This week, Kafkadesk spoke with Chris Oldroyd, founder and publisher of Prague Visitor and Prague Resident magazines, two of the most popular English-language print magazines catering to tourists, expats and locals alike.
Hi Chris! Let’s start with the basics: How did Prague Resident Magazine come to be?
In late 2015, we launched The Prague Visitor – which is aimed at tourists. With it, we wanted to create a publication that gave visitors to Prague an idea of where to go for entertainment other than just the tourist-focused kind. We wanted to carefully select everything, including the advertisers, so that it reflected Prague better than a lot of previous tourist magazines had been doing until now (believe it or not, we actually turned away advertisers occasionally in both magazines).
Within a few months, we had a few calls from larger expat employers in Prague asking for us to deliver The Visitor, which seemed crazy to me since our content was tourist-focused, but they seemed to like the magazine. We did some focus groups, rolled out a plan for Prague Resident and, in January 2019, released the first issue. It’s been evolving since.
What’s your relation to Prague?
I’m American. In 2002, I left a corporate job working in radio to work for a group of stations in the Caribbean and I just sort of kept going, working on projects in the U.K., Spain, Mexico, Ireland and a few other places before returning to the U.S. in 2008 when the economy had a downturn. Once back in the U.S., I became a managing director for a group of radio stations and started a city magazine. I sold everything in 2014 and went back to the Caribbean to chill for a bit and, in 2015, came to Prague.
My background is really entirely in media and advertising. I started my career at a daily newspaper in a ski resort community in Colorado, then on to outdoor media and eventually radio in Dallas, Texas, where I worked in branding, design and marketing. Early on I became fascinated in how to make client’s advertising work in each area of media – which is something I’m still really passionate about. Human behavior when it comes to advertising is a really interesting thing.
I’m a certified media generalist, which means I’m a certified media planner for outdoor, radio, internet, and print.
Who are the other people behind your magazine?
I have a Czech business partner, Eva Mišková, a friend who was never in publishing – in fact, she’s a professional flutist and music teacher! We met while I was living in the Cayman Islands where she was teaching. I had sold my company in the States and was thinking of where to go next. A number of people – including her – had told me Prague was amazing. So, when I came here I dragged her with me – and for the first three years, she was doing all of the sales. She’s really great at it, because she’s no pressure, not pushy and people really like her. She’s been on maternity leave since last year, but she’s still working from home. Then, early in 2019, my fiancé Cate joined us to help out in sales, although she’ll go on maternity leave soon as well.
Our editor is a girl called Nicole Ely, who is tremendously talented and comes from city magazines in both Las Vegas and San Francisco. Then we have a team of freelance writers and photographers who help us as well each month.
Can you tell us a bit about your coverage and audience?
With the Prague Visitor, we print around 20,000 issues – and deliver large packs of 50-100 magazines to around 300 hotels each month, plus touristic locations and to Student Agency. It’s really focused on the center of Prague. It takes the four of us two or three days to get them all out.
When we started Prague Resident, we quickly realized the distribution plan was going to be completely different. It’s in packs of 25 or less and focused on offices and expat lifestyle destinations. Many are in suburban areas like Chodov or Holesovice. For Prague Resident – which has a print run of 14,000 issues – we realized right away for us to deliver them ourselves was way too cumbersome. We turned to Czech Post, who packages the magazines and gets them out to around 1,200 locations each month.
Our audience is primarily expat focused for Prague Resident – but we know a lot of Czechs do read it which was an interesting revelation. And while we do deliver to universities and a lot of temporary resident locations, we focus the magazine on long-stay expats. Many who are here and have Czech partners, or who have an interest in being in Prague for a while and building a life.
Is print media really dead, as so many people would have it? Launching a print magazine seems like a bold move in the age we live in (even more so in a language other than the country’s native language). What’s your take on the issue?
I think print as a media for the masses is absolutely dead, like broadly distributed news focused publications. As a publisher, it’s just not financially viable if your content is widely disseminated. The costs for printing, your staff, and the costs associated with large scale wide distribution – it’s a really difficult model.
In order for publications to exist today, I think there are three crucial things you need to have. The first is a niche – talking to a specific audience about a specific topic. The second is confining distribution to a confined geographical area, and to a very targeted reader location (like a hotel room, or an office). Last, the publication has to be free but still have a high value to the reader.
All three of these things go against conventional publishing wisdom of 30 years ago. But, back then, publishers were fighting against broadcast media and outdoor, and not the internet. So, the media has really had to adapt, and I think the space it’s in now is sustainable.
With the language, Czech Republic is a very interesting place because the country as well as the language landscape have changed so quickly. A lawyer friend was telling me that even 20 years ago, most firms had a German desk and possibly a Russian desk. Now, all of that correspondence has been replaced with English. It seems to be definitely the language of international commerce, and it’s definitely the language of tourism.
I think I first stumbled on a copy of Prague Resident Magazine in a small Prague 6 café. Where can people find their copies? Are they only in Prague, or do you also try to reach an audience outside of the Czech capital?
Just in the Prague metropolitan area really. To have value for our advertisers, our print magazine needs to focus on a footprint that’s just Prague and its suburban areas.
We do have a Daytripper section that we’ll start running soon that are focused on day trips outside of Prague, and we will be expanding Prague Visitor into Karlovy Vary and Cesky Krumlov into the new year. But, other than that – we’re purely Prague.
A map of locations is on our website, but you can find Prague Resident in the break-rooms and offices of most of the big expat employers in Prague. We focus on expat lifestyle locations like cafés, restaurants, gyms, doctors’ offices, international schools, etc. If people have ten or more expats in their office, they can add it for free to our distribution list just by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a pack of magazines each month.
How’s the magazine-running business in Prague? Any notable upsides and/or downsides to it?
Not really anything monumental. I think like any business here, we all have the same obstacles and frustrations. I think the Czech Republic is a great place to run a magazine and do business overall. There’s a few little things here and there I usually attribute to bureaucracy, or as things associated with a communist hangover, but for the most part, it’s great.
What do you think of the foreign coverage of Prague and the Czech Republic?
From a business perspective, I think the Czech Republic is starting to be seen as a formidable tech center within international media, which is great. Politically, I can’t say much about the media portrayal of the president because I’m American, so…
But from the tourism perspective, I think this is ever-changing – I truly hope that Prague’s reputation as an alcohol-tourism hotspot will fade away and that it will actually be celebrated for its cultural assets and beauty.
What are your plans for the future? Any exciting new developments we can expect?
Our focus next year will be on our digital properties. We’ll be focusing on building followers on our social media platforms and building our website traffic, which is something until now has been on the back burner. We worked with a great team from the Czech Technical University (CVUT) to develop a chatbot for our Facebook pages that is absolutely incredible. It can suggest where to grab dinner or tell you what’s on – it’s really amazing. I don’t want to give too much away, but we’ll be pushing that same level of technology onto our websites and we believe our advertisers and readers will love the results.
On a more personal note, what do you like the most about living in Prague?
I like the culture. I like the people and the history. I also like that I have friends from all over the world here. Prague truly is a multi-national and cosmopolitan city. I like that it’s a small community- that it’s easier to take public transport or walk than it is to hop in the car, and that it’s a coffee shop culture.
We live in Mala Strana, and while there’s so many things to love about life here – I think perhaps my favorite things to do is just taking a walk around the neighborhood and getting lost in the quiet winding streets in Novy Svet.