From the Weeklies

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Has Vaclav Klaus paid too high a price for his Internet address? A serious Sunday paper grinds to a halt as the nation feeds on tabloid stories. Do you need a pick-me-up? Help yourself to a can of Semtex.


Vaclav Klaus certainly knows how to get publicity, says Reflex magazine. After bashing the Internet for years, the Civic Democratic Party leader has opened his own website, and it was as if the earth moved, meteorites flew overhead or the government decided to abolish income tax. The media world talked of little else for a week. Vladimir Mlynar, Stanislav Gross and Ivan Langer, all young politicians who have used the Internet as a matter of fact, could only watch with envy as Vaclav Klaus was invited to officially open the Invex Information Technology Fair. The implication was obvious: if one can convince Vaclav Klaus of the importance of information technology, convincing the rest of the world is child's play.

Czech politicians caught on to advantage of having a website and E-mail address rather late in the day, and as a result the obvious addresses they would have used had already been taken. For instance the address www.havel.cz might leave you under the impression that the Czech president is selling off-road vehicles . Similarly www. zeman.cz will show you a nice selection of military footwear rather than the Czech prime minister's latest activities. Many Czech VIPs have had their addresses bought up way before they thought of using them by enterprising individuals after a quick profit from re-selling them at a much higher cost. The fact that Vaclav Klaus' recently set up website is to be found under www.klaus.cz is something of a mystery. Either Mr. Klaus paid good money for his address or nobody thought it worth buying because the chances of Vaclav Klaus ever setting up a website of his own seemed pretty remote.


Last weekend was the last time Czechs could nip out for a copy of Nedelni Noviny, the "serious" Sunday paper which had been on the market for just twelve months. "It simply failed to catch on," its owner Ringier said in explanation. However, Ringier's other baby, the tabloid Sunday paper Blesk, is selling like hot cakes. So what exactly is behind the paper's demise? Is it really possible that there aren't enough serious-minded people in a country of 12 million who would prefer reading a serious Sunday paper to the paparazzi stories that Blesk serves up with their morning rolls and coffee? Tyden magazine has attempted to uncover the reasons behind the papers' failure.

By the time Nedelni Noviny came on the market, Blesk already had its faithful readers, selling an average of 240 thousand copies every weekend. Ringier expected Nedelni Noviny to sell at least 50 thousand copies in its first year. It barely reached the 30 thousand mark.

According to some of the paper's former editors, Nedelni Noviny never got a fair chance. Ringier failed to give it a proper launch, or proper publicity and money for employees' wages was also tight. The fact that the Czech Postal Service does not deliver papers on Sunday was also a disadvantage, but most of all it was Ringier's unwillingness to wait for the paper to find its readers.

When sales failed to rise in the first few months there was allegedly much controversy over editorial policy. Then editor-in-chief Jan Smid insisted on selling a serious paper, but Ringier panicked and tried to turn Nedelni Noviny into what former editors jokingly call 'serious tabloid', pushing increasingly cheap stories. Eventually Smid was dismissed and the new editor-in-chief was loyal to Ringier. Nedelni Noviny, however, continued in its decline. There was already one Sunday tabloid on the market; not only was there not room for another, but a 'serious tabloid' was neither fish nor fowl.

Some media experts say Nedelni Noviny could have stood a chance if they'd had a different owner, but Ringier never considered selling the paper. Jan Susta, head of the Publisher's Union, points out that the launch of a serious paper would require a lot of money and patience. "A serious weekend paper has no tradition in this country, and that's not something you can change overnight," he told Tyden. At present there is no sign of anyone wanting to try. Readers who are not interested in the intimate details of singers' and actors' lives will just have to wait until Monday. But to some extent, they have only themselves to blame.


A tiny cartoon figure drags itself painfully across the TV screen. Halfway across it collapses in a dejected heap. "Dead tired?" inquires a concerned voice. "What you need is Red Bull! Red Bull will give you wings!"

Energy drinks have become a hit with the young. Cans of Semtex or Red Bull look cool on the dance floor and teenagers swear they keep one going for hours. Although most cans carry a warning about not mixing them with alcohol, every youngster knows that spiked energy drinks have a much stronger effect. Some producers have decided to save them the trouble, adding tequila to the original product. "Its better that WE spice up the drink than to have energy drinks spiked at the bar. They end up containing much more alcohol," they say in their own defense.

Vera Krutska, who works for a company marketing these drinks, says no money is spared on promotion. We support various marathon dance parties, techno parties and sports events--automobile racing, snowboard competitions--and events such as the Berlin Love Parade . Linking our drinks to this lifestyle is what sells them, even at around 30 crowns a can, she says.

Apart from the minerals, vitamins and high sugar content, most of these drinks contain 300 milligrams of caffeine per liter, which, according to Doctor Bedrich Nejedly, is about the same effect you'd get from a cup of strong coffee, some brands of tea or a bar of chocolate. What coffee will not give you are the small extracts from the guarana, mathe or schizandra plants used by American Indians.

So are these drinks worth investing in if you are just plain tired and feeling down as a result of too much work and lousy weather? Doctors are generally of the opinion that the drinks can be useful if you need a pick-me-up on a long drive, especially at night, or you need to stay focussed on work for another hour or two. But they say don't expect miracles, certainly not for long.

Tyden magazine agrees, noting that the energy drinks which DO contain the potent guarana prized by American Indians contain so little of the substance that, to quote the weekly, "an Indian could down several cans and sleep for a week." Well, if you haven't yet tasted them give one a try. Who knows, Semtex might give you are real blast. If not, at least you'll look 'real cool'.