Want to really get close to your readers? Want to talk to them face to face? How about having breakfast with them? Or a coffee and a chat in the afternoon? Why not invite them over to meet a local politician or celebrity?

This is exactly what the journalists at the Winnipeg Free Press do every day. The newspaper launched the News Café last April in order to become a community hub. Today journalism is about being a part of the community, not just about news gathering for the community.

NADbank research demonstrates that the most read content in the newspaper is the news, and local news is the most important topic in every market across Canada. What better way to become entrenched in the news than to be right in the middle of it?

The News Café is just that, a café. The café serves a full menu and journalists from the newspaper use the café as a second office to write their stories and to chat about the news with anyone who comes through the door. They run their social media out of the café and schedule events on newsworthy topics to engage the citizens, and sponsor entertainment events as well.

The cafe is located in the heart of the “historical” part of the city, close to where the newspaper started its life and lived before they had to move out, along with their presses, to larger digs in the suburbs. The cafe attracts readers and non-readers and most importantly is a hit with the young set in the city.

A newspaper means more to readers than just the news. Research around the world has shown that people read the newspaper, primarily for the news, but as much for the other content and the ads. A newspaper is a brand with loyal readers who share a window on the news and their community.

Winnipeggers love their newspapers: 83% of adults read a newspaper every week either a printed edition or at the Web site. The free daily Metro has just launched a Winnipeg edition which means there are four printed newspapers to choose from and five newspaper Web sites. Most newspapers have expanded their online offerings with specialty Web sites or verticals such as entertainment, classifieds, jobs, business etc. All these sites are a part of the newspaper’s brand.

In Winnipeg, of those who read a newspaper each week:

  • 78% usually read the local news.
  • 61% usually read the national news.
  • 60% usually read the world news.

Many newspapers continue to provide news and information on a variety of topics, some papers are more targeted. But once the news is read the type of content read varies a great deal by reader and market.

In Winnipeg after the news content the “usually read” varies:

Men 18+ Women 18+ 18-49 50+
56% read the Sports Arts/Entertainment: 40% Arts/Entertainment: 48% Arts/Entertainment: 54%
Arts/Entertainment: 40% Food: 46% Sports: 39% Editorial: 53%
Business/Finance: 35% Health: 43% Comics: 31% Health: 43%
Editorial: 34% Fashion/Lifestyle: 41% Real Estate: 29% Food: 41%
Auto: 33% Editorial: 34% Health: 26% Travel: 39%

There are lots of ways newspapers can connect with their readers and their community and this is one that is working for the Free Press. Content has to be relevant and engaging, no matter how it is presented or delivered. By being easily accessible, feedback is instant and a dialogue is easy. Being a newspaper can mean so much more today than it did 10 years ago. Reaching out to readers and establishing a dialogue is part of the way newspapers build credibility and loyalty among readers and within their community.

Once a newspaper knows who their audience is, they can become involved in and cover the issues that are meaningful to those readers. Meeting them for a coffee or lunch seems to be a really good way to get to know them — and to meet and make new ones!