Last year, Belgium-based public service broadcaster VRT set up an internal ‘Start-up’, a team tasked with engaging the “YouTube generation” – with a focus on roughly 16 to 24 year-olds – and experimenting with new platforms and different ways to tell stories. Many news outlets have established internal incubators or news labs to help drive innovative thinking, and the hope is that VRT’s version will help the broadcaster re-engage with this audience in particular.

“We didn’t reach young people any more with our classic radio and TV,” member of Start-up Lesley Demuynck told “In the digital world, people could go onto YouTube and Facebook and the big players in the world, and we as a regional media outlet were losing grip on that generation.”

Their work has been guided directly by the target audience via ‘Insight Sessions’ held fortnightly across the country, as well as feedback gathered via their own digital channels. The Insight Sessions, which bring together individuals from the target age-group, have served to highlight not only the prevalence of networks such as Facebook and Snapchat in that generation’s media diet, but also the specific ways in which they are being used.

Three key projects have been pursued by the team in beta following its launch, two of which are editorially-focused, and driven by social media: a mobile video project called Ninjanieuws, which exists on Instagram and Snapchat, and a Facebook-supported news platform called Sambal. The third project, called OpenVRT, is a collaboration project to bring together young people with key digital skills such as in blogging, video and photography, with VRT.


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