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Newspapers - surviving the digital domain

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Newspapers - surviving the digital domain

September 26, 2011 - 03:44

Amsterdam, Sept. 26, 2011 (RISI) -Daily print newspapers still have a valuable place in today's society, one that can't be easily replaced by the digital realm. But facing shrinking numbers, newspapers' survival means finding ways print and digital can work together.

In this exclusive interview, Sjuul Paradijs, editor-in-chief ofDe Telegraaf, the Netherlands largest morning daily, shares his thoughts on how newspapers are dealing with content in the digital domain and how the industry can adapt and thrive.

Paradijs will present the keynote presentation at the upcoming PPI Transport Symposium 19 in Amsterdam on Wednesday, October 12, 2011.

RISI:Sjuul, what brought you to work for De Telegraaf, the largest Dutch daily morning newspaper?

Paradijs:After studying law at the University of Amsterdam, I started working at the Amsterdam local newspaper,The Echo. "The biggest local newspaper of the Netherlands" was my proud explanation on the telephone in 1986.The Echois part of Telegraaf Media Netherlands.

My roots lay at a real "Telegraaf" family. The only paper that my dad read wasDe Telegraaf, other newspapers where even strictly forbidden. Since my eighth birthday, I was addicted to newspapers. I really like to know everything about them and I'm really a news addict.

After two years I made a switch from the financial department and worked as a research journalist for De Telegraaf. I became chief of the parliamentary department in 1994, led the popular society column Stan Huygens Journal for a number of years and, finally, I was included in the management of the newspaper. For over 25 years I have worked in the highest gear, 7 days a week, 24 hours, always hectic. I love it!

RISI:What are some of the biggest challenges facingDe Telegraafand other European newspapers?

Paradijs:The main question remains: how do you reach your audience? By the newspaper alone, through the Internet, using tablets, TV or the radio? All of the above? That is the challenge. We continuously work on the loyalty of our readers, advertisers and other parties. We try to involve them with a very strong brand that can take advantage of the today's new opportunities.

We don't think in paper only, but try to find a good mix that can deliver the content, the information. That also makes all the components of the mix stronger. If you can keep claiming the television guide function with your brand, you are doing a good job.

Good cooperation between different countries and languages is required, particularly at the background. Print, delivery, customer service, joint purchasing, these all protect the pluralism of the print media. When you refuse to do this, it will be a short living for a lot of small titles.

Sjuul Paradijs, editor-in-chief,De Telegraaf: "We don't think in paper only, but try to find a good mix that can deliver the content, the information. That also makes all the components of the mix stronger."

RISI:Would you talk about the impact of digital and how it has affectedDe Telegraaf? How are newspapers handling their own move into the digital space?

Paradijs:Our coverage has boomed in several areas with our leading digital presence and it only increases with the presence of the mobile phone. For example, it forces us to transform a journalistic message into video.

The number of views ofDe Telegraafvideo was one million per month a half year ago. That number increased to more than eight million views in June. On average, half a million people visit our site everyday, sometimes several times a day. A part of these visitors are subscribers, but there are new audiences too, for example the iPad users.

The content of the newspaper is rapidly changing. The reader can still find the ‘talk of the day' but also more opinion articles, interpretations and a more magazine-like approach than five years ago. Digital is no longer free, so the benefits have to be present. This implies that the consumer is willing to contribute to the financing of the journalistic device, but naturally we need to explain the benefits for the consumers, like we did the past decades. Back then we also had to prove ourselves, because there were always enough competitors.

RISI:It can be said that the Internet has made everyone a reporter. What is your opinion about newspapers that are increasingly dependent on user-contributed content as a part of their news coverage?

Paradijs:When it comes to photography and video, our employee database increased by millions of people with the Internet. Everyone is very loyal to us and publishes information on Twitter or Facebook, and that is really great.

The news value of the photography is often limited in time, sometimes only five minutes and sometimes a whole day. In print, we eventually want the best photography. The static image must be more impressive than the video. It should bring emotion; it should penetrate the reader.

The citizen as writing journalist did not pass the exam. There are way too many simple opinions, the facts are quite often incorrect and it is poorly written. Besides this, all laws that apply to journalism, such as adversarial, are violated. Moreover, it is unreliable and other news consumers will certainly never pay for it.

News itself has always been free. With the rise of Internet and piracy, the value of distinctive content seemed to have decreased, but this is simply not true.

RISI:What is your vision for the newspaper industry in general and specificallyDe Telegraafover the next five years?

Paradijs:For us, it does not matter which way we can bring the message to our readers. In the Netherlands, nowadays 3.2 million newspapers are sold every day, either by single copy sales or subscribers. The pressure to newspapers is there and it will remain.

But newspapers will not disappear. Sometimes I ask the question; will there still be a carton of milk in 50 years? Of course! Because it is the content that matters. People will keep paying for premium content. I am now 49 years old. I will continue to read papers for the rest of my life. And I am sure that the next generations will continue to do so.

We will not let them call us the ‘old tree' generation. The big media companies may be more old-fashioned than the new ones to the market, but the consumers will keep the old fashion brands in their hearts and minds.

PPI Transport Symposium 19, organized by RISI and the IFPTA, will take place October 11 - 14, 2011 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. For more information,