in the front row
Almost half a century after the first issue of Story was published, entertainment magazines are still thriving and managing to captivate readers. Entertainment news is also a huge success online. What explains the attraction of these publications?
Guido den Aantrekker
(56), creative director of Entertainment Magazines, Belgium & the Netherlands
On 1 February 1974, publisher VNU (later Sanoma) presented the first issue of Story, a new weekly magazine, to Berend Boudewijn, the most popular TV game show host at the time. As the Netherlands’ first entertainment magazine, it was predicted to reach a peak circulation of 150,000 – a figure that was welcomed with a rapturous toast. “Within a month, they were selling half a million copies a week,” says Guido den Aantrekker, creative director of Entertainment Magazines for Belgium and the Netherlands. “That’s how the phenomenon of entertainment journalism was born.”
That year saw growing interest in the personal trials and tribulations of celebrities such as Mies Bouwman, André van Duin and Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, who was just 6 years old at the time. “Stars who people knew from the radio, TV and film became human when people learned about their relationships and struggles, and the important events in their lives,” says Den Aantrekker.
(37), online manager, Story, Veronica Superguide and Totaal TV
Print and digital go hand in hand
More than a decade later, on 19 November 1984, the first issue of Dag Allemaal was published in Flanders. Like Story, it was a weekly magazine filled with so-called human-interest stories, focusing on the private lives of celebrities. It soon became the number one magazine in Flanders, a position it still holds today.
Both of these DPG Media titles are still thriving and managing to captivate readers in 2023. Of course, the impressive circulation numbers of the past have now made way for the success of various digital versions of entertainment brands in Belgium and the Netherlands, which include Veronica Superguide, Primo, TV Familie and the Flemish edition of Story.
“News City, the centre of DPG Media’s journalism activities, in Antwerp, has invested a lot of energy into the collaboration between HLN.be and the Magazines & Showbiz division,” says Den Aantrekker. “That’s why we’re now able to offer a wide selection of extra content from the best newshounds working for our papers, magazines and websites. Whereas our weekly magazines increasingly focus on telling the story behind the story, providing readers a moment of calm in today’s hectic society, digital platforms fill the dynamic demand for breaking news.”
(29), news analysis coordinator, HLN.be
Reach and conversion rates
As online manager of Story, Veronica Superguide and Totaal TV in Hoofddorp, Sabine Kok knows better than anyone what makes for popular content. “Our readers on Story.nl, for example, aren’t just interested in the latest news about André Hazes, the Meilands and Marco Borsato. They also want to read background stories about celebrities we refer to as ‘evergreens’, such as Ron Brandsteder and Robert ten Brink. In fact, two pieces we published about these fixtures in Dutch entertainment were in the top five most-read articles on Story.nl in 2022, even though the stories had no real urgency. There’s a growing interest in celebrities, which we’re responding to with our websites, social media channels, newsletters and push notifications, all of which received a makeover recently.”
DPG Media’s entertainment magazines reach 2.1 million readers a week in Belgium and nearly 1 million in the Netherlands.
Andries Kumpen is news analysis coordinator at News City, in Antwerp. Based on his experience in this role, he knows exactly what kind of stories and angles produce the biggest impact for HLN.be. “In 2022, showbiz content on HLN.be accounted for 17 per cent of article reach, 15 per cent of video reach and 12 per cent of total conversions. We had front-row seats at Belgian and British royalty events, and shared beautiful and also tragic moments from the lives of Flemish celebrities.”
The Content Performance division, which meticulously monitors the online reach of every article, as well as the read time and conversion rate, knows that showbiz stories typically do well. “Even on HLN.be, it’s not always breaking entertainment news that gets the most clicks. For example, an article in which former Playboy Playmates opened up about the legendary Hugh Hefner and one in which a body language expert analysed Amber Heard and Johnny Depp’s infamous court battle both had a large reach and attracted lots of new subscribers.”