Interview A.J. Swartjes, Telegraaf Media Groep

Dagblad De Telegraaf has interviewed the chairman of the Managing Board of Telegraaf Media Groep, Mr. A.J. Swartjes. Below is the integral text:

The metamorphosis of the media landscape is continuing at a dizzying speed.  Narrowcasting in intercity trains, the latest news on mobile telephones and publishers eager to buy a radio station or to start television activities. Even so, top-ranking executive Ad Swartjes of Telegraaf Media Groep (TMG) is not pessimistic about the future of printed newspapers. „Newspapers are still widely read, serve an important social purpose, and we can still make very much money out of this for a very long time.”
Six months ago, the chairman of the Managing Board of TMG bought a so-called media centre, a living-room computer from which television, internet and the radio are operated. But the purchase was not an unqualified success: for days the Managing Board chairman was without internet and for a number of weekends Swartjes even had to watch his favourite TV programmes on a tiny black and white set. 
The bothersome business with his modern apparatus has, however, not affected the belief of the Managing Board chairman in new means of communication at all. „Look, the relative value of print is decreasing”, Swartjes states. „The time that the entire family jumped at the rattling letterbox, is over. Consumers have a different way of time-spending than before. Internet, radio and television play an increasingly important role and it is a fact that we wish to be where the consumer is at. ” And so TMG wants a 20% interest in the international television company SBS Broadcasting, wants to get into radio, has bought an interest in a company that produces and exploits content on flat-screen TVs at, among other places, McDonald’s (narrowcasting), has built up a 20% interest in the trade fairs and events organization Expomedia and is feverishly looking for profitable new initiatives in the area of internet. „And Telegraaf-TV is also coming”, Swartjes adds. „I’m certain of it.”
This in no way means that the printed newspapers have been abandoned – as some media watchers claim – Swartjes repeatedly emphasizes. „Nonsense, the newspaper will still be in existence in ten and twenty years’ time. At that time there will probably be fewer titles and circulation will also have decreased a little further, but with newspapers you can earn a lot of money for a very long time. Which does not erase the fact that it should be done at a lower cost.  The fact is that, aside from the change in time-spending by the consumer, we are annually missing almost Î100 million in advertising income compared with 2000, because of the disappointing economic climate. To my knowledge, the economic situation has never had such a rough time for so long.” 
And so, cost cuts are in order. The top-ranking executive can not yet provide any clarification about the size and nature of an approaching reorganization, except for the fact that „all the group’s components will be scrutinized. But don’t forget in that context that a part of these cost-savings are re-invested in other, often digital activities which have a direct and positive influence on the position of that same group component.”
The fact that the media group is considering the sale of the Media Groep Limburg (MGL), which comprises the daily newspapers De Limburger and the Limburgs Dagblad, is a logical matter, according to Swartjes. „In this world you need an increase in scale. And that necessity increases by the day. With our regional newspapers in the west of the country (such as the Haarlems Dagblad and the Noordhollands Dagblad) which will certainly remain part of TMG, we can cooperate more intensively because they are physically closer to our Amsterdam base. This involves, for example, matters like advertising exploitation, printing or distribution. That is simply impossible with the newspapers in the south.”
With the possible sale of the Limburg subsidiary, TMG is also approaching the moment of purchasing a Dutch radio or television station. „At that point, we are below the present critical limit of the Mediawet (media legislation) and will no longer be regarded as an overly powerful media company”, says Swartjes, who, in general, is not really pleased about the media policy of the government. „Things take far too long, we sometimes have to wait for years before we are given clarification about certain ideas.”