Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yes/No/Yes: a free newspaper for PCM, at last maybe

Recently I wrote that there was never a dull moment at PCM. The Dutch newspaper company recently said goodbye to its private investor Apex, who was bought out by the (economic) majority shareholder for some 110 million euro. In the past weeks the publishers and editors have watched the launch of the free tabloid De Pers. PCM could have been a launching partner, but had to cut off collaboration talks with the financier of the new newspaper, Mr Marcel Boekhoorn.

Since the board of directors have declared that CEO Ton aan de Stegge could sty on, he has his hands free to start new projects. The free tabloid is the first one. No word has been said about the RTV project Oasis. But as the company has a load of debts, it might well forget the project. The free tabloid project will have to be paid from the sale to Springer of the health care publisher BSL. The debts will have to be reduced by the sale of other book publishers, unless the board members change their minds.

The name of the free tabloid has already transpired. It will be called De Dag (The Day). This name was recorded as a potential name in 1995 for a site. The free tabloid will be a challenge for PCM. It will have to compete with the free tabloids Metro, Sp!ts and De Pers. Metro and Sp!ts have positioned themselves as newswire newspapers with small new items from news agencies. They have recently gotten competition of De Pers, the free tabloid of the private investor Mr Marcel Boekhoorn. De Pers makes a qualitative difference with Metro and Sp!ts, but will have to prove its economic existence with advertisements. The advantage for the PCM free tabloid to be is that there are already competitors to compare with on the one hand and three national newspapers (NRC Handelsblad, Volkskrant and Trouw) to tap from. It will be interesting to see what the editorial formula of the newspaper will be.

There will be one difference from the beginning as PCM is going into the free tabloid project with the incumbent telecom company KPN. PCM has a lot of content and KPN has a lot of network services, but no content. As far is known at present, KPN will take care of the electronic distribution on internet, mobile and the narrowcasting networks. The telco will not be involved in the editorial; this is surprising as the telco has an editorial staff on its Planet Internet service. So far it looks like PCM will handle the editing, ad acquisition, production and distribution of the printed tabloid, while KPN will handle the electronic editions. KPN will not participate financially in the project; KPN can be seen as a client of PCM.

The cross-media combination is interesting in the electronic distribution part. Not one of the PCM newspapers is in the top ten of most visited sites; the KPN site Planet Internet was last year in the eighth place with 18,5 million visitors over the summer quarter in 2006. In penetration figures it reached the thirteenth position. By relaying the free tabloid the visitors’ figures can be upgraded. But the free tabloid will also boost the mobile use. But the distribution through the narrowcasting networks will give KPN advantages. Presently KPN has already narrowcasting services in shops, public areas and in trains. By having content, it will be easier to attract advertisements.

But the companies have not yet signed an agreement. In fact, Mr Scheepbouwer, CEO of KPN, said that the news had left the negotiation table too early. Of course he should have known that he was talking to a company, practising journalism. So after being affirmative to news that PCM would launch a free tabloid and after calling it off, there might be a chance that the free tabloid project maybe called off, maybe continued. As I said before: there is never a dull moment at PCM.

Blog Posting Number: 658

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