By Jack Fisher
NEWS businesses must take bold steps towards engaging their readership in an interactive and informative conversation, according to respected Polish media executive Grzegorz Piechota.
Mr Piechota, the news editor of Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, says a targeted approach to reader engagement has sustained a strong circulation base.
“When you think about the future of journalism, think about being a rebel,” Mr Piechota told the PANPA Future Forum held in Sydney earlier this month.
“People will come because they will see that you are a rebel … that you want to change something important for them and you have an offer for them.”
Mr Piechota called on editors to move news content “from a monologue to a dialogue” and suggested that journalists should look to start debates at a national level and on a daily basis.
“News is more a conversation today than it used to be”, he said.
He described a highly effective campaign by Gazeta Wyborcza to “end the chalk age” in schools. The campaign investigated possibilities and provided insights for teachers to implement technology in Polish classrooms.
Directed at Poland’s 650,000 teachers, which many are traditionally newspaper readers, the campaign sought to “raise the journalists who are writing about education to the level of experts."
Mr Piechota stressed it is important “that you choose such a topic and you simply flood the zone.”
“There will not be anyone else who will know more than you about it,” he said.
Mr Piechota, who serves as president of INMA Europe, suggested news companies should foster the individual brands and relevant industry expertise of news personalities,
“Maybe the newsroom is not a monolith. Maybe it is a network of very smart people and these people should develop their individual brands.”
He believes that a task-oriented approach towards employment of news staff would incentivise writers to “build communities around content” and advocated the vertical organisation of sections.
“When you look at engagement, you need to redefine your content: so who is producing what, when and where, and how is it delivered?”
Mr Piechota said that journalists should think about streams, feeds and channels of content, rather than individual articles or pictures, to better engage connected audiences.
“If you want to have your voice heard, in the past it was enough to write a commentary on the front page.
“Today, it is not enough. It will not change the reality. It will not have an influence it used to enjoy.”
Mr Piechota said this approach to news content could be applied to print media as well.
“We have a very successful narrative feature series. We were simply writing these stories like in the nineteenth century. We’re publishing novels in parts in the newspaper and I can tell you we were increasing circulation because of it.”
A video of Mr Piechota’s presentation can be seen here.