Encounter with Pieter Klok (the Volkskrant) & Calogero Macaluso (Mobile Vikings)

“I believe very strongly in the product. Reading newspapers is a stubborn habit.”

Encounter with Pieter Klok (the Volkskrant) & Calogero Macaluso (Mobile Vikings)

“I believe very strongly in the product. Reading newspapers is a stubborn habit.”

They have never met one another before, scarcely knew what the other did before now, but they talk with an enthusiasm suggesting they´ve been friends for years. Not a moment of silence.
Pieter Klok, at the end of the interview: “What´s your background, actually? Were you trained as a marketeer?”
Calo Macaluso: “No, not at all. I´m an engineer.”
Pieter: “No! Civil engineer? Me too. Now we know what ties us together. Two civil engineers in the group.”
Calo: “Now we´ve found it.”
Pieter: “Hydraulic engineering?”
Calo: “Aeronautical engineering.”
Pieter: “Wow, that´s highly complex.”
The two Persgroepers are currently doing something entirely different from what they were originally trained for. Pieter Klok is deputy editor at the Volkskrant. Calo Macaluso is marketing director at Unleashed of the hip Belgian telecom brands Mobile Vikings, JIM Mobile and the TV app Stievie.

Calo Macaluso (35)
• Marketing director at Unleashed, the telecom business unit at Medialaan
• Lives in Hasselt
• Loves music, running and snowboarding
• Married, two children
Pieter Klok (45)
• Deputy editor at the Volkskrant
• Lives in Ilpendam
• Loves cycling, reading and travelling
• Married, three children
What do you find to be the best thing about this job?

Pieter: Seeing colleagues develop and thrive. Appointing someone to a position and realising: Jeez, he´s really good. That´s what makes me the happiest, when that works out. Whether it involves a very young correspondent or an older journalist who suddenly gets his groove back, even though before he made the impression of being on his last lap.

Calo: Strategic challenges. All mobile subscriptions are moving toward unlimited calling and surfing the internet for a fixed low price. You can´t distinguish yourself in a world like that. You have to come up with things that really stand out from what the others are offering. Stay away from the race to the bottom. We now have Viking Deals, a beautiful model. When customers make purchases via our platform from webshops like Bol.com and Coolblue, they get five percent of their order back in Viking points. So if you buy something worth one hundred euros at Coolblue, you receive a five euros discount on your subscription.

Pieter: Discount? I thought it was especially in the Netherlands that people were obsessed with discounts.   

Calo: It goes further than a discount. As a consumer, you feel very smart when you save on your telecom invoice in this way.

Pieter: Oh yeah, that smartness then becomes an important brand value.

Calo: Mobile Vikings are real smarties.    

And what´s the most difficult aspect of your work?

Pieter: ICT projects. They have this frustrating tendency of always going off the rails. Up front it all seems so simple, yet it never is. We journalists do not communicate well with ICT specialists. Right now we’re in the final phase of a digital renovation: a new website, a new app, a new digital newspaper for tablets. And once again it appears far more complicated than we had thought. It is very difficult to get a grip on things.

Calo: I know exactly what you mean. The future lies in digital, we simply have to get it under control. I think that the key to success lies in understanding the ICT specialists. Not just describing what we need and then leaving it to the ICT specialists…

Pieter: (interrupts) We did that on the previous operation.

Calo: And just go back to your day-to-day work and wait and see what they come up with. No, you have to continuously consult with one another. We set the business people and the ICT specialists down together in order to facilitate that.

Pieter: We´re doing that now as well.

“I think that the key to success lies in understanding the ICT specialists.”

Calo Macaluso

“I sometimes say to our marketing department: we can create good stories, we can think together very well.”

Pieter Klok

Can you imagine yourself in each other´s job?

Pieter: Ehhhh. Phew. Marketing is diametrically opposed to journalism. We always try to prick through things: this discount at Mobile Vikings you can also get somewhere else. A journalist wants to analyse that correctly.

Calo: As a good marketeer, you’re obliged to do exactly that. Your offer has to be distinctive.

Pieter: But when I teach ´intro writing´ courses, I use principles from marketing. Every intro has to conclude with a call to action, one that proclaims: you´ve got to read this document. I also always emphasise that text and image have to reinforce one another. So I fear that there might well be a marketeer lurking inside me after all. And I sometimes say to our marketing department: we can create good stories, we can think together very well. Mobile Vikings is also a story, of the smart rebellious types. Maybe we should work together sometime. (laughs) But whether I can also sell telephone subscriptions – that I don´t know.

Calo: We both make products. ­Making a newspaper or coming up with a rate plan…

Pieter: You see that as the same kind of products?

Calo: No. They´re products. With a consumer behind them. With an expectation behind them. If I have to reflect about a newspaper, I wonder: what article do we put on the front page? What will the readers be concerned about? What makes their hearts beat faster?

Pieter: You can start with us right away. Those are exactly the questions we ask ourselves every morning. 

Do you read the newspaper, Calo?

Calo: I’m fully digital.

Pieter: Shame on you! That´s disgraceful!

Calo: I refuse to pay for a newspaper. Because it´s all available online. I get sufficient depth: I find enough articles.   

Pieter: Speak for yourself, OK?

Calo: Via the HLN app I get the latest world news. If I want to know more I google about it, or I click on through. That way I always find just enough to be able to put my two cents in. I don´t need to get up in the morning and unfold a newspaper.

Pieter: I find it a very nice ritual. In the final analysis we’re selling a ritual, and it’s one I grew up with. I´m a dyed-in-the-wool optimist. I believe very deeply in the product. Reading newspapers is a stubborn habit.

Calo: I think that what it comes down to is keeping that newspaper and the internet in balance.

Pieter: That´s what we´re busy working on right now. That´s also the complicated thing: these days you have to do them parallel to one another. Until the moment that digital takes over entirely, if the newspaper really disappears, in fifty years or so.

Are there things about which you say: I should have done this differently?

Pieter: Sometimes I´ve implemented organisational changes that meant that I had a bad year. But regret? As the entrepreneur Bernard Wientjes says: a good manager makes the right decision in 51 percent of the cases, a bad one in 49 percent. I sometimes react way too angrily. I´ve learned to apologise as quickly as possible and often. And to say that, at the end of the day, it was all my fault. (Calo laughs) Errors are generally collective. You hit the roof in a flash, but you cause a lot of damage at the same time. It´s so annoying when you lose control in a fit of anger.

Calo: Yeah, yeah, right. I´ve sometimes experienced that someone actually didn´t want to join my team because he found me such a temperamental guy who kept all the responsibility in his own hands. I learned a good deal from that. Become a calmer person, listen a lot more, don´t impose your own vision. But above all: serve as a mirror for the staff. Don´t immediately come up with the conclusion, but ask critical questions.

Pieter: On the other hand, a newspaper can´t do without temperament. There always have to be people who make it clear that they really care about something.

Calo: When a mistake is made, I can react impulsively: I want to correct it quickly. So I´m with you on that: sometimes you need that temperament in order to give a signal.

Pieter: I spoke recently to someone from a competing medium who said: ´When I see you publish a good article, I feel sick about it all weekend.´ I have that myself as well, when I see a good article in another newspaper. There are enough editors who think: OK, this time they’re the winners, the next time it’s our turn. Which is a whole lot healthier, and better for your heart, but I can´t stand it.

Both of you are control freaks.

They burst into laughter at the same time.

Interview:

Steffie Kouters (de Volkskrant)
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi