Interview with Erik Roddenhof

Interview with Erik Roddenhof

CEO DPG Media Group

DPG Media is not only active in three countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark), but also in practically every form of media.

What kind of weight do all these different components carry?

“It’s true that we have indeed become a very large company. Today, the group has more than 90 brands and we are very active in many different branches and revenue models. We believe that all our activities form a logical entity of separate parts that support and strengthen one another. We currently realise 50% from the readers’ market, 30% from advertisements, and 20% from digital services and smaller activities, such as events. In the Netherlands, currently our largest market, revenue primarily comes from news media, magazines, radio, and online services. In Belgium, our revenue streams also flow from news media and magazines, but we are a little bit bigger in TV and radio there. If you consider all the different products we have, you can see that we have a dominant, digital news outlet in each country. Even in Denmark, where the market is relatively small, we operate some great news brands. Of course, there are many differences between these three markets, but there are just as many fundamental similarities.”  

What are these similarities?

“Well, they all need to digitise and so they come across the same challenges while doing so. For example, it requires the right platforms, something that can only be done with sufficient IT investment. They also need to be good at conversion, and to deliver other forms of journalism, with, for example, more visual material. With this shared necessity of digitalisation confronting each country, we can therefore strive for more far-reaching synergy and integration. And because the media market today is anything but simple, we basically approach that process in three different steps.

First, you will need to scale-up in order to invest in your digital platforms. The bar that has been set by global technology players is very high: if you cannot compete with that, you will lose your customers with just a single swipe. There is not a single media brand that can survive on its own. You need to have the willingness and courage to reinvent yourself and to prioritise your digital product. It requires thinking about what your product’s role is for consumers and whether you are fulfilling that role. Finally, you will need additional revenue models besides the revenue you get from advertising.” 

Providing our company with a sustainable, digital future: that is the race I want to win.
Erik Roddenhof CEO DPG Media Group

Most publishers are well aware of the importance of the readers’ market in their commercial strategy

... but their annual results show that the revenue from (digital) memberships is usually insufficient to compensate for the sluggish advertising market.

“That is precisely the reason why we have added online services as an extra revenue model to our portfolio. The importance of this has been proven by the fact that we have coped rather well with the corona crisis as we are not dependent on one single revenue stream.

That’s why I expect all of our brands to contribute something to other brands. A good example is News City. This has provided both hln.be as well as the VTM NIEUWS with more journalists. You can see the same happening in the Netherlands with the Algemeen Dagblad (AD) and the regional titles. Together they account for 800 journalists who are all deeply rooted in the region, but also in general journalism. So if Prime Minister Rutte has something that he wants to share with the Dutch public today, he will want to do that through one of our titles.”

We’re told that you’re impatient...

... That you are so fast in your analyses that sometimes people have trouble keeping up with you.

I agree that I can sometimes be persistent, impatient, and quick with my conclusions. I can’t stand it when people say they will do something and then end up only doing half of it, or even nothing at all. You should do what you promise and do it properly.

Every manager at DPG Media must aspire to be the very best in their field. To be innovative and creative in order to conquer the market, and the execution must be perfect. That’s what DPG Media has always aimed to represent and it will not change. Creativity and discipline must always go hand in hand with each other.

Van Thillo loves journalism. You are a marketeer. You were in telecom with KPN and energy with Nuon.

So how can you ensure that DPG Media will continue to breathe journalism?

“I am a marketeer, there’s no denying that. I don’t see newspapers as newspapers, but as brands. We have outstanding journalists within our company, all the way up to the top management. They ensure that our company will, first and foremost, deliver excellent journalism. But I must make sure that our journalism breaks through digitally. Our newspapers are powerful brands. They will last for a long time to come and we will continue to produce them with great pleasure. But the future is digital. And in that environment we are not just fighting our local competition, but also global players such as Google and Facebook. Providing our company with a sustainable future in this digital age - that is the race I want to win.”

There have been many changes at the top of DPG Media. And there is currently a Belgian-Dutch executive committee with a lot of new people.

Was that a conscious decision?

“Well I don’t think it’s a bad thing. There’s a good mixture of ‘veterans’ and young, new people. The most important thing is that they are all experts in their fields. We are in the midst of a digital transition. The strategy is changing, we are acquiring businesses, and therefore also management. Sometimes this hurts, but it does keep your company fresh and sharp. We now have the right blend of experience and youthful impatience in our top management layers, people with backgrounds in journalism and commerce. We must now learn to cooperate much more strongly across borders. But one issue is that all the people in top management are currently men. This must change in the future.”

Source: Media Marketing

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