It was almost lunchtime and I felt a bit peckish. So I bought a ‘broodje haring’ at fish shop Koning in Rijswijk. While I was enjoying it, I noticed two friendly guys peddling newspapers at the entrance of shopping mall In de Bogaard. People passed them by, showing no interest. They were hawking the popular daily Algemeen Dagblad and I thought, well this paper as another and then I asked them with my eyes to ask me would I say yes to receiving a free copy and I drew them towards me to ask me and one of the guys made a proposal and I said yes I will yes.
I am a sucker for newspapers. I have a subscription to the NRC-Handelsblad and the weeklies De Groene, Vrij Nederland and Den Haag Centraal. Very often I also buy the dailies Trouw or De Volkskrant. Each morning I spend 1.75 euro on Algemeen Dagblad because of its section with news about The Hague and surroundings.
I’ll admit it now. I am hooked on newspapers, weeklies and monthlies and I spent a great deal of my reading life glutting myself with newspaper articles. I forgot to tell you that I also read news from the New York Times, the Irish Times, the Sydney Morning Herald and the New Yorker on the internet. Crazy eh? Yes totally irresponsible. Because this type of reading gets in the way of my daily dose of fiction, poetry and professional literature.
When Rick, the hawker, asked me, would I like to try a half yearly subscription for 18.50 per month, I succumbed. For I had quickly calculated that I had been paying 47 euro each month at newsstands. A true Dutchman I am, ain’t I?
Newspapers experience heavy weather. And the storms have not settled yet. The time that every household received its daily paper will not return. The young are fed their information through television and internet. Each year fewer people will attach themselves to newspapers and magazines.
And yet, even though the amount of newspaper readers dropped by 5% last year, over 60% of the Dutch population is still reading a paper newspaper every day. In 2012 there were 8.5 million newspaper readers of which 7.5 million were paying readers. The age of the average reader is 48!
The newspaper with the greatest circulation is De Telegraaf (about 1.8 million readers). Second largest is Algemeen Dagblad with 1.5 million readers. Volkskrant and NRC-Handelsblad (including nrc.next) have about 800,000 readers and Trouw only 320,000. Of these papers the only morning papers are Algemeen Dagblad and nrc.next.
The various Dutch papers are all relics of the ‘zuilenmaatschappij’ (pillarized and compartmentalized society) of the fifties. Telegraaf and AD used to be slightly populist and politically right wing. Readers of De Volkskrant were mainly left wing and usually socialist. Trouw-readers were religious churchgoers and many NRC readers were academics.
When NRC noticed that their readership was in decline in 2006, the adventurous publisher dared to create a new paper in tabloid format (the first one in the Netherlands) intended for a much younger readership. And it was successful. It still is. It is the only newspaper that is read by students and young academics.
Over the years many local newspapers disappeared. In The Hague alone there were three different newspapers in the seventies. Now they have all gone. The Haagsche Courant existed from 1864 until 2005 as an independent paper. It was incorporated in the national Algemeen Dagblad.
The word KRANT (newspaper) is derived from the French word ‘courant’ (current, running) and the first Dutch newspapers appeared in the early 17th century. KRANTEN have always been extremely important in the Netherlands. Not only for their news reports but also for their educational articles.
Have you ever heard the expression ‘De krant is een meneer’? It means: ‘the paper is a gentleman’ and is a translation from French: ‘le journal est un monsieur’. It means that we should not believe everything that is printed. The newspaper is a collection of opinions and opinions are subjective echoes of what is going on in the reality of the big wide world. Don’t trust any paper, because it is mere man’s handiwork.
I wonder whether Rick and Jesse, the friendly newspaper hawkers who successfully talked me into a subscription, are newspaper readers themselves. Somehow I doubt if they and other students will continue and sustain the four hundred year tradition of paper newspapers. Ink and paper will surely disappear. What will happen to their digital imitations?