Wednesday, March 15, 2006

NRC-Next: what's next?

Yesterday it was D-Day in the Dutch newspaper world. NRC, the evening quality paper of the PCM group launched NRC-Next, a morning paper. The tabloid positions itself between the free tabloids like Metro and Sp!ts and the paid newspapers Telegraaf, Volkskrant and AD. Yesterday the morning tabloid was for free. Now its will cost 50 euro cent and eventually 1 euro has to paid for the tabloid.

The positioning is curious, between fast reading, free tabloids and more exhaustive De Telegraaf and AD as well as the more intellectual Volkskrant. NRC-Next is typecast as the intellectual newspaper of 20 minutes for people between 25 and 49 years of age over against the 5 minutes Metro for youngsters and students. The intellect is coming from an editorial staff of 24 journalists, who write the articles for the printed newspaper and the internet site.

NRC-Next takes also a curious position within the PCM group. This newspaper conglomerate has de Volkskrant and Trouw as two full fledged morning newspapers. NRC-Next is partly related to AD, which is the product of a joint-venture of the PCM Group and Wegener.

Will the tabloid survive? The launch of the newspaper has been researched in the market extensively and the project manager claimed to have found an audience for the tabloid. In fact the newspaper should come up to circulation of 80.000 copies in three years time. The publisher of the newspaper gambles on two aspects: the intellectual quality image of its big brother, the evening paper NRC Handelsblad as well as the price of 1 euro. Personally I doubt whether these aspects will be enough to fill the gap between free broadsheets and extensive quality morning papers such as de Volkskrant and Trouw of more than 2 euro. I make a stronger assertion: THE TABLOID NRC-NEXT WILL NOT SURVIVE THE FIRST YEAR.

I am still flabbergasted at the strategy of the PCM Group. They have cut internet as this was just teletext journalism, according to the CEO Mr Bouwman. The company was supposed to publish a Sunday paper, which it has not done much to the chagrin of its investment company APAX. Its book division suffers blow after blow with editors and authors walking away, while after so many years there is hardly any synergy effects. Presently the company is expanding into TV and radio. The company needs guidance and integration. Perhaps these will come from the successor to Mr Bouwman, Mr Ton aan de Stegge, former CEO of the telecom company Telfort.

Further South, a political action has started to save the Limburg newspapers, which have been put up for sale by de Telegraaf Group. The governor of Limburg, a government official, has called upon a group of Limburg private investors to put up money and buy the newspapers in order to keep the regional anchoring. An offer of 140 million euro has been put on the table, it is rumoured. The newspapers should stay out of the claws of the British media group Mecom, which the governor qualifies as a pulp producer. The governor did not comment on the combination of the Belgian publisher Concentra and the North Netherlands NDC; the Belgian publisher covers also Dutch Limburg with some of its publications. Will be continued.


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