Read all about it! - The Prague free-newspaper boom


When I last lived in Prague a couple of years ago, it was common to find, in the corner of each and every metro station, a stand for the free newspaper Metro. This stand would almost always be apologetically tucked away somewhere, and more often than not, quite empty of newspapers. But in my absence, it seems that free newspapers have launched a major offensive on this city.

Metro has gone from being a mirage of a paper to a publication found throughout all of the city's trains, buses, cafes and bins. Competitors such as Expres and 24 Hodin have come onto the market to challenge its supremacy. People are employed now to hand out each of these papers, leaving those poor old stands to rust further.

From previous trips to London, I am used to such free newspapers being hawked. The normal tactic there seems to be to block off entirely what is already a narrow exit to a busy underground station, and to only let people pass once they give in and take a copy of some newspaper or another, which they no longer need, having finished their commute.

Here, quite a different strategy is employed. At my metro station there are representatives of two warring newspapers, both sweet old ladies who play the doe-eyed card to get one's attention. I don't just push past them as I do their counterparts London because I'm afraid they might break a bone. Sometimes I feel so bad about taking the paper from only one of them that I end up taking two when I don't want any.

These free papers, at least here in the Czech Republic, seem to have the mantra that if you write something in magenta ink then it will become more interesting. They do inexplicably catch my eye, but only hold it for a couple of seconds. At the end of reading one of these papers from cover to cover, I feel like I know no more than I did when I began.

But then, that is because, in Metro's eyes, I am one of their 'young, cash-rich but time-poor' readership. It tickled me to read on their website that I am also considered 'well-networked' and a 'trend-setter'.

These free newspapers are a good quick source of information, but I must admit that when I am feeling as 'cash-rich' as they have me down as being, I prefer to buy a good old Lidove Noviny or Mlada Fronta and pour over it at my own pace.