One of the absolute success stories of Sanoma in recent years has been the illustrious growth of NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands. NU.nl prides itself on speed (“the latest news first”), neutrality and user-friendliness and I pride myself on being one of its heaviest users :-).
Usage of NU.nl has grown rapidly from about 500 M page views per month in the summer of 2011 to almost 1.000 M by the summer of this year. That’s massive engagement, especially if you consider there are less than 17 M inhabitants in the country! This spectacular growth has been driven by mobile consumption – more than 2/3 of page views now come from mobile, with Android devices leading the charge recently. NU-apps have been downloaded almost 5 M times so far.
Strong Sanoma Digital Network
NU.nl is a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital network – comScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.5 M unique visitors (MUV) in October 2013 – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 11.1 and 9.8 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (7.1 MUV). Other Dutch media groups are also performing well and are represented in the top 20, but lack the reach of Sanoma. The state-subsidised NPO, and privately run TMG, De Persgroep and RTL Groep, registered a reach of 6.3, 6.2, 5.3 and 5.2 MUV respectively in October.
NU.nl is also a cornerstone of the newly formed business unit Sanoma Digital that will boost digital growth, innovation and capabilities at Sanoma. Sander Stallinga, the superstar publisher of NU.nl will lead the domain of Digital Content in the new Management Team.
Winning team at NU.nl
The success of NU.nl has been created by the NU.nl team and I am really proud of that team. One of the things I respect about them is that they are looking ahead. This is a sign of a winning team! It can be easy to sit back and relax when you achieve success. But this team is working hard on further developing the brand to make it even more relevant for our customers in the future. Part of this relates to extending NU.nl into new verticals, such as nutech.nl (great launch recently!) and new media (especially mobile and video). But we want to bring an additional richness to innovation at NU.nl, using not only the talents of our own people but engaging with outside talent too. For that reason, and building on the early success that we have had with our series of innovation accelerators, we decided to run an open innovation accelerator on news called NU LAB, sponsored by Sander Stallinga and in cooperation with the excellent Joris van Heukelom at MakerLab.
We have accepted more than 150 participants into the program. It’s a highly diverse group that includes not only journalists and Sanoma enthusiasts, but also professionals from advertising agencies and government ministries and students (about a quarter of the total). We even have a 16 year old school pupil on board. It’s really great to see this rich diversity of talent and enthusiasm!
The program started with a kick-off, and is followed by a series of webinars for inspiration, training, and guidance on the assignments. Through a competitive process we expect to select the top three ideas that we will send to bootcamp at the end of January – the winning idea owners will form a team with an interaction designer, designer and developer to build a working prototype of their concept. The winner will receive a prize of € 10.000 and the chance that their idea will become part of the superbrand that is NU.nl.
Quick pitch and value proposition
In the first webinar, Gert-Jaap Hoekman (Editor-in-Chief of NU.nl) explained the three domains that form the scope of this open accelerator: the distribution, production and bundling of content. Brechtje de Leij (Senior Product Manager Mobile), explained how we work. Our American guest Mark Briggs (author of Entrepreneurial Journalism and Journalism 2.0) gave an inspiring session on innovation in journalism. And Joris van Heukelom (Partner at MakerStreet) talked about design thinking. Participants also got their first assignment: develop the quick pitch and describe the value proposition for your idea.
In the second webinar Mark Vos (Editor Social and UGC at NU.nl) talked about the role of the user in the creation, aggregation and selection of news, and Jerry Vermanen (data journalist at NU.nl) about data journalism. Joris van Heukelom went further with lean product development. Participants got their second assignment: customer validation. This is so important on the journey of discovery! This is the assignment that the participants are currently working on.
I’ve been browsing the content of the platform this afternoon and always find this insightful and inspiring. I love to see the ideas and am curious about the person behind the idea. I always wonder: why is this important to them? And I cannot deny my competitive streak which generally guides me to the leader boards for ideas and engagement – they are quite powerful in steering perception.
So, we still have a couple of months to go, but I would like to express my heartfelt support for open innovation at NU.nl and for the participants who have joined us on this journey. Respect to you for looking ahead and making something new!