“An outspoken love for our profession
and effective management with a long-term vision –
that’s what drives us”
Christian Van Thillo (60),
Executive Chairman DPG Media
Fifteen years ago, The Economist published a striking cover story entitled: Who killed the newspaper? The demise of the newspaper was imminent – that was the prediction of the usually well-informed weekly magazine.
Young readers wanted nothing more to do with newspapers and only read their news online. With this prognosis, the weekly suggested that online news would no longer come from newspapers. Advertisers could reach their target group much better online, with the result that newspapers would also see this source of income dry up.
The Economist even argued that perhaps it wasn’t such a bad thing that the swan song of the newspaper had begun. New players such as Google News, bloggers and citizen journalists would step up to replace the Fourth Estate. The crucial role that the traditional press had always played in our democratic society would simply be taken over by others.
Fifteen years on, we know better. For publishers who have had the vision and the ambition to reinvent journalism, the internet has turned out to be a blessing. After all, the World Wide Web is a unique distribution channel. News titles can provide their readers with professional journalism round the clock, wherever they happen to be. New sources have joined the fray, but newspapers continue to dominate the world of news, in print as well as in digital form.
“For publishers, the internet has turned out to be a blessing”
Ambitious editorial boards and excellent journalists play a key role in the transformation from daily paper to multi-platform news medium, but they are not alone in this. The real key to success is the coordination between content, technology, marketing, advertising and management. There must be digital expertise in all of these areas, together with optimum cooperation. This means being enterprising across the board, and without an instruction manual.
There’s great satisfaction in seeing all these elements come together and our news media’s new lease of life in terms of structural growth. Our next campaign is to achieve the same with the magazines we purchased from Sanoma in 2020. This will mean a new quest for the digital formula that works, but we see great opportunities here too.
In the meantime, we will continue to foster our printed newspapers and magazines. Because printed matter continues to be remarkably popular with many readers.
The cover of The Economist on 24 August 2006, predicting the end of the newspaper.
After the newspapers, it was the turn of television to face sombre predictions. The rapid growth of Netflix, YouTube and other streaming platforms is pushing traditional viewing to the margins. For many trend watchers, this immediately spells the end of commercial television.
In our view, a doomsday scenario can be avoided here, too, by seizing all the opportunities offered by the internet to serve viewers even better. We do this by investing in new streaming platforms, such as VTM GO and Streamz. But also by devising programme formats for an optimum viewing experience on all screens, large and small.
The exciting thing about the television sector today is that everyone is searching for the earnings model of the future, with the new global players leading the way. Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Apple are currently spending untold sums of money on new content, with the aim of winning over as many subscribers as
possible. But financially, this does not add up. New competitors are emerging everywhere: there are now over 100 streaming services in the United States alone. This only serves to increase the chaos.
Needless to say, this situation is not sustainable in the long term. But it does enable us to consider the best strategy for DPG Media as a local player. One thing is certain: home-grown programmes continue to be extremely popular. The trick is to use a robust earnings model to deliver them to viewers on all platforms, both free and paid.
The fact is that television remains extremely popular with advertisers who invest in brand advertising. TV commercials have unrivalled emotional value. The medium still has a huge reach and many people still watch TV together as a family. These are unique assets that are greatly valued by advertisers. Online advertising is better at nudging consumers towards making a purchase. But TV is still the most effective way to give your brand an emotional charge.
Thanks to Streamz, which is pay-per-view, we have the opportunity to develop a second source of income. Last year was a great one for television, after a difficult 2020. This was also true of radio, where we had an extra boost thanks to Qmusic Nederland, which became market leader for the first time. A fantastic achievement.
Online services are the third cornerstone of our company, alongside publishing and broadcasting. This is journalism in a different form: offering people specialised platforms to help them make better choices in their daily lives.
We have experts in a variety of markets, such as insurance, energy, loans, interiors and electronics. We compare all that the market has to offer and look for the best solutions for each customer profile. This is done using algorithms, but also with advice from our experts.
Now we want to expand this activity to all domains relevant to consumers. People feel a strong need for guidance, support and inspiration amid the endless range of digital services. And we want to be leaders in this field.
Creating great media
For us, 2021 was an absolutely record year financially, with impressive growth in all our activities. Creating great media in a great company has always been our aim. To achieve this, we combine two key elements: an outspoken love for our profession and effective management with a long-term vision.
That’s what drives us. It has brought results that enable us to keep on working to expand this wonderful company that we’re so proud of. And like every year, I’m extremely grateful to all our staff for these achievements.