In just 60 years Roularta Media Group has grown from a local publisher into an international multimedia group.
In 1954, Dr. Jur. Willy De Nolf, father of the present managing director Rik De Nolf, left the Kortrijk bar to manage Roularta NV. In the centre of Roeselare, he set up Roularta NV, a small printing and publishing company for two local Roeselare weekly newspapers, the Roeselaarse Weekbode and Advertentie, the former a paid weekly newspaper and the latter an freesheet delivered door-to-door.
In the following years more and more editions of Advertentie were introduced. By 1960 De Weekbode had also grown into an influential weekly newspaper for the whole of Central West Flanders. Growth was now fuelled by the constant development of new publications and by takeovers of local weekly newspapers like the Mandelpost (1957), De Torhoutenaar (1960), Burgerwelzijn (1968), Het Ypersch Nieuws (1979), De Zondag (1978), De Zeewacht (1980), Het Nieuwsblad van de Kust (1981) and De Torhoutse Bode (1985).
The steady growth quickly outstripped existing printing capacity and in 1963 work began on a new printing works on the Meiboomlaan in Roeselare. To this day, this location remains Roularta Media Group's true home base.
Ten years on, Roularta Media Group took the decision to expand beyond the province of West Flanders. Advertentie Groot-Antwerpen and Advertentie Groot-Gent were launched to serve the Antwerp and Ghent conurbations. The De Nolf family then decided to go national, starting up regional editions along the course of the new E3 motorway (now the E17). Reflecting this, the old name Advertentie was changed to Groep E3.
In the latter half of the 60s, E3 Diksmuide, E3 Veurne, E3 Groot-Brugge, E3 Waasland, E3 Eeklo, E3 Zuid-Vlaanderen, E3 Vlaamse Ardennen, E3 Groot-Aalst, E3 Dendermonde, E3 Ninove, E3 Geraardsbergen, E3 Leuven, E3 Mechelen and E3 Oostende were all launched.
In 1968 the printing works were again extended, with a new wing added to accommodate the 90 employees and a new Plamag rotary press. And in 1969 total circulation of all freesheet editions hit the magic 1 million mark. Regional offices in the main Flemish cities collected advertising for these new local editions. The company was on the threshold of rapid growth.
Belgium had at the time no local-language equivalent of Newsweek, Business Week or Sport Illustrated.
1971 saw the first Flemish news magazine coming off the presses. Called Knack, it appeared once a week and was Roularta's first step towards diversification. Rik De Nolf entered the company alongside his father, and in 1972 took over management responsibility for magazine publishing.
The group gained in strength through the contribution of the Louis Claeys family, with Leo Claeys, Louis' son, first becoming managing director of the printing division before later adding the Freesheet division to his responsibilities.
The Knack editorial team was located in Brussels and a national advertising management office opened there. In 1975 the fortnightly financial-economic magazine Trends was launched. Just one year later its French counterpart Trends/Tendances appeared, marking the start of diversification into French-speaking Belgium.
In March 1980 Roularta launched a sports magazine, followed by a French language edition in 1981. Following a number of cooperation agreements and experiments, Roularta finally chose in 2001 the title Sport/Voetbal Magazine (Sport/Footmagazine), accenting the football side while at the same time giving coverage to other major team sports.
In 1983 Weekendblad came out, an easy-reading magazine covering cinema, culture and society. In 1984 it was added as a second magazine to Knack and henceforth simply called Weekend.
In 1983 the French-language news magazine Le Vif Magazine was started, including Weekend Le Vif on the same lines as Knack. In 1986 a cooperation agreement was concluded with the French group L'Express and the title changed to Le Vif/L'Express. In 1988 Pourquoi Pas? was taken over and integrated into Le Vif / L'Express.
In 1987 the growing success of Trends Magazine led Roularta to start started publishing it weekly. It became Belgium's only weekly financial-economic magazine. The trio of "weekly news magazines", Knack , Trends and Sportmagazine (LeVif/L'Express, Trends Tendances, and Sport/Foot Magazine) was now a fact.
In cooperation with the French Bayard Presse, Onze Tijd/Notre Temps, a monthly magazine for active senior citizens, was launched in 1988, with its name being changed in Belgium to Plus Magazine in 2001. The Onze Tijd/Notre Temps success story was also repeated abroad. In partnership with Bayard, Roularta went on to take over the French-language TV magazine Télépro in 1994.
In 2000 a third magazine was added to the Knack packet. Following Weekend, Focus Knack is an entertainment publication covering cinema, music and other arts and offering full radio and TV listings. Focus Vif came after in 2008.
In that same year 2000, Roularta entered a joint venture to publish Grande, a Dutch-language travel magazine. This was complemented in 2003 by a French-language counterpart.
Autumn 2002 saw the start of Nest, a lifestyle magazine with five editorial pillars: country living, house & garden, food & drink, hobby, fashion & health. The French-language version appeared following the acquisition of the monthly magazine Tempo Verde.
In 2004 Roularta acquired Press News with the bilingual Royals titles and the two-monthly Dutch-language Dynasty. These evolved into the Dutch-language Royals Extra and the French-language Royals Hors Serie. This move led to Roularta becoming a player in the so-called "people magazine" market segment.
In 2004, a majority holding was taken in Media Office, a publisher specialised in practical DIY and building publications, including the monthly magazine Ik ga Bouwen/Je vais Construire.
Bodytalk, a monthly magazine for health, nutrition, sports and psychology and with no advertising, was launched in 2008.
In 2011 the weekly Trends magazine received a lifestyle magazine Trends Style, published six times a year.
Also launched in 2011 was the lifestyle magazine The Good Life, the Dutch language edition of the the French magazine.
All the while, the free door-to-door papers were growing in circulation and volume. Titles formerly produced on a contract basis for other publishing houses were taken over, so that everywhere Roularta had its own edition. In 1979 the E3 magazines received a total makeover, evolving from pure ad sheets into local newspapers. A certain uniformity was introduced and the free papers were renamed De Streekkrant. With some fifty local editions this weekly newspaper is delivered door-to door in every city and village of Dutch-speaking Belgium.
In the province Limburg, the title De Weekkrant was used, the result of an agreement with publisher Concentra (with its 20% holding in NV DSDW).
The success of De Streekkant led to a second network of free tabloids being set up. By keeping their local titles, Roularta wanted to offer a new and complemetary platform alongside De Streekkant, this time focused on local advertisers. The network quiickly grew, fuelled by takeovers of such freesheets as Fonteintje, Wegwijzer, Wetthra, Tam Tam, Het Gouden Blad, Effect, etc.
The monthly Steps was launched in 1995 as a complement to the De Streekkrant door-to-door freesheet. Whereas De Streekkrant publishes promotional advertising aimed at direct sales, Steps carries image campaigns for upmarket retail outlets.
Piloted in Kempen, the free newspaper De Zondag was launched Flanders-wide in 2000. The novel formula of distributing the magazine via bakeries enables almost 600,000 copies to be distributed every Sunday morning. Since autumn 2004 De Zondag has included a full round-up of national sports news in all 16 editions. De Zondag is Flanders' most popular newspaper.
Growth through acquisitions included the KW (Krant van West-Vlaanderen), that was then strengthened by the acquisitions of, among others, De Zeewacht (1979), the Kortrijks Handelsblad (1990) and the Brugsch Handelsblad (1990).
The various West Flemish weekly newspapers, along with De Weekbode, received in 1996 the general title Krant van West-Vlaanderen. With the acquisition of Het Wekelijks Nieuws in 2000, the whole province was united under a single title Krant van West-Vlaanderen, with 11 city editions.
Roularta is not just freesheets and general public magazines. In 1984, it entered a cooperation with Biblio to publish the specialist Industriemagazine. In 1992 Roularta acquired Belgian Business, which it then integrated into the monthly Industriemagazine. In 2004 Technisch Management was integrated into the group.
In 2003 Roularta Media Group completely took over the Biblio publishing house, thus becoming the publisher of a number of medical publications such as the weekly magazines de Huisarts-le Généraliste. The Roularta Medica range was later extended to include such journals as de Tandarts-le Dentist, de Apotheker- le Pharmacien and de Specialist-le Spécialist. In 2011 a merger took place with UBM. The new publisher Actua Medica (50 % Roularta) now pbulishes the Artsenkrant, de Tandarts, the Specialistenkrant and de Apotheker.
This was followed in 2004 by a majority holding in Media Office, which specializes in DIY and building publications. Amongst others, the company publishes the "Ik ga Bouwen/Je vais Construire" magazine.
In that same year the takeover of Keesing Business Media Belgium led to the establishment of a new division: Roularta Professional Information or RPI for short. Such important trade journals as ITM (Industrie Technisch Management), Grafisch Nieuws and M&C (Media & Communication) belong to this division. In addition, RPI organises seminars and events in the industrial and ICT market. The new division has opened up interesting synergies with other Roularta publications or activities such as Industrie Magazine, Roularta Seminars or Kanaal Z.
In 2007, Roularta (RPI) acquired VNU Business Publications Belgium, the publisher of the Data News trade journal.
Biblio (a 100% Roularta subsidiary) also publishes such specialised newsletters as Fiscoloog/Fiscologue (covering taxation issues), Tijdschrift voor Rechtspersonen, Balans/Bilan (accountancy) and Inside Beleggen/La Lettre de l’Initié for investors.
It is also responsible for Trends Top, the website with a database containing the figures of Belgian companies, names of top executives, a geo-marketing tool, etc., along with a print version of the 'Trends Top 10.000' directory.
Roularta Media Group invests not only in the print medium but also in radio and television. In 1987, VTM, the Vlaamse Televisie Maatschappij (Flemish Television Company) was established as Flanders' first commercial TV channel, originally in partnership with eight other Flemish publishers.
VTM came onto the air on 1 February 1989 and very soon reached a 40% market share with Flemish viewers. The channel's holding structure changed a number of times, with Roularta constantly increasing its holding.
By 1998 there were just two remaining shareholders in the parent company Vlaamse Media Maatschappij (VMM): Roularta and De Persgroep, each holding 50%. VMM currently operates the TV channelsVTM, 2BE, JIM and vtmKzoom, together with the Q-music and JOE fm radio stations. Following a change in Flemish legislation, the Vlaamse Media Maatschappij was also able to acquire the 4FM commercial station from the John de Mol investment company. Q-music and JOE fm now belong to one and the same radio company.
Over the years, Vlaamse Media Maatschappij NV has become Belgium's largest commercial audiovisual media company. VMM is giving a new impetus not only to the advertising market, but also to ancillary businesses such as the music and film industry, production houses and facilities companies.
In 1993, the local West-Flemish TV station WTV went onto the air for the first time. Roularta was also involved in a number of similar initiatives in other regions of Flanders. The Regionale Media Maatschappij NV (50% RMG) began providing the commercial management of, among others, the two West Flemish stations WTV and Focus TV. Roularta created RTVM, the national advertising manager for all regional stations (together with Concentra and De Persgroep). It also provides advertising management for Ring TV (Brussels area).
1999 saw the spectacular birth of the financial-economic news station Kanaal Z, a unique concept in the Benelux countries. In 2000 Kanaal Z was given a French-language counterpart, Canal Z. The twin stations Kanaal Z/Canal Z now broadcast general news and a whole series of interesting side programmes every day. Kanaal Z/Canal Z became a 100% Roularta channel in 2005.
Roularta has been investing in the new medium, Internet, since the late '90s. The first steps were taken with the magazine titles.
Roularta then started building Belgium's first real newsroom in 2008. The Brussels Media Center houses the editorial staff of the magazines, television (KanaalZ/CanalZ) and internet.
For each specialty Roularta has its own magazine, with top editors keeping track of the hot topics in their specialty, permanently issuing short reports on the websites, writing weekly or monthly articles for the magazines and, whenever important enough, providing commentary and interviews on Channel Z-TV. All sectors are covered: politics, the economy, industry, trade, society, medicine, lifestyle, sports, culture, etc.
The advertising division Roularta Media has 3 packs with millions of quality pageviews to offer: The Knack (Vif) pack, the Trends pack and Roularta's lifestyle pack.
The Free Press division also took advantage of the new medium, with its classified ads site Easy.be. At the beginning of 2007 Roularta entered into a partnership in this area with the Rossel group. Easy.be became vlan.be, the largest website for classified ads in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia. It can be used to buy or sell property (immo.vlan.be) or cars (auto.vlan.be), or for jobs streekpersoneel.be.
Another highlight in 2009 was the cooperation agreement with Google, whereby the Gratis Pers sales team became a Google reseller, marketing the Google AdWords programme to local customers.
The various divisions supporting Roularta Media Group have kept abreast of the very fast development of the core business. The printing works have been constantly expanded and modernised. In 1972 one offset rotary press and three offset sheet presses for printing magazines were added. Five years later, work started on a massive new 5,000 m2 hall to house one Harris M 1000 rotary press for printing the magazines and two new Harris offset newspaper presses for the freesheets.
The massive expansion in the late 80s necessitated further investments in the printing works, with two Harris M 4000 magazine presses and a Mitsubishi BT1S being installed, together with two hybrid 4-colour newspaper presses, the Harris M 1600 and Euro-M.
2006 saw work starting on building a brand-new printing works. At 19,500 m², the new hall is the size of almost three football pitches. It is now the home of the new MAN rotary presses, including a Colorman heatset which can print 128-page tabloid format in full colour on glossy paper.
The Mitsubishi infrastructure has been expanded, now allowing 96-page tabloid format to be printed, also in full colour and on glossy paper.
In addition three new MAN magazine presses have been installed: two 72-page presses and one 16-page one for printing glossy covers in vivid colours at a rate of 100,000 copies an hour. This makes Roularta one of the most advanced printer's in the whole of Europe.
The pre-press department has also been the subject of constant modernisation. Back in 1977 the department operated completely mechanically, with the first computers for phototypesetting introduced in 1977. Automation and, at a later date, digitalisation were introduced at a relentless speed, making the pre-press department one of the most sophisticated in the whole of Europe.
Via the Ghent PDF Workgroup, the Roularta standard for the transmission of advertisement and editorial content has been adopted by the whole printing and advertising world throughout Begium and the Netherlands, and increasingly in France as well.
Roularta Media Group has been active outside Belgium since the early 90s, applying the successful concepts built up over the years in Belgium to other markets. A country by country overview follows.
In 1990 the monthly magazine Plus was launched in the Netherlands. The initiative came from Senior Publications, a joint venture between Roularta Media Group and French publisher Bayard Presse, which had previously partnered Roularta in the successful launch of the Plus concept in Belgium. Since 2002 Style Zeeuws-Vlaanderen has been published in cooperation with the Zeeuwsch-Vlaams Advertentieblad. This regional lifestyle magazine, delivered door-to-door, targets 'young urbans'.
In Germany, Roularta, again in cooperation with its French partner, Bayard Presse, launched the magazine Plus (Lenz) for senior citizens in 2001. This was the first move in a remarkable penetration of the German market, culminating with the 2008 announcement of Bayard and Roularta Media Group that they were taking over the Weltbild group.
The new busiess activities generate sales of nearly EUR 20 million from 21 titles, and have a total distribution of 1.6 million copies focused on four main areas: senior citizens, home and gardens, children and magazines for parents: Frau im Leben, Schwangerschaft und Geburt, Kinder richtig födern, Babys lernen schlafen, Gesundheid, Mein Kind, Gesund essen, Hoppla, Olli & Molli, Benni und Teddy, Bimbo , Tierfreund , Stafette , I Love English Junior, G/Geschichte, Schule + Familie, Gärtnern leicht gemacht, Grün, Living & More.
In the wake of its success in Belgium and France with the free city magazine concept, Roularta entered the Slovenian market, with City Magazine now being distributed in the country's biggest cities.
The success of this approach led to the launch of a City Magazine in the Serbian capital Belgrade in autumn 2008.
France is clearly Roularta Media Group's main foreign market.
Roularta took part in 2000 in the launch of the weekly magazine A Nous Paris. In 2003 it acquired Algo Communications, which was publishing a city magazine in Lille. To this the successful concept of Steps - the combination of free lifestyle magazine and city guide - was applied, with the magazine renamed A Nous Lille. The group of fortnightly A Nous titles was widened with A Nous Lyon in 2004. In late 2005, Roularta also became the 100% owner of A Nous Paris. In 2006, another title, A Nous Marseille, was added.
In 2001 Roularta participated 50% with publisher Laurent Blanc in the new magazine Ideat, which rapidly became the market leader in the field of design.
A further acquisition in 2003 was publisher Aguesseau with its portfolio of trendsetting homes and gardens magazines: Maisons Côté Sud, Maisons Côté Ouest, Maisons Côté and Maison Paris. These were placed in a joint venture with the Express-Expansion group, which brought in its own Maison Magazine and Maison Française.
In 2005 Roularta acquired the weekly Point de Vue. People magazines are very much the trend in France at present and Point de Vue has an established reputation in this segment.
2006 saw Roularta's most significant acquisition in France, with its previous minority holding in Groupe Express-Expansion being raised to 100%.
Together with this group, Roularta publishes all the titles of Côté Maison (France) and Le Vif/L'Express (Belgium), and has now become the owner of a number of clusters with the most prestigious French titles.
The weekly L'Express together with Styles L'Express (the counterpart of Knack Weekend) is the group's main title. Ancillary activities include events, books, an organisation called Job Rencontres for job fairs, etc.
The monthly financial-business magazine L'Expansion, the practical monthly magazine L'Entreprise for the entrepreneur, the personal finance magazine Mieux Vivre Votre Argent.
Côté Sud, Côté Ouest, Côté Est and Côté Paris, the latter launched in 2008.The practical monthly magazine Maison Magazine and the upmarket magazines Maison Française and Idéat (the market leader for design, published in a joint venture with Laurent Blanc).
Zeste, a magazine for connoisseurs, was launched in 2011.
In 2012 Decoration International, a design magazine for the professional world, began publication.
Classica for music lovers.It is published in a joint venture with Les Echos, the market leader following its merger with Le Monde de la Musique.
Studio/Ciné Live for film lovers. It became market leader following the takeover of the titles Studio Magazine and Ciné Live which merged in 2009.
Lire, the monthly magazine for book lovers.
A major event organisation has grown up around the monthly and magazine and the book publisher L’Etudiant, with some thirty student fairs a year currently being organised.
The L’Etudiant website is the market leader in the field of information on the career guidance capabilities of 2 - 3,000 higher education institutions in France.