Saturday August 11, 2012
By EUGENE MAHALINGAM
Vogiatzakis: Newspapers can boost appeal by leveraging on social media
In his presentation at the 15th Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) Media Workshop 2012 earlier this year, Vogiatzakis, who was citing renowned newspaper designer Jacek Utko, notes that Malaysia was the only country within Asia Pacific that registered newspaper readership growth from 2006 to 2010.
“Malaysia’s readership increased from 50% to 57% in the past 10 years (and) it is still holding steady each year. Newspapers are still one of the highest reach media – unrivalled for informative advertising.
“Newspaper reading continues to grow steadily in Malaysia despite the proliferation of alternative media,” he says, adding that readership is also boosted by the fact that newspapers are providing their content through other media platforms, such as smart phones and tablets.
One such feature is The Star’s new augmented reality feature, iSnap.
In a separate interview with StarBizWeek, Vogiatzakis hails the iSnap as “an evolutionary step by The Star to reinvent content publishing in Malaysia.”
“Not only will it redefine the newspaper’s appeal to both readers and advertisers, it will, in essence, become a window that will bring alive the newspaper content to consumers who can now truly live the story,” he says.
Meanwhile, in his presentation, Vogiatzakis says that readership growth of newspapers in the country is primarily driven by Malay newspapers.
“English newspaper-reading, meanwhile, remains stable,” he says.
Citing data by Nielsen, Vogiatzakis says that readership of English newspapers, which was below the one-million mark in 2001, had surpassed one million readers last year.
Dare to be different
Vogiatzakis kicked off his presentation with a shocking remark made by Utko: “There is no reason, no practical reason, for newspapers to survive.”
But Vogiatzakis says that Utko actually went on to prove this statement and critics around the world wrong by redesigning some of Europe’s newspapers which had been suffering from declining readership and circulation.
Poland’s Puls Biznesu (in 2004) and Estonia’s Äripäev (in 2007), both designed by Utko, were named world’s best designed newspapers by the Society for News Design, the highest recognition.
The first thing he did to address the European newspapers’ declining readership and circulation figures, says Vogiatzakis, was to redesign the way the products looked.
“Strategy, together with content and design, will sell newspapers,” Vogiatzakis says in his presentation.
He adds that newspapers also need to be unique in the way they express their headlines, text and photos to its readers.
Less is more
Vogiatzakis says print editors tend to assume that readers like long stories – but points out that this is a misconception.
“Readers read only about 7% of texts in the newspaper. About 95% of the time is spent on writing and editing newspapers but just 5% on the presentation.”
Instead, he advises that editors need to be more like graphic designers and artists to make newspapers more appealing to readers.
Revealing some of Utko’s redesigned newspapers, Vogiatzakis points out that many of the front pages are not very text heavy and display more graphics or “empty white spaces” instead.
“The future belongs to content-driven designers and visually-focused editors,” he says.
Vogiatzakis says editors should become more like art directors, instead and come up with “new editorial formats” to attract readers.
“The old model (of being text heavy) is not effective anymore. Non-linear, bite-size chunks of information are better digested.”
Reiterating the need for more graphics, Vogiatzakis says editors should reinvent the front page of newspapers to resemble posters.
“Make posters, not covers,” he says, quoting Jacek Utko, pointing out that many of Utko’s redesigned newspapers looked more like movie posters.
“Break the template – everyday – 365 days a year,” Vogiatzakis says, adding that the ability to “redesign” the appearance of newspapers is an advantage that print media has over their online counterparts.
He says that newspapers should focus more on reporting information instead of news.
“Less news, more knowledge. Make readers feel smarter, not just well informed. Consumers place high value on the deep insight and analysis provided by newspapers.
“Ultimately, do you know what your audiences want from you? Do you know what they will pay for?”
Vogiatzakis adds that newspapers can further boost their appeal by leveraging on social media.
One good way, he says, is to charge for a “social media experience.”
“Newspapers need to focus on monetising content through social technologies that provide users with an experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere for free. It can prove a hugely valuable revenue model.”
He adds that newspapers can provide live blogging sections.
“Blogging is not really fully been utilised, opportunity to provide a service that collates and organises all the real-time information. Give emphasis on accuracy as opposed to popularity. There is a market for online content. Consumers are willing to pay for this content, but newspapers need to develop strategies for monetising it.”
Dismissing what some critics think, Vogiatzakis ends his presentation with a simple but firm belief: “Print is far from dead.”
“It’s evolving,” he says.