was a year of two extremes” 

was a year of two extremes” 

How did DPG Media fare in 2022, and what will happen in 2023? CEO Erik Roddenhof (51) reflects and looks ahead.

As a result of the pandemic, DPG Media had a banner 2021 – was 2022 a hard landing?

“You could say that the post-pandemic era and the war in Ukraine have turned the world upside down. The impact on our company has been substantial: there’s the energy crisis, with unprecedented prices, massive inflation almost across the board, paper prices going through the roof and a severe labour shortage. The cumulative effect of these developments is that our costs have increased by 60 million euros, and they will do so again this year. That’s 120 million euros in extra costs across a two-year period – you don’t just recoup that. Fortunately, turnover was good last year and we paid extra attention to our spending. The situation required expert helmsmanship, and given the changing economic landscape the year ahead will be no different.”

Is it true that the news media brands – the newspapers in particular – were hit the hardest?

“That’s right. The cost increases were mainly felt by our publishing division, which includes all our news media and magazines. The soaring costs of paper, delivery and staff had a big impact. There were significant losses in that division – the percentages were in the high double digits. On the other hand, television, video and radio turned in great results. Partly due to a strong advertising market, the results there were among the best in the past 20 years.”

“It was a year of two extremes, which meant we had to concede 8 percent on our EBITDA compared to the banner year we had in 2021, so it wasn’t a hard landing for DPG Media. That’s the benefit of being a large group with a diversified portfolio made up of different types of media. We are and will remain a healthy company. This will allow us to continue investing in our future and growth.”

“It’s crucial now to leverage our digital position to create much more value”

Your mission is to digitise DPG Media. Is that process still moving forward at a steady clip?

We experienced the ongoing transition to an increasingly digital society at all levels last year. In Denmark, B.T. released its last print edition. After more than a hundred years, B.T. is now a fully digital news brand – the largest in Denmark. We also closed two printing plants and stopped afternoon delivery in the Netherlands, making Het Parool a morning paper. All necessary decisions as part of our digital transition, but these kinds of changes always hurt a little as well.”

“On the other hand, the digital side of our business continues to grow. Subscriber numbers for our news media and magazines grew to 800,000 last year, and the digital ad market just keeps getting bigger as well, increasing by more than 50 percent over the past six years. We also fantasised about our own DPG Media ad system so we’re no longer dependent on Google, which skims half of our revenue. It’s called Trusted Web, and the fantasy is starting to become reality. And Online Services, where, for instance, Independer and AMV inform and advise consumers when buying products and services also continue to amaze us with their excellent results. We’re still a long way from where we need to be, but we’ve come a long way as well.”

What are the next milestones before you reach your final goal?

“We can no longer say we’re going digital. We are digital. Many of our brands are among the biggest in their markets, so we’re no longer talking about a radical digital course change, but rather a slight adjustment. It’s crucial now to leverage our digital position to create much more value. We need to be so strong and unique in the digital space that consumers and advertisers are willing to pay more for our products and services.”

And what about digital journalism?

“We’re getting increasingly skilled at improving our digital media, but we can and must do a lot better still. And there’s no shame in that. If you look at how long we’ve been making newspapers, magazines, television and radio – print media has been around for ages – it’s clear that we’re only just getting started in the digital space. But we’re taking big steps forward every year. In 2022, we became a serious player in podcasting. We achieved more than 90 million downloads, thanks in part to gems like HLN’s De Kroongetuigen and ADR’s In de ban van Rian. We also invested in expanding our regional titles’ digital news, adding much more local news.”

So you stay on top of all those developments?

“Absolutely. And I could go on and on. VTM GO introduced Shorties: series made up of 10-minute episodes that got millions of views right out the gate. and doubled their digital reach. We’re also improving our digital storytelling across the entire company, supporting our journalists with new technology, but also with training from our Campus. We’re just getting started!”

Remy Amkreutz, editor-in-chief of De Morgen, in conversation with Erik Roddenhof and Christian Van Thillo about the past year and about 2023