Here is an excerpt of his interview published in the just-published March/April edition.
Metro won not only Newspaper of the Year honours in WAN-IFRA’s World Young Reader Prize 2010 competition for its major overhaul of the free national daily newspaper but also the Public Service Award for its project on Internet piracy.
WAN-IFRA: Both Metro and Gazeta Wyborcza have been praised for their youth strategy. Was this a deliberate policy or a natural evolution for the papers?
PIECHOTA: It has been an organic growth with a lot to do with our recruitment strategy; we prefer to hire young graduates rather than the employees of our competitors. Our view is that the best way to learn journalism is just by doing it while working alongside more experienced colleagues, and that journalism is about more than basic skills – it is also about learning values, ethics, teamwork and conflict resolution.
This approach is easier to teach to the young than to the old. Plus, as a growing company we can offer a career not only in your city, but in others; you can rise within the newsroom of Gazeta or of the other newspapers, magazines, and portals within group Agora.
The end result of all of this is a vibrant newspaper with the youngest readership of all paid titles. About 53 percent of Gazeta’s readers are aged 15-39. And nearly 20 percent are as young as 15-24 years. In fact, the only newspaper that has a younger readership is our free daily Metro, which recently won the WAN-IFRA World Young Reader Newspaper of the Year.
WAN-IFRA: So what staff, if any, do you have dedicated to youth projects?
PIECHOTA: The biggest secret is that if you really want to attract a certain demographic, you need to be that demographic. In effect we don’t have to train our journalists about what our young readers would like to read about. They know it because they are writing for themselves. This is very helpful when you design any editorial project or an activity. Because you have young people on your team, it is obvious for them to add a “young people” angle or instinctively turn to channels like Facebook.
In general in the newspaper (there is a different approach for the Internet) we don’t have dedicated youth sections. Of course some topics certainly are more interesting to the youth than the others, but we try to design them in such a way that they appeal to all demographics. This is what I call building bridges across generations. We don’t want to have ghettos in the newspaper, and our readers don’t want ghettos either.
Once upon a time we had a youth section and it was a nightmare. Older readers felt this was a useless space from their point of view and the youth did not like it much because they felt being treated like kids and no young person likes that. The ideal approach is to find an issue that appeals to both generations – for example, we recently pulled together a project team of 150 for a campaign where we asked young mothers to review hospitals and then processed the 40,000 resulting reviews.
WAN-IFRA: So what about gaining audience; what has been the impact on circulation, reach and advertising from this approach to youth?
PIECHOTA: Today the Gazeta.pl portal functions as an umbrella site for all of our 90+ Internet brands and is the fifth biggest online site in Poland after Google, a Polish Facebook clone and two other portals. Its reach among the youngest users – those aged 7-24 – is over 60 percent.
It’s interesting to note that amongst the services available on the portal is the e-edition of Gazeta Wyborcza, which uses a different URL (Wyborcza.pl). The reach of that site amongst those aged 7-24 is about 24 percent, which we feel proves that Wyborcza.pl is a more serious service that attracts the most affluent, better educated, richer and, finally, a bit older audience. The total reach of Gazeta.pl is 11.7 million users monthly and just 5.9 million of those access our news services. Wyborcza.pl is just one of them with a reach of 4.5 million. Compare that to our print readership of 4.3 million (and a paid circulation of 337,000).
Both Gazeta Wyborcza and Gazeta.pl have proved very successful in attracting advertisers that wish to target young people. Some great examples were submitted as entries to your XMA competition (and won awards).
For more on all the winning projects of the World Young Reader Prize 2010 competition, click here.