone who is successful in France has no reason not to be successful internationally…

 

Thanks to David Creuzot & Lucie Beudet for sharing their experiences of international growth.

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