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The media landscape in the NetherlandsThe 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. The new projects that have been launched in the Netherlands are even causing a sensation internationally. Take Blendle, for example, an online newspaper kiosk, which allows readers to choose from any of the Netherlands' many newspapers and magazines and read them for 15 cents per article. The crowd-funded initiative De Correspondent, on the other hand, focuses on the journalists. For a monthly fee readers can "rent" their own personal correspondent for coverage of a specific issue and receive top-quality journalism.

Online newspaper kiosk Blendle.
(© picture-alliance/dpa)


Both projects show how the crisis can also be 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 fall in print runs. 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 and a strong regional press the Netherlands remains a land of newspapers. One household in two 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 considered to be opinion leaders. The country's most frequented blog geenstijl.nl (no style) carries many right-wing populist contributions and is also very popular. It is considered to be indicative of the mood in the Netherlands.

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

Great value has been attached to freedom of the press and freedom of opinion in the Netherlands for centuries. The media are rigorous in defending their hard-won independence from the influence of political parties or the Church.

Following the press, public radio and television are now also generally discarding any ideological or confessional complexion they may have had. A state reform and a cut in subsidies forced the fourteen broadcasting companies to work together. After commercial stations were allowed to begin broadcasting in 1989, public radio and television lost their monopoly. Strong competitors are above all the RTL group and SBS.

Press Freedom Index:
Reporters without Borders: 4th place (2015)
Freedom House: 1st place (2014)

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