Winnipeg Free Press engages with new audiences in new ways

The Winnipeg Free Press is using free virtual events, including a book club and interactive movie screenings, as a staple of its audience engagement strategy.

The experiments are described in a recent feature written by Erin Lebar, the publication’s manager, audience engagement for news.

As Lebar describes, prior to the pandemic the Free Press’ hasn’t traditionally been involved in many events. But that changed because of COVID-19 and it is an approach that has had positive returns.

“We went from producing three or four events a year to three or four or more events a month, with the intention of using the legacy publication’s platform to provide a meeting place for discussion, connection, and, sometimes, a little bit of fun amid the pandemic’s chaos,” writes Lebar.

The Free Press Book Club had free registration so anyone could join. The Book Club also features local authors. Registered members receive discussion questions, which are also posted in a private Facebook group. Members are also able to submit questions that are answered at monthly virtual meeting on YouTube Live, which features Winnipeg Free Press literary editor.

Based on the success of the book club, the Free Press also began hosting an online viewing party where a locally-filmed movie is screened for free and followed by a live chat.