Newsstands get a new lease of life

by Steve Watson in November 2023
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Architecture Outdoors

Bubbling over with energy and enthusiasm for good coffee and great magazines, Gautier Robial is the man behind News & Coffee, the chain of news kiosks that is leading a revival of the Spanish neighbourhood newsstand. With two locations now also open in London, I caught up with him to hear the ideas behind a concept that aims to turn the clock back to a slower, more print-based era.

In 2019 he was living in Barcelona, working on a restaurant project when he met Pablo Pardo and Davide Datti, and the three became friends. Pablo and Davide had also been working to launch a news kiosk in Paseig de Sant Joan, their local neighbourhood, and the first time he dropped in he was blown away by what they had created.

“I was in awe of the level of execution, and the power this street access was giving to the concept,” he says. “It looked effortlessly cool, and although in a very early version of what it would eventually become, you couldn’t resist its magnetism. They had truly created something unique.”

The kiosk had been closed for three years before it reopened in its current guise, and he was immediately inspired by the transformation of this previously overlooked and unloved piece of city furniture. He joined his friends to help with establishing the business strategy, and when his partner Yaël Hupert also joined in to help with curating the selection of magazines on offer, “We all felt it was natural to take the leap”.

Almost straight away, they started to receive messages from people wanting to do something similar with a kiosk in their part of the city, and while they weren’t initially comfortable with the idea of franchising what they had made, (“That idea felt SO evil to us at first…”) they gradually began starting conversations and investigating the possibility of expanding to new sites. The pandemic played its part as more of public life moved outdoors, and after opening three more sites in Barcelona, the concept expanded to Valencia and Madrid, until there were eight kiosks across Spain.

Then earlier this year News & Coffee made the leap to London in partnership with magazine distributors Ra & Olly, with one kiosk opening outside Holborn station and another just around the corner from The Roundhouse in Chalk Farm. London’s weather means there might not be quite so much leisurely loitering around these latest outlets, particularly through the winter months, but Gautier says both sites are off to a good start, proving popular with Londoners for both coffee and print.

I love the energy and enthusiasm they’re bringing to the revitalised kiosks, and the belief that by putting independent magazines front and centre they will be able to introduce people to ideas they wouldn’t otherwise have come across. Received wisdom says that people today want less friction in their lives, particularly when doing something transactional like ordering a coffee, but News & Coffee flips that on its head and deliberately provides a space where people might slow down a bit and read something new.

But what are people actually reading with their coffees? And can you learn about an area from its reading habits? We asked Gautier to dig into the sales figures and tell us which magazines are the best sellers at each of their locations, and whether he thinks the choice of magazines reflects on a neighbourhood’s local character.

Barcelona – Paseig de Sant Joan
Apartamento. Kind of funny as we’re both from Barcelona and live literally 100m away (we can see their office from our window). It’s been a staple since day one and has stayed steady since then in this neighbourhood-anchored stand.

Barcelona – Diagonal
This is up-town, the white-collar part of the city with lawyers’ offices and home to the wealthier families. Openhouse is a hit there, from Barcelona but adding the interior design touch that this audience loves.

Barcelona – Gracia
The forever village in the middle of Barcelona. A lovely mix of ex-pats and Catalans, fiercely proud of the local culture. Backstage Talks is a great seller and represents that crowd well.

Barcelona – Paralelo
An up and coming part of town, now ruled by Candela, who knows by heart how everyone likes their coffee. Apartamento is a hit there too, the perfect intro to indie mags for these newcomers to the lovely world we defend.

Shocker. The stand is run by the very same creatives behind Solo Magazine, and they’ve managed to make Solo Magazine the best-seller. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

Madrid – La Latina
The bohemian part of town, home to artists and ‘pincho – caña’ crawl aficionados. Slanted rules on these lands, also because that’s the favourite of most guys working the stand.

Barcelona – Universitat
Students, co-workers and one of the classic sk8 stops in town. That’ll be enough for Thrasher to prevail.

Madrid – Malasaña
Small kiosk, big mag lovers. Purple is a not-so-surprising number one at Plaza 2 de mayo.

London – Holborn
The commuters. The busy busy execs. We expected big coffee drinkers, we got big mag lovers. We expected current affairs titles to rule this part of our world, and we got… Rave Flyers. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.

London – Chalk Farm Road
Around the corner from the Roundhouse. So, Record was a bookie favourite, and is so far indeed stealing the (music) show.

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