Tag Archives: The Netherlands

(Not) speaking Dutch: new English language website launches with a Netherlands theme

NRC Handelsblad launched an English language website this week… for people with an interest in the Netherlands and its news.

As a press release published at MarketWatch said, the new website will target foreigners who cannot read Dutch, but are interested in Dutch ‘quality journalism’.

News, features and opinion will be published daily, reflecting domestic issues, and looking at international news that impacts the Netherlands.

There will be a discussion forum, concentrating on current affairs, to which well-known Dutch nationals will contribute.

Nrc.nl/international is a collaboration with German site Spiegel Online, which has existing partnerships with the International Herald Tribune, BusinessWeek and the New York Times.

The site is also linked to DutchNews.nl, the work of two British journalists. The editors of DutchNews.nl will translate and edit articles for Nrc.nl/international.

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Behind the spin of Mecom’s half-year results

Even former Mirror boss David Montgomery, who has a reputation as a ferocious cost-cutter, admits his new pan-European newspaper group Mecom cannot cost-cut its way out of a recession.

Shares in the company tumbled on the London Stock Exchange last week after the newspaper group failed to impress the market with its interim half-year results.

Perhaps jittery from all the recent talk of recession, investors did not appreciate the highly geared company’s reports of ‘worsening economic conditions’.

Despite Montgomery’s assurances that his business model is very different from that of UK newspapers – with subscription rates as high as 96 per cent in some of the countries Mecom operates in – alert observers noted that advertising still makes up 52 per cent of revenue.

No more title-specific news desks?
As widely reported, this does of course mean employees at the company, already disgruntled about redundancies on the table, will have to prepare for an even tighter ship in times ahead.

But there is more to this story: in a phone conference with employee representatives last week, Montgomery is reported to have admitted the company cannot cost-cut its way out of a recession; and emphasised that new ways of working and new streams of revenue were necessary for newspapers to have a profitable future.

He specifically highlighted two areas as key to the company’s future strategy: digital expansion, where its Norwegian division, Edda Media, is leading the pack with 9 per cent of its revenues from digital operations; and the media house strategy pioneered by Lisbeth Knudsen, the CEO of its Danish operation.

As Journalism.co.uk previously reported, Knudsen has reorganised her company’s titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy not only across platforms, but also titles – be they broadsheet, tabloid or regional newspapers. This, apparently, is to become the standard for all future media house strategy in Mecom.

Innovation exchange

“Mecom’s German division for instance – comprised of Berliner Zeitung, a national; Netzeitung, an online-only newspaper, and various magazine titles – should pay heed to these words. This model might be seen as a good fit for Germany,” an employee representative told me.

Mecom has also established an agreement that allows all Mecom countries to exchange software solutions developed in one country to another Mecom country without charge. The Reader’s Newspaper, a citizen journalism portal previously described by Journalism.co.uk, for instance, is to be exported from Norway to Denmark and Poland.

Another Norwegian export is a new range of hyper-local websites and freesheets Mecom is launching in Poland: Moje Miastro – a concept that has been operating for some time in Norway. The newspaper group, often portrayed as cash-starved and too much in debt, has also entered into an agreement to buy Edtytor Sp. z o.o., a regional newspaper business in Olsztyn. It has told employee representatives that the Polish expansion in new products was to blame for the dip in profits from its Polish arm.

Beware the ghost of recession

In other words, keeping an eye on innovations in the various parts of Mecom’s far-flung empire, can give useful pointers to what we can expect on group level.

Unfortunately for Mecom, a less fortunate trend spreading through the many European countries the company operates in is the ghost of recession.

In this age of globalisation, operating in more than one European country is no safe hedge against a market downturn, despite Montgomery indicating otherwise.

As Peter Kirwan recently wrote in his Press Gazette blog: “[W]hen it comes to the ad recession, we’re at the end of beginning, not the beginning of the end.”

In the summer months we have seen the footprints of recession appear in new territories such as Norway and Holland, causing the job and property classifieds markets to shrink – a sure sign that worse is yet to come.

For Mecom, the question is which is strongest, which will have the final say: the ability to come up with new innovative ways of doing business with less resources, or the clammy hand of a jittery market in the throes of recession?

links for 2008-06-27

Online Journalism Scandinavia: Here come the Web 2.0 docusoaps

Swedes are getting so hooked on social media that for many web-crazy young things reality-TV has all but moved online.

Last night Twingly, the Swedish web company that supplies a blog trackback functionality to newspapers world-wide and last week launched its international spam free blog search engine Twingly.com, aired the first programme of its new reality-series on YouTube: The Summer of Code.

YouTube reality-show

“We have recruited four ambitious interns and given them six weeks to develop a visual search engine for blogs; Twingly Blogoscope,” said Martin Källström, CEO of Twingly.

“Everyone can follow what happens in the project via daily episodes on YouTube.”

The episodes will be uploaded Monday to Friday at 6 PM GMT (10 AM in San Francisco, 19:00 in Stockholm) and the first programme aired last night.

“Openness in this project is a way to show the daily life in the office,” said Källström.

“Generally people are not familiar with the stimulating working atmosphere in a start-up. Hopefully Twingly Summer of Code will inspire more people to join Twingly or other start-ups.”

Media increasingly about conversation
Last week, Twingly launched its search engine Twingly.com to track 30 million blogs all over the world.

Despite this global scope, Källström said Twingly will concentrate on being number one in Europe, working with several different European languages.

“Google has not improved its blog search for more than two years,” he told Journalism.co.uk.

The company has teamed up with newspapers in Spain, Portugal, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and South Africa, to show blog links to the news sites’ articles.

Källström added that his hope was for Twingly to be able to take on both Google and Technorati by providing more functionality and driving traffic to bloggers via its media partnerships.

“Media is more and more about the conversation between media and its readers. We see a very strong synergy between mainstream media and bloggers and try to provide a bridge that can improve this synergy,” he said.

Blogs have replaced docusoaps
Twingly’s target group for The Summer of Code will no doubt draw an audience of uber-geeks but a young Swedish reporter recently admitted she was addicted to a very different sort of ‘web docusoap’.

Madeleine Östlund, a reporter with the Swedish equivalent of Press Gazette, Dagens Media, claimed the country’s fashion blogs had replaced docusoaps (link in Swedish).

She confessed she found it increasingly difficult to live without her daily fix of intimate everyday details and gossip from the country’s high-profile fashion bloggers, a phenomenon Journalism.co.uk has described here.

“It is not their blogging about clothes that draws me in, rather it is the surprise and fascination with which I read about these young girls’ private lives. Surprise and fascination about how much they often reveal,” she wrote, citing posts about broken hearts, hospital stays, what they had for breakfast and descriptions of a caesarian birth.

Roll on the Web 2.0 docusoap about dashing media journalists, I say.

Wilbert Baan rethinks the news website with EN.nl

Wilbert Baan, interaction designer for de Volkskrant, is part of the team behind EN.nl – a bold project to redesign the news site. The site makes the most of its users in reshaping its design and includes a healthy dose of technological innovation alongside this wiki attitude.

Baan says the team built a version of the site for the iPhone within an hour and making the site work across different devices is key to how it’s been built.

After an initial introduction to the site through Paul Bradshaw’s blog, Journalism.co.uk asked Baan for more insight into the project:

1) What is the thinking behind the design EN.nl? How will its features improve the delivery of news to readers?

EN asks readers to participate. The design wants to stimulate participation. The horizontal timeline (below) shows the rhythm of news, the published articles over the last 24 hours.

Screenshot of EN.nl

When there is breaking news this often results in large amounts of small articles. This will make the bars of the hours that the news breaks relatively high compared to the rest of the day.

EN.nl is an evolving project. The design is an experiment and we had positive and negative feedback on the horizontal timeline. Positive is that it enables you to scan over a hundred articles relatively fast. The negative aspect is that it doesn’t show hierarchy. Everything is time-based.

On a NING network we ask everyone to share ideas and thoughts. We are open about the development process and made this a public experience.

2) How do you decide what content makes it onto the site?

EN is linked to a feed from a Dutch Press agency (ANP). This makes the website – for now – a closed system with a focus on news. ANP produces around a hundred articles a day and covers the whole spectrum of news reporting in the Netherlands.

There are already people asking to write articles. For example one reader is already bending the system and creating interesting articles. He takes an article and uses this as a container for ‘more important’ news.

There are some things you have to think about when opening the system for everyone to write articles. Relevancy and the truth become more important. We trust press agencies. How do you build online trust or what is important in developing a reputation system? And how do you decide what article is relevant and for whom?. Should we syndicate more news sources and should we syndicate with bloggers?

I think EN will develop to something where everyone can write and submit articles and I think it will be closely linked to a relevancy system. If you are a soccer fan your definition of soccer related news is different than that of a non-soccer fan.

3) On Paul Bradshaw’s blog you said: ‘The database is the most valuable asset of a news organisation’ – can you explain why you think this?

The web is fragmenting or – maybe even better – the web is everywhere: on your mobile phone, television, widgets, feeds, website and more. Making information portable is important for a news organization, because you probably can’t develop something for every niche platform or website.

Making collections and connecting data creates new value. If your information is easily accessible and contains valuable meta information then this gives additional tools to a news organization and enables them to move fast or enable their readers to create the tools they desire.

If your news (articles, photos, audio, video) is stored with good meta information and accessible it makes it easy to work with third parties in developing new value like location based services or news linked to your profile on another website. And even more important it will be cheaper to develop since you don’t have to update your archive with meta information.

I don’t know exactly what device or service will be popular in five years, but I guess the article as a container will still be popular.