Irene Costera Meijer and Tim Groot Kormelink
Department of Journalism Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
The Dutch media environment is characterised by strong public service media, relatively high-quality commercial news organisations, and continued digital innovation.
Dutch news organisations continue to focus on digital innovation, with the two most recognisable digital-only initiatives growing and expanding. De Correspondent, a well-regarded start-up, which bills itself as an antidote to the daily news grind, has grown from 20,000 paying members at its launch in September 2013 to 56,000 in March 2017. It also announced plans for a launch in the United States. Aggregated pay-per-article (micropayment) platform Blendle doubled its registered users and increased its number of paying accounts by 60% in 2016, according to its founder.1 Blendle also launched a new premium product, which offers a daily selection of 20 articles for €9.99 per month. This caused quality paper NRC to stop using Blendle’s services, citing the latter’s move from additional service to a distribution platform and therefore from a collaborator to a competitor. Follow The Money, which bills itself as a radical investigative journalism initiative, introduced a paywall. Surviving on membership and donations, it aims to gain enough subscribers to guarantee financial independence in the long run. Yournalism, a platform for crowd-funded investigative reporting launched in 2014, dissolved.
Legacy news organisations also continue to innovate. Most notably, publishing house De Persgroep launched Topics in the Netherlands, giving subscribers to any of their Dutch and Belgian titles unlimited access to the content of all of them.
Print circulation continues to decline. Popular broadsheets De Telegraaf and Algemeen Dagblad (AD) retain a bigger circulation than all quality newspapers combined, but face a steeper decline (-8% and -6%) than their quality counterparts Het Financieele Dagblad (-1%), Trouw (-2%) and De Volkskrant (-3%). Total digital circulation continues to grow. Quality newspapers De Volkskrant (90k) and NRC (66k) outnumber De Telegraaf (44k) and AD (34k) in terms of digital subscribers.2
Public service broadcaster NOS continues to dominate the offline news market (70%), followed by commercial broadcaster RTL (34%). Online, NOS (30%) is second only to Nu.nl (38%). Remarkable surges in ratings were seen by daily talk show Jinek and weekly news satire Lubach op Zondag. The latter generated worldwide attention when a clip introducing the Netherlands to Donald Trump went viral.3
A controversial Media Act was weakened after opposition parties worried the independence of public service media (PSM) would be jeopardised. The amended law assured politics would have no say in appointing the board of PSM’s governing body NPO, and the NPO board would have no say in presenters, guests, topics, or specifics of form or content supplied by the various public broadcasters.
As a result of decreasing resources leading to smaller newsrooms and a bigger dependency on freelancers, two-thirds of Dutch editors-in-chief report they fear a higher risk of violation of editorial independence than five years ago. In particular, they expect an increasing pressure to align their editorial choices to the preferences and wishes of the public.4
In the Netherlands, fake news is more media hype than real challenge, with little serious concern about its impact. Half of our Dutch online sample (51%) trust news overall (= 5th/36), while 62% trust the news they themselves are using (2nd/36). Furthermore the Netherlands is in second place (2nd/36) agreeing that news is free from both undue political and undue commercial influence. A comparison of users’ trust between top news sites illustrates these figures. Users rate public broadcaster site NOS.nl high on accuracy (56%) and explanatory power (41%). 34% of the users of commercial news site NU.nl judge it as most accurate and 27% think it is best for understanding complex issues. Dutch news blog GeenStijl, which describes itself as ‘tendentious, unfounded and needlessly offensive’, is used more often than websites of quality newspapers NRC and Trouw, but 40% see it as entertainment rather than as an accurate news source (11%). De Dagelijkse Standaard (The Daily Standard) – referred to as the Dutch Breitbart – appears to be a negligible player.
Online (79%) has overtaken television news (74%) over the last three years as a source of news while the smartphone (49%) is fast becoming the most important access point. Tablet use for news is declining.
Trust in news remains comparatively high in the Netherlands, which might be due to a low presence of tabloid news media and a pluralistic system of public service media and relatively high-quality commercial news brands. The country ranks amongst the highest in perceived freedom from undue political influence and commercial influence.
- http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/analyse-blendles-groei-in-nederland-stagneert ↩
- https://www.svdj.nl/de-stand-van-de-nieuwsmedia/oplage-2016-telegraaf-grote-verliezer-trouw-en-fd-bijna-stabiel and https://www.svdj.nl/nieuws/digitale-dagbladverkoop-blijft-groeien ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELD2AwFN9Nc ↩
- http://www.mediamonitor.nl/analyse-verdieping/onafhankelijkheid-van-nieuwsredacties-2015 ↩