HISTORY OF ROULARTA MEDIA GROUP (RMG)
In 1954, lawyer Willy De Nolf (born in Roeselare in 1923) decided to say goodbye to the Kortrijk bar after ten years and focus on printing and publishing the local newspaper De Roeselaarse Weekbode (founded in 1947). He founded NV Roularta and together with his wife Marie-Thérèse De Clerck, started building a group that is active internationally today.
In the province of West Flanders, one or two local weekly newspapers were published in every city. Roularta succeeded in gradually grouping these newspapers into one paid newspaper, KW Krant van West-Vlaanderen. By 2000 all the newspapers had merged and since then, every weekend, there is the paid provincial newspaper, KW Krant van West-Vlaanderen, with a local newspaper for each region with a hundred-year tradition (De Weekbode, De Zeewacht, Het Brugsch Handelsblad, Het Kortrijks Handelsblad, Het Wekelijks Nieuws...). The editorial team provides 24/7 news coverage via KW.be.
From the start in 1954, Roularta also launched a free home-delivered newspaper for every region in West Flanders to support the paid newspaper. This initiative was extended to the rest of Flanders, and in the early 70s it grew into a national Dutch-language title, De Streekkrant, a group of 50 local weekly newspapers with a circulation of almost 3 million copies, most of which were started by Roularta itself.
Today, the door-to-door newspaper has been replaced by the free newspaper De Zondag (founded in 1999), which is distributed via a network of thousands of bakeries and other shops that are open on Sundays and taken home by readers. With over 500,000 copies in all cities and municipalities of Flanders, De Zondag reaches 1.5 million readers with 16 regional editions exclusively on Sundays, a unique reading moment.
Fifty years ago, there were no Belgian ‘newsmagazines’. No Newsweek, no Businessweek, no Sports Illustrated, which at the time were the strongest magazines in the US, both in terms of readers and advertisers. Roularta Media Group (RMG) launched the weekly magazines Knack (1971), Trends (1975), and Sportmagazine (1980) at the beginning of 1970.
In 1971, the children of Willy De Nolf, Rik and Caroline, married Lieve and Leo Claeys, the two youngest offspring of Louis Claeys (born in Zedelgem in 1908, the maker of the Clayson combine harvester). In 1981, founder Willy De Nolf passed away. By that time, the second generation had already been active for about ten years, and the brothers-in-law Rik De Nolf and Leo Claeys would jointly lead the company for over 30 years.
In 1983, Le Vif, the French counterpart of Knack, was introduced to the market. RMG now publishes all its magazine titles in Dutch and French (Le Vif, Trends-Tendances, and Sport/Foot Magazine). The Knack package was expanded in 1981 with the lifestyle magazine Knack Weekend and in 2000 with Knack Focus, the weekly magazine for culture, entertainment, and television.
In 1986, an agreement was reached with Jimmy Goldschmidt, the publisher of the French L'Express. Le Vif and L'Express merged, and Le Vif/L'Express became a 50/50 joint venture. At the same time, Le Vif Weekend was added to the Vif package, and in 1988 Le Vif continued to grow through the acquisition and integration of the Brussels weekly Pourquoi-Pas? Focus Vif completed the Vif package in 2000.
In 1988, the monthly magazine Plus Magazine, the monthly magazine for active over-50s, was launched in Belgium in a joint venture with the French group Bayard. This became an international enterprise with magazines in the Netherlands (1990) and Germany (2001). In 2008 the magazines Frau im Leben and G Geschichte were taken over. RMG acquired 100% of all these activities in 2020.
In 1994, the french speaking tv-magazine Télépro is taken over.
In 2002, Nest was created, and today this magazine, as Libelle Nest/Femmes Nest, is the Belgian title with the largest circulation.
In the late 1980s, Roularta Media Group was one of the 9 media companies that jointly initiated the launch of VTM, the first independent TV station for Flanders. In 1998, the IPO of Roularta provided the necessary capital to acquire 50% of the Flemish Media Company, which would launch a series of TV and radio stations in addition to VTM. Roularta sold its 50% stake in 2018 to De Persgroep after 20 years of successful cooperation.
In 1993, RMG launched the first regional TV stations (WTV and Focus TV in West Flanders), and in the following years, RMG ensured the startup of the other stations for the rest of Flanders, either through its own operation or advertising management. RMG is no longer involved in regional television.
In 1999, RMG (initially in a joint venture with De Tijd) launched the business channels Kanaal Z and Canal Z, which today provide broadcasts via television and the internet (trends.be). Together with the weekly Trends, they reach the largest business community in the country.
RMG created most of its strong brands itself, but after the IPO, the group also grew through acquisitions. In Belgium, trade journals were taken over for the medical world (Artsenkrant, De Apotheker, etc.), for the world of IT (DataNews) and for the graphic world (Grafisch Nieuws, M&C, etc.).
RMG was also active in France. In the 1980s with free newspapers in the north (Groupe Edinord) and in the late 1990s with city magazines distributed all over France (Steps and later A Nous Paris, etc.). In the early 2000s, a whole series of acquisitions followed: monthly magazines about music (Classica, Pianiste, etc.), film (Studio), books (Lire), lifestyle (Côté Sud, Côté Ouest, Côté Est, Côté Paris, Maison Française, Maison Magazine, etc.) and the weekly Point de Vue.
Through the acquisition of the L'Express/L'Expansion group from the French Dassault group, the Belgian Le Vif became 100% owned by Roularta again.
Together with the weekly L'Express (founded by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber), a whole series of monthly magazines were taken over, such as L'Expansion (founded by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber), L'Entreprise, Mieux Vivre Votre Argent, and L'Etudiant.
In 2015, RMG sold all its French activities to the Altice group. Roularta Printing who uses 50% of its capacity for foreign magazines and catalogs, continues to print french magazines
In the same year, Rik De Nolf was succeeded as CEO by his son-in-law Xavier Bouckaert (born in Senlis in 1975).
In 2017, the Dutch monthly magazine Landleven was taken over from RELX.
In 2018 RMG made the acquisition of 50% of Mediafin (a JV with Rossel), the publisher of the dailies De Tijd and L’Echo and the weekly De Belegger/L’Investissuer.
In 2018, RMG also took over the Belgian lifestyle magazines from Sanoma: the weekly magazines Libelle/Femmes d'Aujourd'hui and Flair (D/F), and the monthly magazine Feeling/GAEL.
In 2022, RMG took over the Dutch group New Skool Media, with the weekly magazines EW (the former Elsevier, the Dutch counterpart of Knack) and Beleggersbelangen, along with a whole series of monthly magazines. Lifestyle magazines such as Delicious, Seasons, Columbus Travel, Knipmode, and Zin. Magazines about mobility and sport: Fiets, Fietsactief and Procycling, Formule 1, Truckstar, Moto 73, Motor Nl, and Promotor (50%). And further Kijk (science and technology) and Vorsten. Together with Plus Magazine and Landleven, all titles are now housed at Roularta Media Nederland (RMN).
Digitisation has in the meantime provided new opportunities, and in 2022, RMG grouped all its media brands in one app called ‘My Magazines’. Subscribers to Knack or Trends (Le Vif or Trends Tendances) get access to the digital kiosk My Magazines, where they can read all the magazines of the group on a PC, tablet, or mobile. They also have 24/7 access to complete coverage in all areas, with all content provided by the editorial staff of the Roularta magazines, via the app or website.
For the local market, in addition to the newspaper De Zondag, Roularta Media Group also offers digital solutions such as geolocated advertisements on its websites and newsletters and through a network of displays in local sales points throughout Flanders (Mijn Stad TV).