In 2010, Filippakis moved against the tide by launching Dimokratia, a daily, paid-for general interest newspaper that rapidly became the Greek press's remarkable success story. Two years on, Dimokratia has also developed a Sunday edition and a daily edition for northern Greece, further solidifying its position as the country's most dynamic and innovating print brand.
Filippakis will speak at the first Congress session, entitled "Leadership - Steering the new news organization."
WAN-IFRA: Please describe a few key aspects of Dimokratia – what is the philosophy/political standpoint behind it? Also the marketing – when starting it up, did you do extensive market research, or act mostly on "publisher's instinct" that there was a market opening?
FILIPPAKIS: Contrary to some brands that are a product of extensive market research and/or tone down their agenda and values so as not to alienate any potential readers (particularly in declining print markets!), Dimokratia was born – as an idea – on the assumption that there was a distinct psychographic and demographic target group that held the same value set as our paper's founding team.
In a nutshell, this includes a pro-EU yet strongly patriotic attitude, an anti-corruption approach, conservative ideas with regards to social issues (law and order, illegal immigration, etc.), support for a market economy that nonetheless does not abandon our compatriots in need and a positive stance concerning the social role of the Greek Orthodox Church. This psychographic profile tended to coincide with a demographic stereotype of male, 40-plus, middle-class, which, crucially, are also heavy print users. This was validated through limited qualitative market research undertaken at the planning phase.
WAN-IFRA: What goals do you have for the paper? What are the main challenges it faces?
FILIPPAKIS: Our critical goals are (a) circulation growth, so as to extend the influence of our ideas and specific viewpoints within Greek society and, needless to say, (b) sustained profitability, since the latter represents the most fundamental precondition of our journalistic freedom. In terms of challenges, these are threefold: First of all, the secular decline of print in Western societies ... Secondly, the business cycle, for Greece is in its fifth consecutive year of recession – or, indeed, depression, since GDP declines have been about 7 percent. Finally, these circumstances are compounded by our limited financial/human resources, which inevitably lead to constant tough choices and decisions.
WAN-IFRA: What are the paper's most important journalistic achievements so far – investigative stories, campaigns, etc?
FILIPPAKIS: Apologies in advance for sounding somewhat pleased with ourselves, but, despite the fact that we've been operating for less than two years, there've been quite a few. For example, in terms of scoops, our then Finance Minister's secret undertaking to provide Finland with guarantees in order to secure the latest bailout. Or, in another instance, exposing the fact that leading leftist coalition members – who were crusading against corruption – were at the receiving end of Ministry of Defense “consulting” contracts during the murkiest of times (please note that the then Minister of Defense is now in jail facing extensive corruption charges).
We've had our fair share of ground-breaking campaigns as well, namely the open criticism of our head of state (hitherto a taboo) for being too supportive of the previous Socialist government instead of maintaining his constitutional neutrality. Or, as early as in our first issues of December 2010, arguing forcefully and repeatedly that the “Troika” austerity recipe is only going to deepen the recession and spread exasperation and wrath, hence proving ultimately self-defeating.
WAN-IFRA: What are the circulations of the main newspaper, the Sunday edition and the northern Greece edition?
FILIPPAKIS: Given Greece's relatively small daily paid-for newspaper market, you will not be too impressed: we sell 11,000 copies daily, 2,000 of which come from the northern Greece edition. Our Sunday circulation has stabilized at approximately 27,000 copies.
WAN-IFRA: What proportions of revenue come from delivered copies vs. newsstand sales? Circulation income vs. display advertising vs. classified advertising?
FILIPPAKIS: Subscriptions in Greece – being a Mediterranean market – are confined to the financial press, so we are almost 100 percent newsstand. We carry no classifieds, and our revenue split is 85 percent circulation and 15 percent advertising. This is not only due to the secular and cyclical reasons highlighted above, but mainly because relying on readers (what is now technocratically termed “paid content”) has been for us a strategy cornerstone.
We fervently believe that providing value to readers that they appreciate by accepting its price tag is fundamental to the long-term sustainability of our business. Advertising can be a handy extra source of revenues but absolutely relying on it for survival is exposing the press to a multiplicity of perils.