Encounter with Marko van Kampen (MyChannels) & Nicholas Lataire (VTM)

“Every day we conclude with the television news: our flagship store”

Encounter with Marko van Kampen (MyChannels) & Nicholas Lataire (VTM)

“Every day we conclude with the television news: our flagship store”

In the editorial room of VTM NIEUWS you can almost hear the adrenaline pumping as editor-in-chief Nicholas Lataire and Marko van Kampen, director of the online video branch of De Persgroep, MyChannels, meet one another for the first time. Van Kampen’s online platform delivers the technology to serve up video on seven platforms of De Persgroep (such as AD.nl and HLN.be) and the production arm of MyChannels is in the meantime the preferred supplier of video on the AD.
At the summit of his lightning career, Lataire is leading the much-discussed renovation of VTM NIEUWS and would like to know what Van Kampen thinks of the plans: “Because”, he says, “they are – if you make a comparison with the travel industry – AirBnB: guys who are entirely born in the new business and who challenge us – the traditional business – to modernise.

Marko Van Kampen (43)
• Founder MyChannels, part of De Persgroep since 2016
• Likes skiing in Canada
• Lives with partner and two children in Amsterdam
Nicholas Lataire (38)
• Editor-in-chief VTM NIEUWS since 2010
• Lives in Zomergem
• In his free time helps organise the Rijvers Festival and the afterwork party ‘Work Hard, Play Hard’
• Loves jogging, cycling, skiing, visiting festivals and changing the world with friends at the pub

Lataire wants to make VTM NIEUWS a brand that is just as strong as CNN, he says, and Van Kampen reacts immediately.

Marko: But you´re already a brand, aren’t you? You´re a household name!

Nicholas: Yes, but if you asks a hundred Flemings ´What does VTM NIEUWS stand for?´, everyone will answer: ´TV news´. But if the competition joins forces with the social media, then we’ll have to satisfy, just like them, the news hunger that people have – starting as soon as they get out of bed – and report news throughout the day. Is there an explosion, such as recently in Antwerp? Then we have to provide images from the minute it happens. That can be user gen material – images that people send us via our app or e-mail. At that moment it makes no difference whether the image is grainy or of poor quality, so long as you immediately show the bare facts. Then you have to immediately send someone on site who, possibly simply with his smartphone, reports live on Facebook. Later the same day you have to be able to broadcast a lightly edited video with high-quality images and maybe already a brief interview with witnesses. Subtitled, of course, because many people want to watch in the toilet or at work without sound. And we have to conclude the day with the television news, our flagship store, where we bring the full story: facts, causes, a context and possible solutions.

Marko: The social media will never be able to beat you on that level. This summer we did live reports twice a day of the Giro, but with the simplest possible resources. Of course, for the short videos that we generally make the lower-quality content is perfect. But if we want to tell a longer story, we would also like to have beautiful, traditionally filmed picture material which induces people to continue watching for a longer time. In the final analysis, this viewing time is also very important.

You seem focused on viewing times and ratings. Have you both also studied marketing and economics?

Nicholas: Producing quality and digging up the truth is our first objective. But I find that marketing is very close to journalism. After all, a journalist wants to see his story read by as many people as possible.

Marko: Exactly.  Yet you also think in headlines, don’t you?

Nicholas: Yes, but I also know that with clickbaits alone we won´t succeed.

Marko: The art of course lies in achieving a good mix. With our online platform we aim to some extent for the clickbaits which the viral videos of the day do massively generate.

AD.nl opened today with a video about the world championship for eating meatballs.

Marko: (laughs) Yes. Look, I have very great respect for newsmakers, but many journalists commit the error of thinking too much for their listeners, while simple amusement or entertainment, such as the meatball eaters, is really ´gobbled up´ and so is also entitled to a place in the paper. Did you know that on the day of the Lower House election – when the whole of the Netherlands was fixated on the results – the story about the divorce of Michael and Barbie, two Dutch reality show stars, was the most-read article on AD.nl?

Nicholas: From a news value perspective we will always find these elections important. But I understand Marko´s point. I too find that you have to ask yourself whether you should make a video that may be very good but which no one’s going to click on. Which doesn´t mean that you should only want to achieve millions of clicks with your videos, because then you end up with porn.

Is MyChannels the jamming station for news media, equivalent to AirBnB for the established hotel sector?

Marko: In any event I’m allergic to status quos and averse to authority. That´s why I set up USSR Media and EU1 – the forerunners of MyChannels. At that time I had with friends a couple of programme formats, one of which AVROTROS wanted to buy. But the network head of Nederland 3 said ´no´. He said he already had a deal with Socutera at that moment. Thus it wasn´t a question of quality, but of broadcaster policy. However good our programme was didn´t make any difference. The broadcaster policy determined everything. That’s why we then took matters into our own hands and started an online platform where we gave creative people, amongst other things via crowdfunding, the opportunity to make their own series or reports and broadcast them via our cable channel Ziggo. Financially that plan was too idealistic. We couldn´t make a living from it. With its successor, Makers Channel, we immediately entered into a cooperation with Fox. This put us on a better financial footing and we quickly grew into a household name in the Netherlands.

“The guys of MyChannels are like AirBnB in the travel industry: they are challenging us to modernise.”

Nicholas Lataire

“Simple amusement or entertainment, such as the world meatball eating championship, also deserves a place in the paper.”

Marko van Kampen

Nicholas, ever since childhood you´ve liked to run things; in Zomergem, the village where you were born, you were first chairman of the youth centre and then you began to organise festivals where you did broad programming, from K3 to Push, out of a sense of conviction.

Nicholas: Yes. Also in the youth centre – unlike the other centres – we never played music that only ten percent of the population wanted to hear. The fact that I always thought that way must have to do with the way I was raised. My mother was the purchasing manager in a processed meats plant. She was fine with my wanting to go out on Thursday – that was a normal part of student life. My father, who was a blue-collar worker, was dead set against it. ´Going out is something for the weekend´, he said. ´During the week you have to work.´ (laughs). I think that tension at home ensured that I am very open-minded.   

When news has to be broad and just as fast as Facebook and Twitter, doesn´t it come at the expense of depth?

Nicholas: On the contrary.  If the research that we do here daily on the issues that our viewers are concerned with shows anything, it´s that they, after the stream of news facts on the social media, expect deeper and more concrete information in the evening than before.     

What we do have to be aware of is that almost everything may be shared by Mister Zuckerberg on Facebook – except for a bit of nudity, perhaps. Thus we, who work very hard on our tight and expensively-paid reports, must find a way to remain lord and master over our own material.

Marko: A lot of publishing hou­ses and television channels are ­anxious about social media, afraid to give away content without earning something on it. But you have to simply use the social media as a marketing channel: you have to make short, tasty videos with the communication: ´Click here to see the full report’.

Nicholas: Exactly, and in that way steer everyone quickly from the social media to our own platforms. But the objective is naturally that soon there will be a De Persgroep icon on every smartphone, right next to the Facebook icon.

Interview:

Stefanie De Jonge (Humo)
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi
© 2017 - 2018 De Persgroep
Made with passion @Comfi