HLN’s Dimitri Antonissen has a strategy for catching up with Facebook

By Paula Felps


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


Editor’s note: In an ongoing series, INMA is profiling our most engaged members — our super fans — to give members a chance to learn more about each other. Today we profile Dimitri Antonissen, deputy editor-in-chief for Het Laatste Nieuws/HLN.be in Antwerp, Belgium.

Successful people think big, and Dimitri Antonissen, deputy editor-in-chief for Het Laatste Nieuws/HLN.be in Antwerp, Belgium, is doing just that with his belief that HLN can overtake Facebook’s rating in Belgium.

HLN is among the top five most popular Websites in Belgium, according to a recent study.

“We only have Google, YouTube, and Facebook ahead of us,” he said. Thanks to a strategy of delivering what readers want and need to know, Antonissen said he is convinced they can still catch up with Facebook.

INMA recently caught up with him to find out what else he is working on.

Dimitri Antonissen loves waking up to a breaking news story.
Dimitri Antonissen loves waking up to a breaking news story.

INMA: What big lesson have you learned over the past couple of years that helped shape your plans going forward?

Antonissen: It’s not difficult to catch trends. The real skill is to pinpoint those that will really become new habits with readers and offer business opportunities. Remember AR and VR journalism? We do really believe in TikTok as an important social media channel.

INMA: If you had your career to do over again, what would you want to know in the beginning?

Antonissen: Nothing. I love the surprises.

INMA: What makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning?

Antonissen: I love waking up to a big breaking news story [and] the satisfaction of having broad coverage ready and up on the app and Web site by the time most other people wake up.

INMA: What is the craziest job or project you’ve ever done in media— and what did you learn from it?

Antonissen: We launched Topics in 2016. [It was] sort of a Spotify for news, giving readers a personalised newsfeed of all Dutch content in DPG media. It used advanced personalisation, natural language learning, and had an innovative look and feel.

It also failed to really catch on. The biggest lesson: We launched the ambitious project without really determining whether there was a need for it in our audience. Turned out they were not waiting to actively personalise their newsfeed.

INMA: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career?

Antonissen: Take time to think. Just because you’re in an industry that rushes from one big story to the next doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time to take a step back and reflect.

INMA: What do you do to relax?

Antonissen: Run. I run almost every evening. It’s the perfect mind switch to go from hectic newsday to family life.

INMA: If you hadn’t gone into news media, what was your backup plan?

Antonissen: You mean there is something else besides news media?

INMA: What is your favourite thing to read?

Antonissen: I read a lot. I love magazines that take a step back from the breaking news like The Economist and The New Yorker. And novels like A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders, which is a crash course on the art of the Russian short story.

INMA: What do you find the most challenging/interesting about the news media industry right now?

Antonissen: I think audio and radio are in for a rollercoaster for the next five years. Podcasts, streaming, and radio are all converging. It will be very interesting to see who wins the battle to be the dominant platform.

About Paula Felps

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