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PPI Transport Symposium 19 Keynote Presentation

Sjuul Paraijs, editor-in-chief, De Telegraaf

October 25, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, my little secret. When I come across someone in pub looking at me and asking what I do, without hesitation I say: I have been in the paper business all my life!

So good morning colleagues!

Thank you for inviting me. I welcome you to the most weird and wonderful city in Europe. Some people think it a city with the worst mismanagement in the country. Most of the major museums have had long periods of closure over the last few years, the centre of town is a building site, the construction costs of the new underground are billions more than anticipated, the red light area has turned into a high fashion area and when you walk through town, you run the risk of being robbed.

But colleagues, how nice it is to be here. Enjoy it. Enjoy a country that is just as dull as Denmark’s. A country without mountains, waterfalls or spectacular panoramic views. A country that has a minority government and where even de Queen appears to have an everyday life.

However, it is also a country in which 3.5 million paid newspapers are being distributed every day. It is a country in which De Telegraaf, my newspaper, originated which is the immediate reason for this country being far less dull than Denmark.

A very good morning indeed!

My name is Sjuul Paradijs and I am the editor- in-chief of De Telegraaf which is the largest newspaper of the Netherlands. We have an average circulation of more than 600.000 copies. We have the free sheet named Spits, regional daily newspapers, magazines and free local papers. I have been in the paper business for over 25 years. After having finished my law studies 25 years ago, I started working as a journalist at a local paper and progressed to being the editor-in-chief of the printed and digital editions of De Telegraaf.

De Telegraaf has a readership of more than two million Dutch people and our website attracts an average of 1.6 million visitors a day. Ten million Dutch people watch a video every month on our site. As far as I am concerned it should be 60 million in a few years’ time. In addition, I am one of the founders of WAKKER NEDERLAND, a new national broadcasting station. Incidentally, our biggest competitor is a national broadcasting station financed by tax payers’ money.

The main issue in the coming few years is: How do we finance journalism? How do we finance the payment of journalists? Is it still possible to finance journalism if the actual engine, the newspaper, is faltering?

My response is a whole-hearted YES!

Newspaper publishers in the Netherlands have been doing well for a very long time. Up to 2001 the money simply flooded in. Innovation was not considered, it was not necessary, life was great.

The first innovation was to increase the amount of paper products used. That suited all of you very well, wouldn’t you say so?

The second innovation was to simply make things free of charge. Free newspapers, free internet access, free presents. This made most people very happy. This was the biggest mistake in media history caused by a panicked rush into free media. The movement into free media has been one of the most malignant growths affecting journalism. Gathering news is not free of charge; journalism is not free of charge. After all you do not supply your paper products free of charge either!

Journalism will get lost in anything that is free of charge unless it is funded by other sources. An example is a national broadcasting service which is financed by tax payer’s money. Investigative journalism or creative journalism cannot be financed by being free of charge. It is clear that journalism will come off worst in free local newspapers and free websites.  

I think these developments will lead to a decrease in employment in this area. It is not possible to pay for journalists working for newspapers that are free of charge. In Denmark the free sheets were even delivered to homes! In the Netherlands 3 free sheets now remain.  

The third innovation was to put up the prices of newspapers. It is an old arrogant method  - tried and tested-. Even a first year student reading economics will be able to tell you that if the sales figures are less than expected and the product needs cutting back, the price must be decreased rather than be increased. No, everything runs a different course in the world of newspapers. They increased prices…

That is typical. The publishers closed their eyes to the outside world and only focused on defending their own position. Others occupied dominant positions in digital classifieds. Even in news publishing other digital players emerged. Our domain was under threat as access to the paper market appeared to be more difficult on account of large investments in printing presses. However, in the digital world, even number 1 positions lost their reputations.

That is the dark side today, colleagues!

I would like to give you an idea of my reality. Look around, the sun is starting to shine, the birds are starting to sing. Our critics will blush when they consider us to be old school, their pronouncements have been proved untrue.  

Ten years ago, in 2000, we produced one newspaper at our editorial department with 300 staff members.

In 2011 it all radically changed. I would like to invite you to come and look for yourselves. We still produce a newspaper with the same number of staff members. De Telegraaf continues to be the largest newspaper in the Netherlands. We also produce a free sheet. We have set up approximately 20 websites, many of which are market leaders in the Netherlands. We are active on mobile media, tablets, we are developing apps, and we have taken up a central position in the social media to increase our reach. De Telegraaf has even taken over the Dutch social media site named Hyves, we produce three magazines, including the biggest celebrity news magazine in the Netherlands, the largest women’s magazine as well as one of the biggest car magazines; we make web television. In less than 6 months, viewings increased from 2 million to almost 10 million.

And colleagues: if I listen to myself, we are still using a lot of paper but it sounds very different to 10 years ago. We provide multimedia services to newspapers, television and the web.

It would be unthinkable to lie to colleagues, which is why I will not mince my words. A company, who dares to increase its price for paper, makes its own decisions, but its market will be ruined. Please do not say that the market sets the price. If the price of paper is outrageously high, the information on paper will turn digital faster, which in turn, will lead to ending our cooperation sooner than expected.

Today we have serious challenges focusing on the central issue: how do we reach the public? By way of the newspaper, the web, via tablets, TV and radio. It is a huge challenge to retain and to increase the loyalty of the readers, advertisers and others.  We use big brands to show new possibilities that are available. We do not just think about paper but we endeavour to find the right combination or mix. This will also strengthen the different components of such combination. If we can keep up a leading position using our brand, everything will be okay. It is vital to cooperate per country or region, especially where it concerns support. To print together, to deliver together, to speak to clients together, to buy in together with the aim of protecting the diverse forms of printed media. If we fail to do this, many small daily papers will soon cease to exist.

As a result of our prominent digital presence, we have seen an explosive growth in many areas. The communication possibilities using mobile devices are continuously increasing. This makes us re-package journalistic messages by producing videos recounting stories with the use of moving images.

The content of the newspapers is changing fast. Readers still find the talk of the town but there is increasing focus on opinions, interpretation as well as a more magazine-like approach than 5 years ago. Publications that are free of charge are no longer fashionable, but the gaining of advantages is now popular. I say this as it seems that the consumer is prepared to contribute to the financing of journalistic system if we provide a proper explanation of its advantages. This has been our practice for decades. All those years ago, there were also different and faster media and we have had to prove what we stand for.

It is no good lamenting it.

We have acquired millions of contributors as far as photography and video are concerned. It is fantastic that everyone has a certain loyalty and whatever they see is soon published via Twitter or Facebook. The news value of photography is currently very limited; at times it lasts 5 minutes and maybe a whole day. Ultimately, photography is better when it is printed on paper. A still image must make more of an impact than a video. It has to generate emotion and to have an effect on the reader.

The other side is that civilians as journalists writing articles have not reached such levels. Easy opinions, incorrect facts, badly written articles  - a situation where journalistic conventions - such as the principle of hearing both sides of the story - are not observed. Such publications are not reliable and certain news consumers will never be prepared to pay for such standards.   

It does not matter to us how we deliver our message. But in the Netherlands 3.2 million Dutch people buy a newspaper every day, either via a subscription or in a shop. Newspapers are under pressure and will continue to be so, but newspapers will not disappear. I sometimes ask myself the question: will there still be a carton of milk in fifty years’ time? The answer naturally is yes. It is not the package but the contents that are most important and people will continue to pay for premium quality. I am now 49 years old. I will continue to read papers for the rest of my life. I am sure that part of the generations that follow me will also continue to do the same. We will not be put aside as being old school. It may be so that the large media companies do not move as swiftly as newcomers on the market, however, their brands are in the hearts and minds of the consumers.

We must also be prepared to discard elements from the previous century that are no longer useful in order not to be overtaken by new players who have no such encumbrances. What I am referring to are old systems generating layers of managers and unwieldy bureaucracy. We need to explore and find new ways. We need to carefully scrutinize the methods we use. Rigid and dated procedures in editorial offices must be phased out.  

So colleagues!

Shall we talk about the price of paper?

Did you get the gist of what I am saying?

Do not ruin your own chances!

The large newspaper publishing concerns still largely depend on paper. We and our readers love paper. We love paper but not at any price.

Please do not make life difficult for us. Please do not fleece us and think of your own finances. Please do not tell us that worldwide prices are going up or that transport costs are soaring.

You will also be faced with the consequences.

I have just explained to you that the arrogant publisher of the year 2000 is no longer. I perceive a new dynamic in the business and a strong drive for renovation. I see a longing for new business models; I see a certain dislike to newspapers being free of charge.  

So certain changes have certainly happened.

I gave you an idea of the editorial office 10 years ago which mainly focused on printing. In the meantime we have embraced multi-tasking and we do everything, from newspapers to web shops, from tablets to magazines.

If you do not join us in our thinking and by this I mean reasonable prices, the transformation from paper to other platforms will certainly accelerate. If we are not able to show the additional value on paper, things will change and consumers will pay for something else which will replace it.

There are now many such platforms available; the earning capacity of such platforms is becoming more and more obvious.

Dear colleagues, for your sake we have produced a special edition in our editorial office on the occasion of your conference in Amsterdam. My colleagues at the printer’s division have printed this newspaper for you under the responsibility of Jetze Talsma and here it is.

And finally, please forget the dismissive remarks I made about our city. The Amsterdam people are friendly, they like newspapers and they like you.

I would like to thank you for listening to me.