Friday, December 28, 2007

Dutch free tabloids

2007 was an interesting year for the Dutch daily newspapers. Almost all of the newspaper kept in line with the world trend of loosing subscriptions. The newspaper conglomerate PCM bought out Apax, not having made any progress and loosing a hell of a lot of money. Royal Wegener was acquired by the media empire Mecom. And the companies did not move an inch on diversification of media to for example and radio and television; in fact PCM sold its radio operation. But against this back-drop of common newspaper happenings, the real new things happened in the sector of free dailies with two new titles on the market. On January 23, 2007 De Pers (The Press) published its first edition, while on May 8, 2007 the PCM fledgling DAG came onto the market.

Both of them have not been on the market for a full year. Yet they had to fight immediately against the two existing free tabloids, Metro and Sp!ts. Metro is well known throughout the world and has developed in the Netherlands to a daily with short bullets and a few spreads; not exactly a daily which presents news, but a perfect advertisement vehicle with a finely distribution network of public transport points. Sp!ts, the Telegraaf competitor of Metro, is also free daily tabloid with much of the same editorial formula; it also functions as an advertisement vehicle. In this setting, which exists since 1999, two new free dailies entered the market; one, which has no ties with a a newspaper publisher and one which come from the PCM nest. To make some impression on the market, both newspapers had to have their unique selling points, if only for the advertisers: an new editorial format, a new distribution network, a new proposition for advertisers and for the users a real attraction.

Both free tabloids have succeeded in that. De Pers is seen as the better intellectual free tabloid; its editor in chief Ben Rogmans received the press award recognising its quality. It was in fact the first time that a free tabloid won a journalistic award. DAG has made some impression with its visually oriented editorial format. It is full of photographs.

De Pers, a venture of multimillionaire Mr Boekhoorn, has fought for its place by quality. A distribution network and advertisements are basically instruments for competition and it does not make the daily stand out. The advertisement is not impressive, but this has to do with the time of launching. When the daily was launched, it still had to show and prove itself, while the advertisement budgets were already earmarked. So as for advertisements De Pers should be able to get a better market share. Also its distribution network is developing differently from the other free dailies as it is also delivered to the door in some zip code areas. The newspaper has built in less than one year a quality image.

Having talked with PCM about launching a free daily together, PCM broke off the talks with Mr Boekhoorn to start their own free daily in cooperation with the telecom incumbent KPN. And again it was the editorial format which should make the difference. The tabloid sports now daily pages full of photographs and highlights some headings in yellow. Compared to De Pers the printed edition of DAG is a rag, paper to wrap the fish in. And as for the distribution network started to use retail food stores for its distribution. Also DAG needs to attract advertisement for the coming year.

But the novice free dailies needed more USPs. Both free dailies have a website and have or are preparing a mobile service. Especially the owners of DAG the newspaper conglomerate PCM and the telecom operator KPN touted the term crossmedia wherever they could. Having an internet site with movies and mobile internet site is not yet enough to brand a product crossmedia. The newspaper has been unable to develop for example to introduce day parting, using various media at various times during the day, when the media fit the environment. A printed newspaper at the breakfast table or in public transport works. But when people arrive at the office they start using internet and should not get just a digital copy of the printed tabloid, but should get other feeds and stories. By midday they should be fed news on their mobile. This type of thinking has not been a principle from the beginning. So crossmedia has been an after thought rather than an integrating philosophy so far. As such PCM has not yet learned anything else but making a printed free daily and KPN has not yet come further than technology in this project and has systematically reduced the combination of its editorial and technical knowledge.

Overlooking the battle field De Pers has won the fight so far on editorial quality. Having set a standard for their content they can quietly build out their digital presence. DAG will have quite a difficult year ahead. The newspaper has costed 12 million so far and so far the management has been able to bring the costs down to 9 million in less than a full year. In order to control the costs, It has been announced that DAG will editorially work together with the PCM morning paper De Volkskrant. This will mean that it will copy or re-edit Volkskrant articles. KPN on the other hand is closing down the editorial operation of its content site Planet Internet and will be concentrating on the internet and mobile technologies.

Blog Posting Number: 962

Tags: newspapers, day parting, crossmedia , ,

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