As digital dominates, catch 'em young
DUBAI, Feb 27, 2013 (Khaleej Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The most inspiring talk on the second day of the 8th Middle East WAN IFRA conference was the session after lunch which was delivered by Polish news editor Grzegorz Piechota. Based in Warsaw, Piechota is one of the head honchos at Gazeta Wyborcza -- a daily newspaper which covers the gamut of political, international and general news in the country.
Piechota's presentation, titled 'How to succeed in the digital world' enlightened the audience on the importance of embracing the digital world, rather than fearing it. Illustrating his points, citing many anecdotes, on the progress made by post-Communist Poland, he also spoke on the necessity to catch 'em young.
Forty-one per cent of Internet users in Poland, Piechota said, were under 25, while 65 per cent were younger than 35: "If we don't reach them when they're young, we'll never reach them." Fittingly, when it was time to wrap up his talk, the captivated audience were shown a clip of his one-year-old son Adam playing with a tablet and web-chatting with his grandparents who were "simple labourers" who lived 400kms from Warsaw. Such is the reach of technology in the country, Piechota said 30 per cent of their advertising revenues come via online streams.
And as a man whose newspaper company runs a profitable digital business of over 200 websites -- that reach 60 per cent of all Internet users in Poland -- he's certainly a man who knows what he's talking about. Piechota said he started nearly two decades ago as a field reporter in south-west Poland and grew through the ranks in his organisation.
He said, throughout his career journey, he has learnt that "people are scared to death by the vision of failure". He stressed the need for companies to allow their employees, their journalists to take risks.
Innovation, he said, was imperative for progress, and failure was a good thing, for how else was one to "learn from mistakes".
The essentials, in his book, is for media groups to "grow like a tropical forest". Piechota also emphasised the need to involve people, so to build an online community of readers. He spoke of how, for instance, there was no longer need for a special interiors magazine, as message boards on newspaper websites now allow people to easily communicate and ask for advice on subjects such as how to renovate their kitchens. People, as he proved by anecdote after anecdote, aren't stingy with feedback when they know it's for a communal good.
Piechota also gave the example of how "in post-communist Poland", at his newspaper, they started working on the notion of letting people tell the story. In one instance, new mothers were asked for their feedback of the hospitals in Poland, and the response was overwhelming: 40,000 online reviews arrived for 300 Polish maternity wards.
Also very enlightening were talks by Peter Littger, Country Director Germany, Innovation International Media Consulting Group, Berlin, Germany and Dr Mario Garcia, CEO and Founder of Garcia Media Group Inc in Tampa, USA.
Littger's talk was engaging all the way -- perhaps though mostly entirely to journalists. He spoke of the overwhelming need and reader demand to move away from 'news', as we know it, to what is 'new'. His talk was full of catchy phrases that weren't quite marketing jargon -- "develop your snowball", and "marmalade droppers", and a free news versus paid firewalls issue was made into a peanuts versus caviar metaphor: "Find your scarcity and you will find your money."
In a wrap of the day, and on a positive note, Dr Garcia stated it best by saying, "this is the best of times for us in the media world, but we need to be ready for constant change".
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