Gerard Timmer – NOS

Gerard Timmer – NOS

Gerard Timmer is CEO at NOS, a public broadcast corporation. NOS is responsible for the production of media for the national public media service (the NPO, Netherlands Public Broadcast Corporation) in the areas of news, sports and events. Gerard is end responsible for NOS and is among other things responsible for the programmatic policy framework and the continuity of the company. Gerard: “NOS makes up for two thirds of online reach of the public broadcast corporation, mostly because of our website and app. 9 out of 10 days, we are included in the top best viewed tv programme lists with the 8 and 6 o’clock news. Next to that, we have a fantastic event programming including national events and sports events.”

Main KPI’s for success

According to Gerard, reach is important for the NOS: “We don’t have reach as a leading target in our annual plans, but do monitor it throughout the year. We don’t receive specific targets from politics, but we do have a broad legal task and responsibility. We look at reach and how it develops, both for individual platforms and our total reach. When we notice numbers dropping for a specific programme or platform, we look into that. But we aren’t evaluated on specific numbers. Our objective is to provide quality content. Therefore, we focus on evaluating if we’ve told the right stories from different sides, and if we’ve showed the Netherlands in its true from, so more towards diversity.”

Gerard explains that the NOS doesn’t necessarily work towards growth of their brand. “For us, it’s about continuing to carry out our broad legal task. To be able to do so, we need reach, distribution, finances and positioning.”

Innovation at NOS

Gerard: “Innovation is an extremely important part of our strategy. We must stand at the front of the line when it comes to journalistic applications based on digital innovations, and explore them. We have our own NOS Lab where we experiment and organise special weeks to challenge our people to think about innovation. From an abstract question such as how we can stay accessible to everyone, we look towards using new digital developments to find the answer. We test them, and most of them see the light of day, and some don’t.”

“Innovation is an extremely important part of our strategy. We must stand at the front of the line when it comes to journalistic applications based on digital innovations”

An example is robot journalism which was used during the last Provincial council elections. Gerard: “Using robot journalism, we were able to create a tailored article for every region. This way, we could provide people with a relevant story based on the local results of the elections. Furthermore, it enabled us to create all those stories overnight. Another example is NOS Stories. Just like for every traditional media organisation, it’s difficult to engage with the younger target group. So, we experimented with Instagram and explored how we could apply it to news and our target group. We continuously look towards new techniques to bring news to a broader audience. With Stories on Instagram and YouTube we’ve become a news brand for 13 to 19-year olds. We try to place news in its context and make complicated subjects easy to understand. We’re not just here to report when something monumental has happened in the world. With ‘Explainers’ we make complicated everyday topics accessible to everyone. For example, in our app we build an interactive story which allows people to experience daily life from the perspective of someone who suffers from depression. To foster understanding for an important social phenomenon.”

NOS does measure the success of their innovations, but It’s not the only factor on which it’s determined as a success or not. Gerard: “We evaluate the product but don’t set certain KPI’s or goals. We also look at feedback and engagement with the public. We’ve for instance created a website where people can go back 75 years to the liberation of the Netherlands. You can scroll through that entire year and listen and watch the news, which happened on that certain day, in real-time. We’ve received a lot of stories from people who have experienced the war and use the website as a way to talk about their experiences. With this website we brought people into the position where they can experience and talk about it again. And it provided us with lots of feedback on the product.”

Fake news

When it comes to innovation and the rise of fake news, Gerard highlights that this makes it even more crucial that you are seen as a reliable organization. “If you get into that position where you’ve made a mistake, you need to be upfront and honest about it. These instances very rarely happen at the NOS. But if you’re not honest the instance something like that does happen, people will question whether that 99,9% where you’re not making any mistakes, can be trusted. Next to that, we also deal with people making fake NOS accounts on social media for instance and spreading fake news. You need to be on top of these things and react the moment it happens.”

Innovation in the board room

Gerard underlines that innovation is a necessary element which should not be overlooked: “We live in a remarkable time. Almost daily we see innovations being introduced which are comparable to the invention of the car. It’s moving at a tremendous pace and we need to get used to the next step in our social life and the influence innovation has on that. I just need to look at my iPhone to be reminded of that. It’s an often-used example, but almost weekly I look at my iPhone and think; how is possible that we can do so much with a single device, from organizing our lives to being connected around the world? And I think we don’t realise that often enough. NOS wants to be as multi-platform as possible, to inform as many people as possible with the latest news. And we mustn’t be limited in our thinking. And we couldn’t, otherwise we can’t carry out our broad legal task. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate innovation in your organisation and organise it on board level. This was something we weren’t used to doing. It’s also has symbolic value. By organizing it on a board level and spreading it throughout the organization from there, it helps underline the importance much more than if we were to assign it only to an isolated single innovation department.”