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De Mol builds Big Brother



Talpa Network With its company under construction De Mol wants to be able to follow the consumer 24/7. Pure media companies do not make it, they think at Talpa Network. The multi-billionaire dreams of a webshop à la

At Emesa they feel that something is about to happen in the autumn of 2017. The 250 employees of the company behind the website are usually young and informally dressed, as is customary with e-commerce companies. Now men are rummaging around in the office in a suit. Thursday, November 23, it becomes clear why. Media entrepreneur John de Mol takes over Emesa.

It seems an unlikely step: what should De Mol do with holidays? That same evening the answer follows. De Mol unfolds his plans at the DeLaMar Theater in Amsterdam – in exceptional cases he speaks in public. The acquisition of Emesa, Talpa’s first step in the world of e-commerce, is just the beginning. It is a building block in an unprecedented media and marketing stronghold for Dutch standards that De Mol has in mind: Talpa Network. The ambition: “Always be visible, audible and accessible.” An all-encompassing company in which “boundaries between media are lost”.

Meanwhile Talpa Network – not to be confused with production house Talpa Media that De Mol sold in 2015 – has been building for a year. What does it look like and where does it go? And what is the role of owner De Mol within the company? NRC spoke with Peter de Mönnink, CEO of Talpa Network, and with Pim Schmitz, chairman of the parent company Talpa Holding and De Mols rechterhand. De Mol did not want to talk himself.

Talpa Network is far from finished, it turns out. The company dreams of a web shop à la, wants to build a news brand that competes with websites like and foresees in the short term a final battle between the media companies that are active in the Netherlands. The big weakness is the digital reach – crucial because people watch less TV.

The daily management is in the hands of De Mönnink (55), former director of Sanoma Nederland and SBS. He has to make one company from Talpa Network, with so much power and appearance that consumers and therefore advertisers can not ignore it. Schmitz (50) is the dealmaker, a profession he learned at ABN Amro. He was part of the deal team that supervised the billions sales of De Mol’s production company Endemol in 2000. Schmitz, who in his own words mainly carried bags and filled spreadsheets, impressed and has been working for De Mol ever since.

International violence

Schmitz has been busy during the past period, as witnessed by the speed with which Talpa Network has made acquisitions. Even before the launch at DeLaMar Theater, De Mol became the full owner of TV channels SBS 6, Net 5, Veronica and SBS 9. A few months later, Emesa followed, and De Mol acquired all the shares in Radio 538, Sky Radio, Veronica and Radio 10. In 2018 press agency ANP and photo agency Hollandse Hoogte joined. At the beginning of this month it was announced that Talpa Network is taking YouTubekanaal StukTV.

Simultaneously, De Mol draws stars away from other media: TV personality Gordon, radio DJs Giel Beelen and Gerard Ekdom, the three men of the popular TV program Voetbal Inside.

That is not enough to be competitive, they believe at Talpa. In order to illustrate what kind of violence they have to deal with, Schmitz picks up a powerpointslide full of well-known logos in his office in Hilversum: Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Alibaba, and other international names. “They determine the Dutch media landscape.”

Advertisers spent a small 5 billion euros in the Netherlands last year, calculated research firm Nielsen. Online there is growth, at the expense of traditional media. Of those 5 billion, “more than half” now goes to foreign parties, Schmitz says. “And 80 per cent of these go to these parties.” He taps on his slide. “So there is something really going on.”

Meanwhile, De Mol is working hard to get politicians from The Hague and competition authority ACM aware of the growing dominance of foreign internet giants, without tangible results yet.

In the meantime, Talpa Network is shaping itself towards international competition. “We are fighting for the same euro”, De Mönnink explains at his office in Amsterdam, where the TV channels are located. Commercial media companies like Talpa live off ad revenue. Anyone who does not want to go under must not be a traditional media company is the reasoning. That means: not betting on just radio or TV, but on everything at once, and making sure that you can follow the users everywhere. Collecting data, registering behavior and preferences, day and night, as a kind of Big Brother for the consumer.

Under “everything” in Talpa Network’s vision is more than media. Schmitz: “You can no longer be a media company without e-commerce. Someone who advertises kitchens wants to sell more kitchens. We must eventually also be able to effect the purchase. If you can not do that, it will stop over time. “De Mönnink gives an existing example: VT Wonen. “That is a TV program [on the channels of De Mol], a magazine and a webshop.”

They also see less risky competition in traditional media such as RTL, but in webshop Amazon and even Albert Heijn. Schmitz: “They have an online channel with Appie Today, they have the Allerhande, they can follow customers via the bonus card and they have” It is therefore “very well imaginable” that Talpa Network will start its own online store.

Volatile mood

The man behind these ideas is the 63-year-old De Mol, who invariably names his companies to himself – talpa is Latin for mole. He determines what happens, and what does not. “John is the owner, there is no misunderstanding about this”, says De Mönnink. Prior to a decision there is a discussion, “on the edge of the cut”. “Is that sometimes large-scale language? Yes of course. But it is his privilege, the right of the merchant, to make the decision. If you do not appreciate that, you should not work here. “

The advantage of one owner is “enormous speed”, says Schmitz. “If we have a good idea, John has an hour to say: boys, top. We are going to do this. “This was the case, for example, with VoetbalTV, says Schmitz, who has been broadcasting amateur competitions with football association KNVB since this autumn. Disadvantages of De Mol’s dominant position say De Mönnink and Schmitz can not be seen.

Both have great respect for their boss. They praise his “creative talent” – De Mol is the creator of international TV hits like Big Brother and The Voice. Schmitz: “When he walks around in LA, he is a rock star. He does not see that himself, but of course he is. “And they praise De Mol’s entrepreneurship. He made a fortune with the sale of two production houses: Endemol to the Spanish Telefónica and Talpa Media to the British ITV.

They do not call weaknesses, but De Mönnink sees a “development area”: ​​his boss has “a volatile mood”. Anyway, De Mönnink reasons, De Mol is an entrepreneur, it is only natural that he will be disappointed if something does not work out. “It is his life work.”

Like De Mol, his company also operates, where some 1,200 people work: the pace is high, as is the workload, there is a tight hierarchy and for misses there is limited understanding. Schmitz: “Making mistakes is fine, but not twice the same. I can not stand that.”


De Mol has proven to be successful in devising and selling TV programs internationally. On the creative side, he still spends most of his time. But a successful mass media company has not yet succeeded. An earlier attempt with TV channel Talpa, later renamed Ten, failed. Even then De Mol was shocked by the TV world by stealing many stars and buying football rights. However, after two years De Mol gave it up again.

“We then choked on how quickly you can build a new channel in the Netherlands,” says Schmitz. “Namely: not.” This time, the Schmitz strategy is fundamentally different: Talpa Network has acquired existing channels and, more importantly, is not limited to TV.

How far are they with collecting ‘everything’? TV and radio are in, with Emesa also some e-commerce. “Our weakness is our digital reach,” says Schmitz. LOOK, the online video service of the Talpa’s TV channels, attracts less visitors than RTL and the public broadcaster. Talpa also misses a website that people visit every day. The solution? “I do not know what you’re doing when you get up, but I take my phone and see what happened at night. We want to follow the consumer 24/7, we need news for that. “ANP supplies” raw material “, says Schmitz, but is not a” news brand “, such as

Last year De Mol tried to take over such a brand: De Telegraaf. After a months-long takeover battle the Belgian Mediahuis, also owner of NRC, went there with parent company TMG vandoor. Dealmaker Schmitz now shrugs his shoulders. “You win some, you lose some.” And now? “We will have to build a news brand ourselves.”

How exactly that will look is still unclear. It is also difficult to gain insight into the financial performance of Talpa Network. The parent company does not publish any results, the last annual report dates from 2013. De Mol shares as little as possible with the outside world. He has not won the battle for the viewer in any case. The transmitters of Talpa account for a market share of 15.7 per cent, competitor RTL has 20.6 per cent. De Mol is market leader on the radio.

A year ago, De Mol announced “investing substantially” in Talpa Network. When asked about the war chest, De Mönnink begins to laugh: “It is of course really not smart to say anything about it.” Money is there in any case: business magazine Quote estimates De Mol’s capital at 2.7 billion euros.

Money is also badly needed, because at Talpa Network they are under pressure from a shrinking market for an almost apocalyptic survival struggle. Now a handful of large media companies in the Netherlands are active: RTL, Sanoma ( and magazines as Linda), De Persgroep (newspapers as De Volkskrant and Trouw and radio channel QMusic), Mediahuis (NRC and TMG), and Talpa Network. Schmitz predicts that in five years only “one or two” of these companies will be left, the rest is then absorbed into something bigger.

“I intend to make sure that Talpa Network is one of those two,” says Schmitz. He grins. “Or one of the one.”


Your IT solution will succeed this way




Column Ben Tiggelaar:
Who wants to motivate employees to use a new tool, has to pay a visit to the zoo.

How do you manage that people will really use nice, new IT solutions? This year I did three times – roughly – the same conversation about failed projects at three different companies. That went something like this: “With us we introduced ‘self service’ in the field of PZ. For days off, your hours overview and declarations you do not go to the people of HR, but you use a tool on our intranet. ”

“And does that work?”

“No. Nobody does it. Everyone is still walking to the colleague of human resources and asks if he wants to do it. And he does not dare to say no. “

It seems so nice: an internal website to organize your personnel cases from now on. Also saves a lot of money and time. At least: in theory. Because in practice many people leave such a smart solution.\

Build a ‘lion rock’ if you want a new service or tool to be used

How should it be? We have to go to the zoo for that. I grew up in East Groningen and one of our favorite family outings was a visit to the Noorder Dierenpark in Emmen. Especially in Drenthe. Since 2016, this zoo has been moved, enlarged and modernized. He is now called Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen.

It is not as successful as hoped. One of the complaints of the visitors is that the animals now have so much space that you often do not see them. Fortunately, this does not apply to all animals. The lions are very good to see. They too have a lot of space, but for a large part of the day they are on top of a large, well-visible rock.

How did that happen? Well, the rocks are not real. The smart guys of Wildlands have built a few concrete rocks that are heated from the inside. The idea for a rock with ‘climate control’ seems to come from a Disney zoo and it works great. It is the favorite hang-out of the lions. And it is also the favorite photo spot of the Wildlands visitor.

There is a simple lesson in this story. If you want people – internally or externally – to really start using a new service, application or tool (instead of continuing to follow the old approach), then you have to build such a ‘lion rock’.

Ask yourself: what are the ‘hot spots’ on our computer or our smartphone? I think: Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, LinkedIn. That is what people like to click and stick to. And what is ‘easy’ to do? My observation: Google and then click through from link to link. Or watch videos on YouTube.

If you want people to really start using new IT solutions, then the trick is to make that new behavior fun and simple. You can hardly go too far in there. The more important the behavior you want to see from your colleagues or customers, the easier you have to make it.

And if you think this is not going to work, if you expect it to be nicer and easier to just walk to that friendly colleague of human resources for example … Save yourself the trouble. Go with your IT colleagues to the zoo for a day and think about it again.


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Technology complements the weak spots of employees




Augmented reality:
What if your workplace can talk? Factories add a layer of technology to reality with augmented reality.

That is where the screw needs to be turned. A green arrow flashes patiently on-and-off at the Marco Willemse workplace (44). He tinkers with the chassis of what should become a Maxi-Cosi car seat. His workbench tells how to do that.

On the left side of the table a projected example has appeared: a picture of the action that he has to perform. It looks like an instruction from an Ikea manual, but much more detailed and bigger. On the tray where he needs to take the right screwdriver, green lighting appears. If he grabs in another box, the light colors red. “It’s a nice idea,” says Willemse, “not to be mistaken.”

Above him is a ‘smart’ projector. Every step he takes is explained to him in his workbench in color, text and image. An infrared sensor measures whether or not it is imitating the action. It is as if a digital layer has been added to its reality: augmented reality. Research shows that employees can work faster and perform more complex tasks. Not only good for the self-confidence of Willemse and his colleagues, also good for the manufacturer.

In the Dutch industry, augmented reality is cautiously breaking through. In social workshops, where employees need clear instruction, but also for highly skilled staff. High-tech machine manufacturer KMWE, technology supplier Omron and towbars manufacturer Brink Towing Systems work with this type of comparable beaming systems. Aircraft parts manufacturer GKN Fokker and the Maastricht metal processing company Thomas Regout have piloted augmented reality, and are considering the next step.

Industry concern ThyssenKrupp uses the Hololens from Microsoft to perform elevator maintenance.

Every year, more than a million children’s chairs are produced in Maxi Cosi’s Dorel factory in Helmond. Six hundred people work with, as it is called, a distance from the labor market. They work there via Senzer, which mediates between employers and employees to implement the Participation Act in the region. These are people with mental health problems such as borderline, mentally handicapped or people with a language barrier, such as status holders.

About fifty people have now worked with augmented reality. “Many of our people have a cognitive impairment,” says Sen. Paul Verbakel, director. “Instead of letting technology take over jobs, it adds to the employee’s weak spots.”

Later in the production hall, Mohammad (45) works with a smart beamer at the back of the Maxi-Cosi. A traffic light gives an orange signal and makes a noise if it wants to place a screw in the wrong place. The Palestinian status holder, first fled to Syria and then to the Netherlands, has a language deficit. He finds the system “fast and easy”. Senzer is still working on an alternative for people like him, where pictograms replace all Dutch text.

The promise of augmented reality has been appealing to the imagination for years. The mysterious American company Magic Leap, which promised to stick spectacular three-dimensional images over reality, gained more than 1 billion euros before it had a prototype at all. The first glasses of Magic Leap was disappointing. But where augmented reality in the entertainment is getting under way, the successful app Pokémon Go aside, the technology is quietly on the rise.

TNO started researching this technology in 2016. The research institute wanted to know what the difference is with an ‘old-fashioned’ workplace that does not interfere with the employee. “The picking and placing of objects in the right place turned out twice as fast,” says researcher Gu van Rhijn.

At social workshops, all actions are still controlled by regular employees. That seems to be a boring job. TNO conducted research with a simple product to be put together. In the group where the smart beamer gave instructions, no mistakes were made at all. “Users experienced a quarter less physical and mental strain when projected work instructions were compared to instructions from a computer screen”, says van Rhijn. “The time they needed turned out to be almost 60 percent shorter than with a screen where they could check the instructions.”

In another experiment, inexperienced people worked with the beamer instructions as quickly and flawlessly as colleagues with experience.

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After your 65th you often function better




Rush hour
Johan Wytema (79) and Trui Blaisse (71) commute between their historic canal house in Amsterdam and their estate at Winterswijk. Both cost a lot of work. “But no thinking of that we ever give up one of the two.”

Trui: “In the winter we live in the city and in the summer on the land.”

Johan: “Very classic, just like the inhabitants of canal houses in earlier centuries did.

Trui: “My father bought the Sellink estate in 1963 in the hamlet of Ratum, near Winterswijk. As a child, I thought it was great. Shortly before he died, my father said: “Truid, are you looking for Sellink?” Johan is also fond of the estate, even though it does a lot of work.

Johan: “We have 12 hectares of forest. This means pruning, planting, sawing, maintaining wooded banks and consulting with the forest contractor. In addition, Sellink comprises 30 hectares of agricultural land and three farms. This means, among other things, that we have to regularly review leasing contracts and that we consult with the water board.

Trui: “We also had cattle for a while, Simmentaler suckler cows. We were probably the only canal-house residents with cattle.

Johan: “Now we have natural pastures and arable land with field margins and malting barley, which is locally vermouthed for Achterhoek regional beers.

Trui: “So we are also a bit farmer.

Johan: “And landscape managers. We do that organically. The neighborhood had to get used to that.

Trui: “But we are completely established. We have, for example, our children ‘shaken’: then the whole neighborhood on maternity visit and they take a currant bread of a meter. They sit in order of age and then the baby is passed on. That happened again with one of our grandchildren.

Johan: “For many years I have been a board member of various nature and landscape organizations, such as Stichting Waardevol Cultuur Landschap, WCL Winterswijk. I find it sensational that Trui and I live in a medieval landscape with streams, forests, meadows and fields, where a thousand years ago habitation was already.

Trui: “When my father bought the estate, there was no running water. That came from the pit.

From noise to rest

Johan: “We are both Amsterdam and Winterswijker. No thinking of ever giving up one of those two living places. I also have tasks in the city. For example, I am chairman of the Kruispost Foundation, a Christian community where homeless people and uninsured can go for medical care. My father was a GP, Truis grandfather too. Caring for our fellow man has always played a role in our lives. ”

Trui: “We have always stayed in the city because the children were here at school, we had our work in the Randstad and because of the social contacts. But every Friday afternoon at three o’clock we were at school and then hup, we drove with the children to Sellink. As a family we have always done a lot ourselves on the estate: pruning, sawing, a vegetable garden. And we still do that. Thanks to their love for nature, our one son became an ecologist and the other physical geographer. ”

Johan: “What’s so nice about that is that the issues of the day are missing. In the countryside you do not think in hours or days, but in ten to fifteen years. Disruptive factors such as social media do not play a role here. At Sellink you still experience the Netherlands from fifty years ago, but at the same time you think twenty years ahead. The big city can learn from that. ”

Trui: “I used to be able to switch very well mentally between the city and the countryside, but nowadays I have a little more trouble with the switch from noise to rest and from time pressure to timeless.”

Beautiful living

Trui: “When we are in Amsterdam, we go to a museum almost every week. Amsterdam is such a creative, international city. I never do shopping, I find that terrible. As a stylist for living magazines, I have a lot to shop and besides, we do not like luxury. Not in the sense of a big car in any case. ”

Johan: “Living in a canal house and the maintenance of an estate costs a lot of money. A paint job, water board charges, new planting. But our homes and land are more important to us. We live beautifully and that is more than enough. ”

Trui: “And luckily I can do without new clothes. In the past we have made enough beautiful trips. Morocco, the United States, Poland, Iceland … We always taught the children: 50% of the time we spend on culture and the other half on nature. ”

Johan: “Now we read the landscape on a journey between Amsterdam and Winterswijk.”

Senseless chatter

Johan: “Where I work at WCL projects, for example, is a trial for a different European agricultural policy. More money for biodiversity and recycle agriculture. So less money for intensive agriculture, and more for herb-rich grassland and natural land use. Landscape restoration is the goal – farmers in harmony with the landscape. And I am optimistic about that with the current Minister of Agriculture. ”

Trui: “But that also applies to the city: there should be more balance between residents and visitors.”

Johan: “The hedonistic society has gone through.”

Trui: “As long as we can, we remain active. In the city and in the countryside. ”

Johan: “Yes, I am in favor of the optimal use of the qualities of people, especially at a higher age. And preferably not on the golf course. Often you function even better after your 65th, through all your experience. Moreover, activity saves you from black holes and meaningless chatter. ”

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