is coming closer to home
Every day, more than 800 in-house journalists cover regional news for DPG Media in the Netherlands, bringing readers news and stories from close to home. Following the successful online growth of the regional titles over the last few years, 2022 saw the beginning of the next phase in DPG Media’s regional news strategy. The new goal: to enrich and improve the presentation of local and regional news offerings.
director of journalism, ADR Nieuwsmedia
Dutch regional newspapers have made a giant digital leap in recent years as a result of increased collaboration and content sharing. Digital reach and online subscriber numbers showed a solid increase, reaching absolute highs during the ‘pandemic years’ 2020 and 2021. ADR has a daily reach of over 5 million unique visitors, more than half of whom read at least one article about their region every day.
“Those are great numbers, but we’re not there yet. We can – no, we must serve our online local and regional readers much better,” says Allard Besse, director of journalism at ADR Nieuwsmedia, which includes AD, BN DeStem, Brabants Dagblad, Eindhovens Dagblad, de Gelderlander, PZC, de Stentor, Tubantia and indebuurt.nl, an online platform for local city news.
App and website revamp
To continue digital growth, regional journalism needs to offer richer content about stories closer to home and present them in a way that’s clearer for readers. “Readers like to get as much local news as possible,” Besse explains. “They want to know what’s going on when they hear sirens, why that street in their neighbourhood has been broken up for so long and how their local football club did on Saturday afternoon. But they also want journalists to hold their municipality to account, and understand why the outcome of the provincial elections could affect their daily lives.”
If there’s news, it’s important to help readers find it, and to present the stories in a well-organised way. “That applies not only to regional news about the potential negative consequences of a new commercial airport like Lelystad or about hazardous substances contaminating the water off the coast of Zeeland, but also – and especially – to small local news and service announcements in cities, neighbourhoods and villages.”
To help readers find these kinds of stories, the ADR app and website are being revamped. Until last year, the entire tapestry of regional news was presented as one single stream. This caused less time-sensitive pieces, such as restaurant reviews, to quickly get snowed under.
With one easy tap on the Region button in the home screen, users can now navigate directly to content about their own municipality as well as relevant news from surrounding towns. Another recently added feature in the regional news environment is the navigation bar at the top of the screen, which shows new sections, with news and service articles presented side by side for the reader’s convenience. “So suppose you heard sirens in your neighbourhood last night, you go to the emergency news section. Or maybe you want to know how your local football club did, so you go to the regional sports section. And if you’re not sure where to go for a bite to eat Friday evening, there’s the food and drink section.”
“We must serve our online regional readers much better”
And there’s more coming down the line. Advertisers will soon be able to target consumers regionally or locally with special offers and advertising content in the promotions section. Obituaries as well as stories about the deceased will be published in a new ‘in memoriam’ section, while a readers’ section will feature stories, photos and videos submitted by readers. “That’s why every ADR editorial team is investing in reader interaction by appointing community editors, who also will engage readers in conversations about the news on our platforms.”
Over the past year, DPG Media’s hyper local digital platform, indebuurt.nl, was incorporated into the ADR ranks. This platform reports on the fun, enjoyable aspects of city life, such as local nightlife and shopping, in more than 30 major cities, and offers lots of space to local advertisers. It’s a platform with around 5.5 million monthly visitors that racks up more than 20 million monthly views. Articles from indebuurt.nl are featured (under the indebuurt label) in the daily news stream of the regional sites and in the entertainment sections, as well as in the city editions of newspapers such as AD, BN DeStem and de Gelderlander.
BN DeStem, Brabants Dagblad, Eindhovens Dagblad, de Gelderlander, PZC, de Stentor and Tubantia (DPG Media’s regional titles) together have a daily online reach of over 2.2 million readers. On top of that, AD brings regional journalism from another seven regions to an audience of millions every day.
Our editorial staff relies on a bot to generate a significant proportion of boilerplate factual reports and service announcements, for instance on regional weather, traffic or waste collection “The bot software uses data to produce simple news and service messages for all municipalities. This can be done with raw data from amateur sports matches, such as score histories and results, or using weather forecasts. The bot automatically prepares summaries for each league and weather reports tailored to individual municipalities. But the team can also check data from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) to see if there’s any national or regional news the editorial bot could use to generate unique posts for each municipality.”
DPG Media’s ambition is simple: ADR’s regional platforms should be the go-to place for readers who want to stay informed on everything going on in their local area, offering interaction with and between readers. “All based on that underlying goal: more reach and more digital subscribers.”
regional journalism special?
And what drives a journalist to pursue a story? In this video, our reporters give you a peek behind the scenes and answer 10 questions about their experiences working in journalism.
Jelle Krekels is an investigative journalist for the Eindhovens Dagblad. His reporting shines a light on stories that would otherwise remain hidden, and his articles are frequently at the centre of public controversy. In 2022, for instance, he volunteered to go undercover for a month at an asylum seekers’ centre for minors in Oisterwijk and wrote an exposé about what he witnessed there. The experience made a deep impression on him.
Iffet Subaşı chose regional journalism to give people a voice – people from all backgrounds, including the most vulnerable ones. As a reporter for AD Rotterdams Dagblad, she covers the political beat and writes about poverty, a pervasive problem in her city, with serious consequences. “I want to make sure that people stay connected to society.”