The Netherlands: a country of newspapers goes digital

God created the world but the Dutch created The Netherlands. This old Dutch saying could equally well be used to describe the country's highly innovative media landscape. Some of the new projects launched in the Netherlands are even causing a sensation internationally. Blendle, an online newspaper kiosk, is just one example.

Online newspaper kiosk Blendle (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Online newspaper kiosk Blendle (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Blendle allows readers to choose online content from any of the Netherlands' many newspapers and magazines, and also from a number of international media, and read it for prices starting at 15 cents per article. With the crowd-funded initiative De Correspondent, on the other hand, the focus is on the journalists. Each of them stands for high-quality journalism. For a monthly fee readers can become symbolic co-owners of the platform and also be involved in decisions regarding its content.

Both projects show how the crisis has also been used as an opportunity. Forced to change track by the new media and the economic crisis, newspaper publishers took the bull by the horns and invested heavily in Internet activities. Nevertheless, online subscriptions have compensated only partially for the drop in circulation. So far magazines have been hardest hit by the crisis, and many have ceased publication.

The Dutch are increasingly using online media as their source of information and they are particularly active users of social networks. Yet with four national newspapers for just under 17 million inhabitants, a free daily printed on workdays and a strong regional press, the Netherlands remains a land of newspapers. One in two households reads a newspaper every day.

The three largest newspapers NRC Handelsblad, Trouw and De Volkskrant are left-wing-liberal in orientation and together with the conservative tabloid De Telegraaf, the highest-circulation newspaper, are widely regarded as opinion leaders. With seven regional editions the country's second-largest newspaper, Das Algemeen Dagblad, is above all strong in the regional paper segment. The biggest blog, geenstijl.nl (no style) carries many right-wing populist contributions and is also very popular. It is considered to be an indicator of the general mood in the Netherlands.

After several changes of ownership all the Dutch newspapers apart from De Telegraaf are now Belgian-owned. In 2009 the publishing company Persgroep took over the Dutch publishers PCM Uitgevers (which owned Trouw and Volkskrant, among others) and acquired the magazine publisher VNU Media in 2012. To prevent the creation of a monopoly, NRC Handelsblad was outsourced and taken over by the Belgian Mediahuis concern.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech have been cherished principles for centuries in the Netherlands. The media rigorously defend their hard-won independence from the influence of political parties and the Church. Following in the footsteps of the press, public radio and television are also discarding any ideological or confessional orientation they may have had. A state reform and a cutback in subsidies forced the fourteen broadcasting companies to work together. Once commercial stations were allowed to start broadcasting in 1989, the public radio and television broadcasters lost their monopoly. They now face stiff competition above all from the RTL group and SBS.

Press Freedom Rating:

Reporters Without Borders: 5th place (2017)
Freedom House: 2nd place - status: free (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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