Jelena Drakulić Petrović: Continuous Innovations and Journalistic Quality for the Future

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As we celebrate the 7,000 issue of Blic daily, I can say that we will continue to work to ensure that we can last for a long time. We will be different, even more innovative, and faster, but never at the expense of quality

Two decades of Blic coincide with twenty turbulent years for Serbia, from the end of the last century and the beginning of this one. Our newspaper was both their contemporary and a chronicler – says Jelena Drakulić Petrović, CEO of Ringier Axel Springer Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia, with whom we are discussing the history, the present and the future of Blic daily.

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What are the values and principles to which Blic has remained true in the last 20 years?

— Blic has always called things by their proper name. Blic always promoted the idea of a modern and democratic Serbia, while advocatimg for a free market economy, regional reconciliation, standing up for minority rights and fighting totalitarianism. That never changed, regardless the topics we reported about. Today, more than ever we stand for pro-European movements and this is the main guideline for Blic’s editorial policy.

What has changed in Blic in the last two decades?

— Constant modernisation has become the imperative for our editorial board, which is a pioneer in many segments – from the way we report, our appealing and modern layout, to implementing the latest technological solutions. We are the first media company in this region to have such a modern and integrated newsroom, and we took advantage of digitization. Blic.rs, the online edition of Blic, has two million unique users and is the most visited news portal in the country.

Which factors have contributed to the company’s success, considering that it operates on a market where advertising revenue has been in constant decline?

— Market conditions are changing and sometimes they go against our plans. However, these factors don’t necessary have to limit us. Conditions for doing business might change, but one can always adapt, which is exactly what we are doing. For those who are not go-getters, crisis usually means defeat and collapse, but for those who are, it is a challenge that also offers many new business opportunities. Newspaper circulation figures have been declining and very few newspapers have survived.

What is Blic’s secret?

 — Decreasing circulation and advertisers moving to other media forms did not discourage us, because we know that the print medium has always had its place and that it is up to us to have content that is appealing to our advertisers. In print we are able to cover a story in a different way than online – we can give more exclusive background information. On the other hand marketers can reach certain target groups better in print than online.

What novelties has Blic brought to this market?

— Creativity is the most important thing in our system, because it helps us with creating a dynamic environment that quickly adapts to changes in the media world. We had a revolutionary approach in reporting about the last elections, when Blic.rs broke all records in terms of visitor numbers. This success should first and foremost be credited to our editorial office, which came up with the idea of having a live stream on election night on Blic TV, which was seen by 1.2 million people. For the Serbian market this was a very innovative approach. Following this success, we also launched Blic News, which meanwhile became a vital part of our video offering that we are committed to developing further. We have also been preparing a surprise for our birthday edition that will be printed in a special format and completely hand-illustrated by our cartoonist Marko Somborac.

These are novelties from your editorial office. What about the marketing segment?

— The good news is that our budget finally matches our desired results. Still, we have to face certain challenges in the future. Media Impact Serbia, our new sales sector, brings to its clients integrated advertising and cross-media services with an emphasis on technology and information. These are new solutions and innovative advertising products like native advertising and web-wide advertising. Our print editions have up to 1.5 million readers (source: Ipsos Strategic Marketing), while digital reporting is advancing and is economically sustainable, as seen in the available data. Our online brands have 2.1 million unique users (source: Gemius Audience) and there are 1.5 million people who use them via their mobile devices (source: Gemius Audience and Google Analytics).

To what extent can you, in Serbia, apply innovations that are coming from your mother company?

— We are up to speed with new digital technology, which has become an integral part of Ringier Axel Springer Media AG. We have fully utilised the benefits of this integration, as well as improving certain segments by ourselves.

Which factors contribute the most to the profitability of Blic’s online business?

 — We want to become the leading digital publisher in the country. Although we have done a lot in that respect, I am sure that the most difficult and most exciting part of the road is still ahead of us. Creativity is the key and there is no plan or strategy for that. I think that a lot hinges on the freedom you grant and the trust that you place in your employees.

So, what is ahead of you?

 — Technically speaking, we have just rounded off our digital transformation and have become autonomous in producing material for our own video platform. We are also the leader in putting together new advertising formats. We are completing our technology team and using social networks as new communication platforms for our content. As we celebrate the 7,000th issue of Blic daily, I would like to say that we will continue to work to ensure we can last for a long time. We will be different, even more innovative, and faster, but never at the expense of quality.

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