The importance of sporting icons for news media
In 2021, the number of logins to DPG news media in the Netherlands and Belgium rose by 30 percent. The successes of sporting icons contributed to that. Thanks to Max Verstappen and Wout van Aert.
On Sunday 12 December 2021, sitting on an uncomfortable chair behind an uncomfortable desk in the media centre in Abu Dhabi, Joost Nederpelt witnessed a historic moment. In a crazy and unforgettable denouement Max Verstappen became world champion. And what did the Formula 1 reporter of NU.nl do? “I remained calm and continued typing, because the report had to be on the website as quickly as possible.”
Once he got home he was able to take the time to watch the images again and to enjoy all those Dutch people having the time of their lives. And to enjoy the NU.nl visitor numbers: in the final months of the thrilling season the pieces about Formula 1 were – proportionally – the most frequently read pieces in the sports section. At certain times, motorsport’s elite class overtook football as the most popular sport on NU.nl.
Joost Nederpelt (38)
FFORMULA 1 REPORTER FOR NU.NL SINCE 2016. HE ALSO PUTS TOGETHER THE FRONT PAGE OF NU.NL.
Most frequently read articles about Max Verstappen on NU.nl
“The success of Max Verstappen is indisputably a success for us too,” Nederpelt acknowledges. “If he hadn’t been Dutch, the number of page views and clicks would have been considerably smaller. Max is a guarantee for success, but apparently we ourselves are doing it right as well, other- wise visitors would go to other websites.”
In the course of the years, NU.nl has become an authority on F1 with an extensive package of liveblogs, podcasts, videos, news reports and explanatory stories. Since 2021, visitors have had to log in with their DPG Media account to read the somewhat more in-depth pieces, under the heading of NU+.
A major step for a free app and website – and a successful one. “Thanks in part to Verstappen’s success, in the past year many people have become accustomed to having to log in on NU.nl for particular stories. That has speeded up the standardisation and smoothed the way for others: we have now rolled out NU+ for Climate and other sections,” says Nederpelt. ‘’Not only was 2021 a great year for Verstappen, it was a great year for us too.”
Wout van Aert
When Wout van Aert crossed the finishing line on the Champs-Élysées as the winner of the mass sprint on Sunday 18 July 2021, Stijn Vlaeminck’s microphone was the first to be shoved under his nose. “That was a moment I will never forget,” says the cycling correspondent of VTM and Het Laatste Nieuws. “It was spectacular for me, imagine what it must have been like for him.”
The winning sprint was the highlight of a Tour de France in which Van Aert achieved an unprecedented series of stage victories. On the day before Paris, he had won the individual time trial in Saint-Émilion. And a week earlier he had excelled in a different discipline by winning the mountain stage on Mont Ventoux.
Stijn Vlaeminck (39)
CYCLING REPORTER VTM/HLN SINCE 2020. PRIOR, HE WAS A PRESENTER FOR STUDIO BRUSSEL AND REPORTER AT SPORZA.
Most frequently read articles about Wout van Aert on HLN.be
No wonder that Van Aert is Belgium’s most popular sportsperson. This is also to the benefit of VTM and HLN, in Vlaeminck’s view. “Everything Wout van Aert touches turns to gold. There are many clicks on HLN.be on everything we report about him and the mid-form videos we make about him on the website are extremely popular.”
Thanks to a partnership with Van Aerts’s team Jumbo-Visma, Vlaeminck has a good relationship with the cyclist. That enabled him to interview Van Aerts extensively and exclusively last season. He also got unique access behind the scenes. This resulted in the spring and autumn of 2021 in two exclusive documentaries on VTM, entitled Wout. They attracted a lot of viewers as well.
Both Vlaeminck and Van Aert are making sure that the relationship does not become too intense. ‘‘Just as sportsmen need the media, we need ‘heroes’ too. They are communicating vessels: he has to ride as quickly as possible, I have to perform my tasks as a media maker without being biased or implausible. Needless to say, as a sports fan I can genuinely enjoy his achievements, which were unique in 2021.”