Posts tagged ‘the Netherlands’
Last week, the popular Dutch social network site Hyves was bought by one of the largest Dutch media groups Telegraaf Media Group (TMG). TMG is particularly known for its daily mainstream newspaper De Telegraaf but also owns other publications, websites and radio stations. Hyves and several parts of TMG already collaborated on projects in the past. Whilst looking for new cross media marketing options, TMG emphasises that “Hyves will remain Hyves”, not changing its character or identity.
In the Netherlands, Hyves is more popular than Facebook. It recently launched Hyves Mobile, allowing Hyves Mobile Friends to call and text each other for free. The transaction by TMG has started discussions on whether such coexistence is sustainable for the long run in a country as small as the Netherlands. The CEO of Hyves sees Facebook and Hyves as complementary due to the latter’s local relevance.
In recent weeks there have been rumours in Brussels circles saying that Neelie Kroes, Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, might become the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands, should her party, the VVD, come first in the elections.
Yesterday it was election day in the Netherlands, and a long one at that, as initial results showed such a thin difference between the centre-right VVD and the centre-left PvdA that neither side could claim victory until very late into the night. In the end, Kroes’s party emerged as the winner of the elections. So when I went this morning to a conference where Neelie Kroes was supposed to be speaking at 9:30, I thought she might not show up at all.
But she did. And she started her speech clearing out any doubt about her future. She said that although she could get any job she wanted at the moment, she would stay at the Digital Agenda portfolio as this is, according to her, the best job she could ever get. She looked sincere, but you never know with politics. Government coalition building can take months in the Netherlands, and politicians are known for easily changing their minds. Surprises might still happen.
In the run up to the 9th June parliamentary elections in the Netherlands, the first ever election debates took place through Hyves and Twitter – on the same day. Hyves for breakfast and Twitter for dinner. The 30 minute debate on the Dutch social network Hyves (see earlier blog post on Dutch social media) was considered quite ‘relaxed’ and friendly, whereas its Twitter counterpart was perceived as rather stressed and direct. On Hyves the 50,000 viewers could not actively participate in the debate. Twitter did allow this in its 90 minute session, which subsequently led to mass chaos.
The jury is still out on both digital debates. On the one hand, the large interest of the public to participate in or follow the debate demonstrates an increasing interest of the people in politics in general. On the other hand, the efficacy and legitimacy of these communication channels for this specific purpose are, ironically, up for debate themselves.
As there were no webcams involved, how does one know whether the candidates are actually behind the computer and typing themselves? It may well be that the entire campaign team is gathered behind the keyboard. Some argue that these online platforms can only result in superficial debates as succinctness and speed are of the essence. Furthermore, while the perception was created that the public would truly be able to interact with the politicians it actually turned out to be a one-on-one between the candidates. On Twitter, the responses of the public sort of got lost in the crowd, whereas the candidates maintained visibility. People also complained about the limited time available for the debates.
Therefore, this first digital exercise should teach Dutch politicians to be careful in considering social media as merely a marketing tool. It is not a one-way street. Particularly, as its constituents increasingly consider it part of their right to democratic participation.
As to the effectiveness of these Dutch debates, I can only say: have a look at the number and length of responses shown in the Dutch news bulletin and see whether you find this dazzling. If so, it could mean several things; either these platforms are just not suitable for such debates, or the debate was not set up properly. Another possibility could be that maybe you are not as accustomed yet to these high speed digital channels as you thought you were. Or maybe, just maybe, your Dutch needs some work…
There’s lots of chat about how trivial Twitter is. Who’s interested in the minutiae of all these daily lives? How can you say anything sensible in 140 characters? How can anything emerge from this huge, constant, global clamour? And then something comes along that reminds us that actually any medium can be a force for good if used properly.
This campaign was started in the Netherlands to draw attention to the problem of domestic violence. One in four Dutch women (apparently) will suffer from domestic violence in their lifetime and I cannot imagine that the statistics are any different elsewhere. As a man, I find this deeply shameful and very disturbing. As a human being, I find the fact that so often people who know do nothing even more troubling. This campaign highlights this through the medium of Twitter. Have a look and consider, honestly, if you had been following this feed, what would you have done?