06 October 2009

Journalists Coach Contributors at `News Cafe'

A hyperlocal news project in the Czech Republic, built around Starbucks-style "news cafes" staffed by journalists, appears to be working, Larry Kilman reports for the World Association of Newspapers' Shaping the Future of Newspapers blog.

Roman Gallo, CEO of project sponsor PPF Media, told the 2015 Newsroom Conference that 13 weeks after launch in four Czech regions, circulation of the company's paid-for weeklies is growing, as is web traffic. The cafes are quickly becoming a centre of community life, with meetings, concerts, dance lessons and other events organised for local residents.

Editorial staff sit in the middle of the cafes, without walls or doors, allowing regular interaction with local residents. Gallo said half the newspapers' new subscriptions come from people who come in for coffee and conversation.

"The readers can go there and be in contact," he said. "For the editorial team, they're much more open to talk to people, to understand the problems of the people in the region."

If the success continues, the company expects a year-long nationwide rollout of 220 weeklies, 89 news cafes and 700 websites.

About a third of the content for the newspapers is provided by local people - fishermen, firemen, mothers with young children and so on. But none of it goes into the paper or websites without input from a journalist, called a "community manager." A central editor oversees all publications.

"This is a total change for journalists," said Gallo. "We changed the job - they're trainers, coaches -- they work with the communities."

He said the key is to provide "unique content, which you can't find anywhere else, and it has to be credible content. That's the model that worked for newspapers for 100 years, and I have no doubt it will work for another 100 years."

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