Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Launch Failure for Dutch Abroad


For many years, Radio Netherlands published a daily PDF bulletin in Dutch. It was intended for Dutch speakers living outside the Netherlands. It was a spin-off, started by editors in the Newsroom. It grew from a couple of pages summarising the Radio Netherlands news bulletin to a colour "magazine" including articles, features as broadcast on air, puzzles and the daily schedule of BVN-TV. But with the ending of Radio Netherlands broadcasts in Dutch, a decision was made to end this activity. A small team of editors who were made redundant by Radio Netherlands decided to continue, but then on a purely commercial basis. They announced that as from November 1st, the Dutch Times would no longer be free but that an annual subscription of 72 Euro would be required.


But on November 2nd a message went out from the new start-up that they had decided to suspend publication. Although there was an encouraging response when the concept was first announced, only a handful decided to actually subscribe. And those that did are now rather vocally crying "fraud" on the pages of what's left of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. Correspondents are annoyed that RNW was "advertising" the new service on its pages until the last moment. The message from Dutch Times says they will issue their next statement before Monday 12th November.

Lessons Learned: 


  • Startups are not smaller versions of large companies, especially not public corporations. 
  • Having a hunch is no substitute for proper market research. Asking existing free subscribers is fraught with biases. And when push comes to shove, people don't pay up. 
  • If they decided to suspend publication on Day 2, it shows rather poor preparation for the launch.
  • The bitter pill is that they may no longer be a market for such a niche. Previous attempts to make this a commercial proposition have failed  (NRC Handelsblad had a weekly edition)- because costs never match the revenue, especially now as so much topical news is free. And that includes BVN satellite television. This public TV service, unlike the Dutch shortwave radio service, continues although it is no longer part of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. BVN (Best of Flanders and Netherlands) is available for free in many TV markets. It now has its own free fortnightly programme guide.
  • There is a market for specialist opinion - but those publications focus on a domestic market, with overseas subscriptions being the icing on the cake. Government information for Dutch living abroad (e.g. how to register to vote in Dutch elections) is posted on the websites of the embassies. 
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