PPF Media has been getting a lot of international attention lately for its hyperlocal news project in the Czech Republic that is built around Starbucks-style "news cafes" in local communities. CEO Roman Gallo provided an update Friday at the 2015 Newsroom Conference, and the project seems to be working.
Thirteen weeks after launch in four Czech regions, circulation of the paid-for weeklies is growing, as it web traffic. And 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. Fifty percent of new subscriptions come from people who come in for coffee and conversaton.
"The readers can go there and be in contact.," said Gallo. "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.
Bertrand Pecquerie, Director of the World Editors Forum, which organised the 2015 Newsroom Conference, said hyperlocal news was a clear trend for newspapers. "Print isn't dead, and hyperlocal news is the future of newspapers, with new players," he said.
Community newspapers have been around for decades, but there are several innovations, in addition to the news cafes, that make PPF's Nase Adresa project different:
- About a third of the content is provided by local communities - fishermen, firemen, mothers with young children etc. - but none of it goes into the paper or websites without input from a journalist, called a "community manager."
"This is a total change for journalists," said Gallo. "Our journalists are not traditional journalist who see something and tell the community about it. We changed the job - they're trainers, coaches, they work with the communities."
- The weekly papers and websites are standardized in terms of layout, graphics and features. "We call it 'Media MacDonald's', we have very strong rules, that must be fulfilled at the local level," said Gallo.
- A central editor oversees all publications, and support is also centralized through the Futuroom media training complex, which not only provides training but also infographics, data mining and other services (the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers is a partner in Futuroom).
While the news cafes and other innovations makes the project worth watching, the strategy is, in fact, based on something very traditional for newspapers.
"The advantage of the publishing company is unique content, which you can't find anywhere else, and it has to be credible content," said Gallo. "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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