The outlook of the media landscape has undergone some serious changes in 2013. Doing more with less people seems to be the gospel and that is also the case on the work floor of newspapers and magazines. The two language communities in Belgium have their own, independent, media but we now regularly see articles originally published in, for instance, a Flemish newspaper, shared, translated and published in a French daily.

The evolution in the media consumption of the Belgian public has obliged the suppliers to review their offer in an attempt to reach the same number and if possible more readers/listeners/viewers and keep the stakeholders and advertisers happy. This resulted in some major changes among the media groups.

Newspapers

Less buyers of newspapers both in the South (French speaking) and in the North (Dutch speaking) part of the country. In Flanders 3 media groups edited daily newspapers:

Persgroep Publishing: Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen

Corelio: Het Nieuwsblad and De Standaard

Concentra: Het Belang van Limburg and Gazet van Antwerpen

In September 2013 Corelio and  Concentra decided to merge their activities and create a new publishing group: Mediahuis.

Mediahuis says that the 4 titles will continue to exist separately but with one editorial staff for Het Nieuwsblad, Gazet van Antwerpen and Belang van Limburg. The offices of Het Nieuwsblad will be moved from Brussels’ Corelio to the Concentra building in Antwerp.

On 6 November 2013 ‘Mediahuis’ announced a job cut of 205 or 20% of the total staff. 67 journalists will have to find a new employer. The first person to leave is Mieke Berendsen, former editing director and head of the marketing department at Gazet van Antwerpen (Corelio).

Prior to the announcement of its merger with Concentra, Corelio sold its French language newspapers L’ Avenir (nine regional editions) to the cable company Tecteo. Tecteo is a ‘intercommunale’ and the shareholders of the company are the Province of Liège and 76 municipalities. The acquisition of L’Avenir by Tecteo received a lot of negative comments esp. from politicians saying that taxpayers money should not be used for publishing newspapers.

The business newspapers De Tijd and L’Echo are both available in print and in digital version and unlike other newspapers the digital reader has to pay to have them on his personal or tablet computer. They have a readership of about 154.000 readers for both the print and the digital editions.

Magazines

General interest weekly and monthly magazines face a loss of readership and consequently a loss of advertising income.

The Finish group Sanoma leaves Belgium. In Belgium Sanoma Media edits a series of general interest  and lifestyle magazines in French and Dutch such as Libelle, Story, Flair, TV-blad,  Moustique, Gael, Flair, Feeling,  Vitaya etc. and participates in the television channels Vier and Vijf. Sanoma Media moved its Belgian operations from Antwerp to new premises in Mechelen in 2013 and CEO Aimé Van Hecke developed a multi-media diversification strategy with the establishment of the radio station Story FM and the digital television channel Libelle-TV. Van Hecke was appointed CEO of the Belgian media operations in 2006 but on 16 December 2013 Sanoma announced the resignation of the CEO of Sanoma Media Belgium. Exit Aimé Van Hecke.

Sanoma says on its website to reach 3 million women in Belgium. One question remains: who will buy all or part of the titles?

The multimedia company Roularta Media Group is active in print, audiovisual and electronic media. The group is also active in other countries such as France and Germany  with news and niche magazines and freesheets.

Well-known publications on the Belgian market are the weekly newsmagazines Knack and Le Vif/L’Express and the economical/financial weeklies Trends and Trends/Tendances. Moneytalk was a separate publication mainly addressing investors with financial news, distributed together with Trends but in 2013 it was fully integrated in Trends.

After the bankruptcy of Delta Publishing Roularta announced  to take over the publication of the transport and logistics media De Lloyd and Transport Echo

In November the editor in chief Johan van Overtveldt quit left Trends and joined the political party N-VA.

The same challenge

All newspapers and magazines are faced with the same challenge: a decrease in readership and a decrease in advertising income. Between April 2012 and March 2013 the circulation of the Flemish newspapers decreased by 0,8 % and the French dailies by 3 %. Two newspapers showed better figures thanks to their digital editions: De Standaard (+ 1 %) and De Tijd (+3 %).  

Humo has long been the most popular weekly magazine in Flanders and sold in 2007 about 230.000 copies each week but that number is now reduced to some 160.000 copies. In June 2013 the editor in chief Wouter Van Driessche resigned. He was the 5th editor in chief in 10 years time.

The general interest magazines pretend to suffer from the competition from the weekly magazines that all newspapers now publish and distribute with their weekend editions. But maybe the decline in readership is simply that there is too much of everything: too many television channels, social media, etc.  Too much to do.