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A few weeks ago, 35 Internet journalists showed up at a meeting of NVJ (the Netherlands Union of Journalists) to discuss what was happening with Internet journalism in The Netherlands.

Publishers can see young people turning away from newspapers. Yet very few are taking any substantial steps to counter that.

"The answer is easy," says Jak Boumans, a senior consultant with Electronic Media Reporting, based in Utrecht. "The publishers have not gone into hibernation, they are reorganizing their assets and removing services. PCM, the largest publisher of national newspapers, lost considerable money in online investments and decided to scale down operations." PCM disbanded its Interactive Media unit, returned control of its Web sites to its print publications, and declared that any news site would have to pay its own way.

"The same thing has happened at the other Dutch newspapers, such as De Telegraaf," Boumans says. "So the newspaper journalists are in a down mood. On the other hand, journalists of the Sanoma magazine group are reasonably optimistic because the company took an early position in the Dutch market buying a search engine and developing services around it: news, women's services, finances, dating.  They've been affected by the advertising downturn but haven't suffered any cutbacks yet.

"The journalists of the Dutch public RTV system are best off," he says. "They have received an infusion of 60 million guilders ($27 million) from the government to build up their Internet presence and start experimenting with interactive TV programs. That has led to much discussion among journalists about whether media companies should receive government subsidies."

Surveying the online news landscape, Boumans says, "It's clear newspapers have not been able to come up with a lasting business model, other than paid archives. They haven't done much beyond copying print material to the Internet. Online storytelling doesn't exist yet in Dutch journalism."

Recently I ran into Henk Blanken, Internet chief for de Volkskrant, a national newspaper. Blanken seemed glum at recent events, saying that the de Volkskrant site was nearly shut down two months ago but now operates with a pared-down staff. The new plan is to use digital media to try to generate income from new revenue sources aimed at younger readers, relying on mobile devices such as PDAs and cell phones for alerts, job information, dining reservations, movies, shows and news. "Publishers can see young people turning away from newspapers," he told me. "Yet very few are taking any substantial steps to counter that."
 
Meantime, a Web site founded by two 15-year-olds in the summer of 1999 is still going strong. Fokzine.net publishes a group weblog, ? la Slashdot, and covers tech and programmer news but other subjects as well, if its "FOK! Lovemeter" is any guide. The site, popular among youths, made headlines during the first "Big Brother" TV show in The Netherlands when its posted live camera feeds on its site but the broadcaster kept censoring the footage.

Noteworthy sites

De Telegraaf national daily newspaper
NU.nl (Holland?s only successful Net-native news site)
NOS (Holland?s main public television network)

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