With a 96% Internet penetration rate and a saturated market for online devices, the Dutch market may be predictive of several other countries.

The omnipresence of news media on digital devices is a good starting point for news publishers. The challenge is to turn this preference and engagement into (more) turnover, but strong competition in the B2B market and a modest willingness to pay for online news are limiting the potential.

New research shows the Dutch have a wide choice of (mobile) devices to use to go online. On average, they have 3.7 devices available. This is reported in the news GfK report Trends in Digital Media. What is striking is the demand for news on these different touchpoints.

Half of the installed media apps in the Netherlands are developed by news media. In addition, news on a laptop and PC is also serving half of the population. About the same number of consumers are consuming newsprint on a daily basis.

News apps are popular

Now that most inhabitants have mobile devices, the penetration of these devices leveled off in 2016. The same trend goes for the number of installed apps; in fact, on average, the number even reduced slightly. The remaining media apps are — besides music and video services — in many cases, news apps.

About half of the favourites are news brand apps: NU.nl, De Telegraaf, AD, Volkskrant, RTL Nieuws, and NRC are most preferred. Also, regional brands are popular.

The combination of print and digital

The ability to follow the news online has radically changed news consumption in the past decade. Reading news 24/7 on various platforms has become the standard.

Half of the Dutch use a combination of both print and online media. The platform of choice depends on the hour of day. Newsprint is still king in the morning, then online platforms take over. Apps and social media peak in the evening.

Dutch news consumers use different devices at different times of the day.
Dutch news consumers use different devices at different times of the day.

The report shows news consumption via news sites, news apps, and social media, compared to printed newspaper, are close in use. Separately, each platform is used for news by about half the Dutch population.

209 minutes

The cross-media news consumption is also reflected in the time they spent on news. People spend, on average, 3.5 hours per week reading the news. Almost half of the time (100 minutes), news comes from online platforms. More time is spent reading the printed newspaper (109 minutes).

A significant amount of time is still spent reading printed newspapers.
A significant amount of time is still spent reading printed newspapers.

With such a loyal public and so much time spent on news platforms, one should expect this would be a good basis for sound business models, but there are some barriers to cope with.

The strong competition in the online advertising market has set limits on growth with online turnover. Here, some more cooperation among local publishers with quality content may help to beat the global giants Google and Facebook.

In addition to the information regarding an enormous adaption of news media, the report may also provide some hopeful developments in regard to ad blockers. The growth of ad blocker usage has levelled off at the point that just one in four uses this technique. On mobile devices, the use is relatively low (a maximum of 9%).

The trend report also shows only a limited percentage of the Dutch at the moment is willing to pay for news content. Despite this, there are some sparks of hope. Dutch brand NRC recently reported to having a growing number of paying subscribers, especially for hybrid and online products.

And, of course, the well-known start-up Blendle is opening the market for single-copy sales and even micro-paid news articles.

Thanks to the popularity of news platforms and the time spent with content, publishers should be able turn this popularity into income — both for the consumer and advertising markets. Let’s see whether the Dutch publishers will manage to gain a fair share in 2017.