Message from Xavier Bouckaert
Dear media partner,
In just a few weeks, there have been immense changes in the world. Our society is being confronted with a global health crisis that is raising significant questions about our habits as citizens and consumers. This crisis also has profound consequences for the government and every sector of the economy, including the world of the media and marketing. Advertising budgets will be under great pressure in the months to come.
In these uncertain times, people need high-quality, credible media more than ever and they are also taking more time than ever to read. It is clear that Belgian consumers trust their local, high-quality media brands as a source of information and relaxation.
Roularta Media Group (RMG), with its focus on news, women’s and luxury magazines, is retaining the current print runs of its magazine titles. Subscriptions are being delivered as normal and the subscriber website abonnementen.be has witnessed growth of an average of 15% since the announcement of the government’s crisis measures on 12 March.
The distribution figures from the CIM (Belgian Centre for Information about the Media) show that titles such as Libelle and Femmes d’Aujourd’hui are managing to keep their paid distribution figures steady, mainly due to strong growth in the number of subscriptions during 2019 (+13.87% for Libelle and +20.40% for Femmes d’Aujourd’hui). Libelle Lekker has seen growth in its paid distribution of more than 7%, due to good sales of individual copies and a strong increase of more than 50% in the number of subscribers compared to 2019. Strong subscription portfolios are enabling the news and business publications (Knack, Le Vif, Trends (N/F) and Sport Voetbal/Foot Magazine) to hold their own. Subscribers to these magazines are taking full advantage of their digital access to all six of the news magazines in question, which is leading to better subscriber retention. The distribution of Plus Magazine has fallen slightly, but it has retained a subscription portfolio of almost 100,000 copies.
Individual sales of the Roularta magazines have also made great leaps in the last few weeks. Figures from our press retailers reveal increases of an average of 10 to 30% depending on the sales outlet. The spectacular growth of Libelle Lekker is particularly striking. It is important for the government to make it clear that newsagents will be staying open.
Besides the strong figures for the print versions of our magazines, in terms of both individual sales and subscriptions, it is also striking that our media brands are experiencing a digital boost. The hunger for information is being expressed in increased traffic to the news sites, where an average of double so many visitors is being recorded in comparison to the same period last year. March 2020 has closed with 23,884,837 unique page views on the news and business sites like knack.be, levif.be, trends.be… That is almost 10 million more than in March last year and the best month since 2016, when the ‘plus’ zone was introduced.
The number of visitors to our women’s sites has also displayed increases of 35 to 50% compared to 2019, for Libelle/Femmes d’Aujourd’hui, Feeling/GAEL and Flair N/F. A special mention is due to Libelle Lekker, which is notching up no fewer than 95% more visitors than last year. We have more time than ever for cooking, and this is translating into record figures. On Sunday 29 March we recorded 318,716 page views, the highest number ever on one day.
The coronavirus measures are mainly hitting our local partners hard, which means they also have consequences for RMG’s local media. De Zondag and Steps are still being published in digital form but have been temporarily withdrawn on paper (as has De Streekkrant) for as long as the lockdown measures remain in force. De Zondag has recorded strong growth in its digital coverage in the last few weeks with 117,000 users and 100,000 readers subscribing to De Zondag’s digital newsletter during this period. The Krant van West-Vlaanderen has also recorded an increase in ‘KW digital’ in March as compared to last year, in terms of the number of users (+90%), number of sessions (+122%) and number of page views (+69%). The new formula for the Krant van West-Vlaanderen, which now consists of a provincial newspaper with the local newspaper inside it, was launched successfully in January.
Kanaal Z/Canal Z offers inspiration, quality and credibility for the business community in these difficult times. New applications such as the integration of Skype images into a mix including reports or broadcasts of entire webinars demonstrates its contemporary responses to today’s business situation. Following an increase in viewing figures in 2019, the CIM’s TV ratings have shown substantial growth in March, with a good 450,974 unique viewers per day.
It is clear that we are continuing to work as hard as we can on our strong media brands, because consumers – our readers, surfers and viewers – need us now more than ever. In the meantime, RMG also wants to offer words of encouragement to all Belgian advertisers. After all, the crisis measures are affecting many of our media partners in different sectors. The #buylocal campaign, an initiative by RMG and all the other magazine publishers in Belgium, is offering double media space until 15 June, so that you can keep on communicating and be completely ready for the better times to come.
We wish everyone strength – stay safe and healthy!
CEO of Roularta Media Group