Opinion: Under pressure

POSTED: 11/30/11 7:07 AM

The ANP (Algemeen Nederlands Persbureau) is the largest press agency in the Netherlands. It was established on December 11, 1934 by Dutch daily newspaper-publishers who felt the need for a joint supplier of fast, independent and reliable news.

But the ANP’s glory days are over. Next year the company will cut 15 percent of its work force – 33 full-time jobs altogether. The agency feels the pressure of decreasing newspaper circulation and decreasing advertising revenue. Public broadcasters are also on a cost cutting mission.

Most of the blood will flow at the ANP’s photographers-desk. The agency wants to start working exclusively with freelance photographers. The price of photo material is in free fall, ANP-manager Gruijthuijsen notes, and that calls for drastic measures.

ANP will close its offices in Rotterdam and Den Bosch and send half of its staff in Amsterdam home as well.

NRC Handelsblad canceled its ANP-subscription this year; the Financieel Dagblad did this already two years earlier. On January 1, 2012 free newspaper Metro will also ditch ANP.

The press agency also suffers from electronic media. Many ANP-reports are viewed digitally – on web sites, smart phones and tablets, and it hardly makes any money off these readers.

The ANP finds itself in a peculiar situation. While the world has virtually gone information-mad, respectable institutions like ANP find it increasingly difficult to make money off their core activities.

There is so much free information available on the internet, that readers increasingly ask themselves why they should pay for something that is available for free elsewhere.

It is, in a way, a dangerous trend, but as long as the owners of news do not manage to control what happens with their product on the worldwide web – and get paid for it in the process – serious news providers will fight an increasingly tough battle.

In the end, readers will lose out because the quality of the available information will inevitably go down to a level where it becomes worthless, but at the moment hardly anybody seems to care.

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