& digital acceleration
As a technologically advanced company, DPG Media invests a great deal in IT and digital development. In 2021, we devoted attention both to digital acceleration at the front end – the part the visitor sees – and to cleaning up and structuring the complex IT environment behind the scenes.
IT ACCOMPLISHED THE FOLLOWING IN 2021:
- Digitisation of iconic magazines such as Libelle, Donald Duck and Margriet.
- The launch of the DPGNetwork, including a central DPG Media ID enabling users to access multiple DPG Media titles and sites without repeated logins. And implementing a one consent function confirming permission to process personal data for all DPG Media sites instead of each individual site.
- A self-service platform for advertisers consisting of DPG Direct and DPG Datalab.
- Expansion of the VTM GO platform including Smart TV.
was spent on IT projects in 2021
working on IT projects at DPG Media
IT WILL CONTINUE TO WORK ON THE FOLLOWING INITIATIVES IN 2022:
- A radical overhaul of the platforms for AD, the regional newspapers and HLN.
- Digitisation of Flair and creating a new digital community platform with vtwonen as the first title.
- Integration of RTL Belgium.
- Replacing the existing subscription systems with a new system for magazines and newspapers.
Leslie Jacobs (41)
IT Director OF Business Applications since 2021. previously employed by EDF Luminus.
THE BUMPY ROAD TO A UNIFIED EDITORIAL SYSTEM
DPG Media’s growth and acquisitions have led to the addition of numerous titles in recent years, all of which were operating with their own editorial systems. To iron out all these differences, IT faced a mammoth task to be completed by the end of 2021: switching all newsrooms to a new, customised editorial system.
Now, all of our journalists, editors-in-chief and designers in the Netherlands and Belgium are working in the same environment. Prior to this transition, there were dozens of differ- ent, outdated systems operating in a jumble of configurations, technologies and set-ups. “We needed to simplify,” says Leslie Jacobs, IT Director of Business Applications.
The differences between programs made maintenance a complex business. “Despite system errors occurring on a daily basis, the next day’s paper had to go to press no matter what. The IT niggles were a source of major frustration among the editors. I remember thinking: we simply can’t go on like this,” Jacobs recalls.
So, by the end of 2018, we settled on a solution. IT, business and editorial teams joined forces to achieve one goal: a uniform, future-proof and efficient system for a shared workflow. The entire chain from planning to delivery, both digital and print, was in- corporated into a new environment for all DPG newspapers.
It turned out to be a bumpy road that demanded a lot of time and effort. “Constant interaction was essential. This level of collaboration led to a successful end result,” says Jacobs. Every day, two hundred colleagues worked on devising, developing and fine-tuning all the functionalities, which required continuous tweaking. Only once the developers had come up with a system which met the minimum requirements, did the first editorial teams start testing it, albeit with some teething troubles. Their feedback proved indispensable. Jacobs explains, “Without the input from the newspapers, especially the regional ones, we could never have achieved the final result.”
Once the system was up to scratch, all computers had to be replaced and everyone had to be trained – in the middle of a global pandemic. Editors who had been working a specific way for years were suddenly required to rewire their habits. Meanwhile, the deadline of 31 December 2021 was rapidly approaching. “But we made it. It was a huge operation. A marvellous feat, looking back on it now.”
Although the system is operational, the environment is far from complete. “We have established a core system. The foundations have been laid and the house has been built. Now we can move on to fittings and furnishings. We still intend to add certain functionalities. So there’s plenty of work to be done.”
In the meantime, DPG Media is tack- ling its outdated subscription systems. Perhaps the most complex chain of all, according to Jacobs. “These are processes that affect many areas of business and IT. In other words, they call for highly intensive cooperation. This includes subscription registration and updating, payment, distribution management, customer service, self-service and the processing of complaints.”
Jacobs fills in the details: “This new environment determines which subscriber gets which newspaper or magazine, and when. The invoicing is also linked to the system. Given the volumes we are dealing with at DPG Media, the slightest error can have major consequences.”