The paid circulation of daily newspapers in the Netherlands dropped of more than 40 percent from 4.2m in 2000 to 2.5m in 2015. This is an average drop of 3 to 4 percent every year; in recent years the drop has been more than 5 percent every year. The latest available data on 2016 (first three quarters) show the same pattern.

The circulation is evenly divided between national and regional newspapers, 55 percent of the circulation is national, but this included the national/regional daily Algemeen Dagblad (AD) that consists of one national and seven regional editions. National newspapers tend to be distributed more in the western part of the country - including the major cities Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. Regional dailies are dominant in other parts.

As of 2016 there is just one free daily, Metro, left in the Netherlands. In 2006 and 2008 there were four national free dailies (Metro, Spits, De Pers and DAG) and some local ones. The circulation in these years was more than 1.8m. In 2015 Metro had a circulation of 430,000. Since 2012, Metro is owned by TMG (Telegraaf Mediagroep), also owner of the largest daily in the Netherlands, De Telegraaf. In 2017 the licence for published Metro has to be renewed or ended.

Total circulation of free newspapers took of with 450,000 in 1999 – equally divided between Metro and Spits that launched on the same day. Both titles increased their circulation until in 2007 the market exploded with two new national titles: DAG en De Pers. In 2009 circulation began to drop again after the closure of DAG and in 2012 again after De Pers stopped publication. Since 2015 Metro is the last remaining free daily.

The total circulation of all newspapers (paid and free) was 3.2m in 2015, in 2000 this was 5.1m, in 2007 it was even 5.7m. This number also includes the free circulation of paid newspapers, papers for staff members, advertisers, relations and marketing.

In 2005, Dutch newspapers begun for the first time to report ‘digital sales’, meaning the distribution of pdf-like papers that were separately bought - either through single sales or subscription - or sold together with a print subscription. The dominant model for this ‘combination-sale’ was a subscription to the weekend (Saturday) paper and the right to download the weekday-editions in a digital format.

In 2016 this digital circulation was 1m, a third of which was the sale of ‘pure’ digital-only papers, while the rest of the digital papers were sold in combination with printed copies. It should be noted, however, that digital revenues also can come from paywalls - which many Dutch newspapers introduced in the last years -, website advertising or apps. It is still safe to say that digital sales have not compensated newspapers for the loss of revenue from printed copies. In 2015 Publishers reported that only 4 percent of their revenues came from digital (NDP, 2016). Because this is an ‘average’ percentage, different publishers could perform differently. There are some indications - a high number of digital-only sales or a successful paywall - that newspapers targeting high-end users perform somewhat better in this respect.

In 2015, 48 percent of the Dutch population of 13 years and older read a newspaper on a daily basis - including free newspapers - and 44 percent read a paid newspaper. National newspapers (read by 27 percent) were slightly more popular than regional newspapers (read by 24 percent). Seven percent read free newspaper Metro. In 2004, 73 percent of the Dutch read a newspaper, 67 percent read a paid newspaper. In absolute numbers, the total readership dropped from 9.9m in 2004 to 6.8m in 2015.

The drop in circulation and readership - and therefore also in advertising - resulted in a drop in revenues, from €2bn in 2000 (when it was at its highest point) to €1.2bn in 2015. The revenue from readers, however, increased almost every year, the revenues from advertising dropped. In 2015, 75 percent came from readers, 22 from advertising and 3 percent from digital sources. In 2000 only 41 percent came for readers. It must be noted that in 2011 a new, more accurate method was used to calculate the origin of revenues, so data between the two periods cannot be compared. Digital revenues are still modest, not more than 4 percent in 2015.

Dutch newspaper publishers - or better: publishers of Dutch newspapers - do fairly well in terms of profits. The last five years they reported an average EBITDA of 15 percent.

In 2000 ten publishers were active on the Dutch market - coming down from 25 in 1980. Since then the number of publishers dropped slightly to eight in 2017 - but as TMG, the second publisher in the Netherlands, will probably be acquired by Belgian publisher Mediahuis, this number will drop to seven.

The Dutch newspaper market is highly concentrated. In 2015 - the last full year for which we have complete circulation data - Belgian publishers De Persgroep controlled 52 percent of the paid circulation, TMG 24 percent and the combination Mediahuis/Concentra 12 percent. The fourth publisher - regional combination NDC - controlled 7 percent. Four publishers controlled 95 percent of the market. When the TMG deal will materialize in 2017 the three largest publishers will control 95 percent. Belgian publishers De Persgroep and Mediahuis will control 88 percent of the Dutch paid circulation and 90 percent of the total circulation.

Between 1985 and 1997 the number of newspaper publishers sharpy declined from 24 to 10 – due to mergers, in particular in the field of regional and local newspapers. Since then the number has been rather stable althought it dropped to 9 in 2016.

The eight publishers of 2017 are:

  • De Persgroep (national papers AD, De Volkskrant and Trouw; regional papers De Gelderlander, De Stentor, Brabants Dagblad, TC Tubantia, BN De Stem, Eindhovens Dagblad, Het Parool and PZC)
  • TMG (national paper De Telegraaf; free daily Metro and regional dailies Noordhollands Dagblad, Haarlems Dagblad, Leidsch Dagblad and De Gooi- en Eemlander)
  • Mediahuis (national papers NRC Handelsblad and NRC•next and regional paper Dagblad De Limburger)
  • NDC (regional papers Dagblad van het Noorden, Leeuwarder Courant and Friesch Dagblad)
  • Financial paper Het Financieele Dagblad
  • National paper Reformatorisch Dagblad (Christian)
  • National Nederlands Dagblad (Christian)
  • Regional paper Barneveldse Krant

Cross media ownership has traditionally been restricted by law in the Netherlands, in particular when commercial TV and newspapers were concerned. Regulations are not that strict anymore but the combination between newspapers and commercial broadcasting is still weak. TMG had some stakes in commercial TV but now is only active in commercial radio, magazines and online media (apart from printed newspapers). De Persgroep owns commercial radio station Q-music. Financial paper Het Financieele Dagblad belongs to the same group as commercial radio station BNR.

Apart from daily newspapers, about 40 paid non-dailies are published, but only one has a circulation of more than 10,000. Free weeklies, however, are distributed in almost every community in the Netherlands. On average a household receives three free papers every week (Kik, Bakker, Buijs & Katz, 2012), 90 percent of the Dutch population of 13 years or older reads a free (weekly) paper now and then, more than 60 percent reads such a medium very week (NOM HAH-kranten Monitor, 2016).

There is no complete dataset on the distribution and readership of magazines in the Netherlands; most larger titles have their circulation and readership measured by NOM Printmedia because advertisers usually demand such audited data. A growing number of magazines, however, are not members of that organization.

The largest segments are Radio/TV magazines with a weekly circulation of 2.2m (13 titles), women’s weekly magazines with 1.5 copies a week (six titles), glossy monthly magazines (1.25 copies a month, 19 titles), gossip weeklies (400,000 copies a week, four titles). All segments - except for glossies - have lost half of their circulation since 2000.