II visiting with Dutch newspaper executives this week, I was struck by the disarray caused by debt loads and purchases – and the simultaneous lack of negativity. What a contrast with counterparts in the United Kingdom and North America!

As classifieds disappear for major publishers Telegraaf Media, PCM, and Wegener Media, I found the talk of:

  • The need to transform De Telegraaf and its low margin performance in good times.

  • The purchase for €100 million of PCM by Belgium-based De Persgroep, sparking endless speculation about whether they overpaid or underpaid and how change is soon coming.

  • Wegener Media weighted down by parent company Mecom’s enormous debt and rumours of sale or takeover.

Through all of this, Dutch executives say they are right-sizing their companies and trying to carve out transformational bandwidth to reinvent their companies. There was some hallway talk that Dutch publishers’ reactions to the downturn have been too conservative.

The pressure to change is high in The Netherlands. Yet the panic hasn’t yet appeared.