New Sunday newspaper hopes to change Czech reading habits

07-05-2004

In places like Britain and America, Sunday broadsheet newspapers are something of an institution. They usually come packed full of extra supplements, which keep whole families occupied as they while away the lazy hours of this traditional day of rest. Now the Czech Republic has seen a similar Sunday publication hit the shelves of newsagents around the country.

Nedelni Svet or "The Sunday World" newspaper is a western-style Sunday broadsheet, which has been launched by the popular weekly Tyden. Editor-in-Chief Ondrej Neumann thinks that there is plenty of scope for a Sunday publication of this kind:

"Sunday is a special day in that people don't go to work and have more time to read. Firstly, this paper provides information on what happened on Saturday as well as lots of sports news, which people have much more time to follow at the weekend. The second part is about entertainment and family reading - you know articles about living, travelling, some games, holiday tips, interviews, and cultural articles. It basically provides information and entertainment on a Sunday."

The one previous attempt at a serious Sunday broadsheet since 1989 failed in its effort to convince Czechs of the merits of a "western-style" Sunday newspaper. Despite this, Neumann maintains that his publication can be a success. He claims that Nedelni Svet is simply reviving a tradition that existed here during the First Republic in the 1930s. This is a notion that is rejected by journalist and media commentator Jan Urban:

"There is no tradition at all. This function has been fulfilled by weeklies here since the nineteenth century. Our weeklies try to fulfil exactly the same function on better paper with colour photographs in a more concise fashion and manner - even physically. So this big tradition of newspapers with a number of supplements is not going to take off here. I think it's a futile attempt from the outset - it's a stillborn child."

Although a Sunday version of the tabloid Blesk has been around for years and it enjoys a healthy circulation, Mr Urban does not think this reflects any desire on the part of Czechs for a "proper" Sunday newspaper:

"Look at it more closely. It's because Blesk is a tabloid with all the sales tricks that tabloids have. For instance, this means that if you are taking part in readers' competitions, you have to buy the Sunday edition as well. Otherwise, you might miss a stage of some contest."

According to Mr Neumann, sales of Nedelni Svet have been quite good in its first few weeks of publication. Mr Urban, however, thinks that interest in the paper will peter out. He claims that the way Czechs spend their weekends means that they could not be bothered with a bulky Sunday broadsheet:

"There is another reason why a serious Sunday newspaper has no chance here. In the Czech lands, the more educated, wealthier readers - your typical middle-class readers - traditionally go down the country at the weekend. There is no way you can push this sort of person to cycle or drive to the village or the nearest town to buy this sort of newspaper"

07-05-2004