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Café News

21/05/2009 - par Mark Tungate

The other day, in the middle of yet another conversation about the future of the press, it occurred to me that newspapers have not been around forever. In fact they were invented in the 17th century – I checked. A publication called Relation, published in Strasbourg in 1609, was the world's first newspaper. I told my friend that to predict the future of newspapers, maybe we should find out where everyone got the news before they existed?

To me, the answer was obvious: people went to bars. Or cafés, or pubs, or town squares – anywhere, in fact, where there were other people around to tell them what was going on. There was also the town crier, of course, who would appear from time to time shouting that a vast army was poised to invade or that everyone was about the catch the plague.

I had just decided that cafés were the future of the media when I learned of a new initiative in Czech Republic. Apparently, a company called PPF is setting up a chain of small, hyper-local newspapers that will be produced inside cafés. Only a glass screen – with an open door – will divide the café from the newsroom where the journalists will work. Customers can offer ideas for stories or just watch the journalists typing away. The news cafés will be located in four different provincial cities. It just proves that everything old is new again. And also that (now we're not allowed to smoke any more) nothing goes better with your cup of coffee than a newspaper.

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