what READERS CARE about

Roxanne Claessens


news MEDIA

DPG Media’s Editorial Insights & Growth Team expanded its operations to the Netherlands in 2023. From now on, Dutch news titles will also be supported in improving their articles, videos and podcasts, as was already the case in Flanders. How do we get readers to come back more often and stay longer? In a nutshell, that’s the challenge facing Roxanne Claessens and her team.

It started at News City in 2020, with a focus on HLN.be, before also taking on De Morgen and Humo in 2021. In early 2023, it crossed the border. DPG Media’s Editorial Insights & Growth Team went to work in the Netherlands, adding a large number of newsrooms to its remit: from NU.nl to AD and the websites and apps of the regional titles BN DeStem, Brabants Dagblad, Eindhovens Dagblad, de Gelderlander, PZC, de Stentor and Tubantia.

“It’s been a real rollercoaster,” says Roxanne Claessens, who heads up the team. She currently oversees 35 people, most of whom work as editorial analysts for a specific title, supported by central experts. The analysts give editorial teams insight into visitor behaviour and contextualise data, allowing them to reach even more people with their journalism.

“Every journalist wants their work to reach the largest possible audience,” Claessens says, “or for their article to be read in its entirety. We can help make that happen by looking at historical successes and optimising online distribution. Our team analyses the behaviour of our readers, viewers and listeners. The aim is to objectively support newsrooms in the editorial process – without ever losing sight of our journalistic objectives and principles.”

“We never

lose sight of our journalistic


Increasing qualitative reach

The Editorial Insights & Growth team has set itself a new goal for 2024: to increase qualitative reach. “Because we want our users to come back more often and explore the richness of our digital content. That’s what we call qualitative reach. We’re not focusing purely on maximising reach – our primary goal is to serve the people who keep coming back, who are in the process of becoming real fans of our brands, as well as those we’ve already won over. Those are also the readers who are more likely to become subscribers. Too many of our online visitors move on too quickly, so we’re mainly trying to help editorial teams grow their qualitative reach.”

What does that look like in practice? “We know that the early morning is all about urgency. You need to highlight the news of the day – the stories people will be talking about at work. The data shows that if you’re not urgent enough, people are less likely to come back. What we call ‘entertain me’ stories do much better in the evening. We do always make sure we have a good mix of news, background and human interest stories.”

Online articles can be divided into six categories, based on readers’ needs: keep me informed, give me context, help me figure this out, move me, connect me and surprise me. “If you write an article based on one of these needs, it will be much clearer to the reader what you want your story to convey, which gets you more eyeballs.”

Distribution throughout the day

“We want to be able to offer the right content throughout the day, catering to what’s important to readers at any given moment. Our central team has researched the ideal daily distribution of articles, resulting in publication schedules tailored to user needs.” HLN.be has already been using these publication schedules for over a year, and now NU.nl has started using them too. But doesn’t this clash with the traditional principle of editorial independence?

“Our recommendations are in line with what you might call journalistic instinct,” Claessens says. “Newspapers have always been put together based on the same set of principles: you never see a page with nothing but hard news, because it’s all about finding the right mix. But there was a bit of anxiety at first – is the Editorial Insights & Growth Team going to tell us what kind of stories to write? No, journalism always comes first – we just offer support and direction. At the end of the day, journalism exists to serve the reader. If you ignore that, you simply won’t be around anymore in a few years’ time.”