Le Cool, a Weird and Wonderful Guide
We have been subscribed to Le Cool’s newsletter for a long time. Every Thursday we have been waiting for their e-mail to discover activities and places of Barcelona, as well as to see its nice covers. Their selection is really worthwhile full of things that you should not miss. On December they were celebrating their 400 issues holding an exhibition of their covers. So this Christmas, while we were spending our holidays there, we thought that it was the right moment to ask them for an interview. We didn’t hesitate to contact them and they replied us very quickly. We were so glad that after all these years receiving their e-mails we could finally meet them in person. They are very popular in the city -they have got more of 85.000 readers- and there isn’t any other magazine like that there, their project is unique. So we were so excited!
Finally the day of the interview came, we were meeting with María, who runs the Editorial part of the newsletter. We picked her up in their office located in “El Born” and we went to a cosy cafe, where we spent a lovely afternoon getting to know more about this project.
First of all, what is Le Cool?
Le Cool is a weekly agenda about events and other things that happen in Barcelona and places that are worth visiting. All the things that we recommend are usually a bit unusual. We don’t do it for money, they are just things that we really find interesting and that we want people to know.
When was it born?
The first Le Cool was born in Barcelona. It appeared in 2003, so it’s the oldest one. Since then other cities have emerged over the years. The last one was Wien, last year.
Who is in Le Cool Barcelona?
There are eight of us in the Barcelona office. Le Cool has two sections. The first one is the Newsletter. There’s me, the guy that works for the website and all the contributors, who write from home. Then there’s the part of Le Cool as an agency. They make content for other brands, like advertising projects.
400 issues are a lot, we are talking about 8 years… how have things changed so far?
I don’t know exactly because I haven’t been here from the very beginning, but I can tell you more or less the story. Le Cool has grown and got wider, now it has more sections and categories of events. Before it was just a selection of things and now there’s content about music, books, workshops, etc. The number of people that works for Le Cool is bigger too. What else has changed? The design, the website,… I guess some things have changed, but in essence a lot of them are the same. I think that’s good for Le Cool, because it is for this reason that it works as a reference to a lot of people. From the very beginning we’ve recommended things that are not so common and we haven’t sold the content. We keep the original idea.
Which are the most significant events or highlights of these 8 years?
The web 2.0 was a big change for Le Cool. Even though we did it quite late, it was really important. It changed the technical part of the website and how we communicate to people too. The social media has changed every company, but it fitted us perfectly: it’s a way to be closer to our readers, to interact with them, to allow them to tell us things. All of this is very important and it may have been the most important change in the past years.
How do people get to know you?
Before the word-of-mouth worked very well: a friend recommended something to you, or you had a friend visiting and you recommended something to him… Well, I keep doing that, and people I know too. They say “What can I do this weekend?”, and you tell them “Check out Le Cool!”. This still works pretty well, people keeps sharing the website. It’s true that Facebook and Twitter have made a big difference and they play a very important role. You create an event on Facebook and people can easily share it. It’s a very viral way to communicate things and it works. But the old school keeps working. We also do events and parties quite often, this way not everything is on-line. For me, it’s actually great to get to know people and talk to them. We did the presentation of the first anniversary of our new guide last month, now we’ve done an exhibition of our covers, and before the summer we did a party in a mattress factory.
Do you think that there is another guide or website like yours?
Not exactly the same, but, you can find some of them. There are also plenty of blogs, they are smaller and focused on art, music,…
The first city was Barcelona, right? Which cities followed?
Yes, that’s right, the first one was Barcelona. Then Madrid, Lisboa, İstanbul, London, Budapest, Dublin, Paris, and Wien came out.
Are there many differences between cities?
It depends on the city, the cultural life it has, how Le Cool fits in it, and the team that’s running it there. Dublin works really well and Lisbon does too, because the people who work there put a lot of effort into it. They make up really cool things every other minute. London is much bigger than Barcelona, it has a wider offer, and there are probably many other magazines and guides. So it’s difficult for them to differentiate themselves and to make a difference.
How do you get to know so many alternative events?
There are many different sources, from e-mails that we receive, which can be press releases from a place; to things that you have seen announced on the street or that you have received in your own mail; read in your Facebook or Twitter; a flyer that you have found in a bar; a card that someone has given to you; something that a friend of a friend is doing… These things don’t make it to the mass media, they only send it to us. Our contributors are very important too. Each of them writes on a topic in which they are interested, so they really know what they are talking about when they recommend you things. People who works for Le Cool, always keep their eyes wide open.
When did you consider printing out your guide?
I think the first one is from 2005 – 2006. The Barcelona one has already three editions; it was a logical step. Le Cool is a weekly agenda, so there’s comes a time when you want to write down certain things of the city. Since it’s not the typical agenda, it isn’t neither the typical guide. I mean, you won’t find a visit to the Sagrada Familia in Le Cool, but you’ll find the bar with the best vermouth or with a waiter with an amazing story to share. Their design is also different, the last one, for instance, is structured according to the hours of the day: it starts at dawn and it finishes at dusk. That’s another way to see the city.
How do you contact the artists that design your covers?
It depends. Sometimes there’s an artist that we really like and that we would like him to make a cover for us, so we contact him. Other times, people write us showing their blog or website. Last year, for example, we did a collaboration with illustration schools. We went to their Illustration class and we started a contest between the students. Finally, we chose some covers and then we published them.
How was the exhibition in “Otras Cosas de Villarosàs”?
Really good, it was really cool! A lot of people showed up, a lot of artists came and we were very excited about that. It was nice because there was a mix of artists, from the ones that are already well-known to others that are young and have just started. People really enjoyed it! The place where we hosted the event, “Otras Cosas”, is very popular.
What is the future of Le Cool?
Well, right now there are some new cities, but I don’t know which one will finally come out, there’s nothing sure. Regarding Le Cool Barcelona, we would like to have more feedback of our readers and somehow make it more participative. We would like to have an easier and more intuitive website and to keep innovating with things, such as new sections or contents. I particularly like leaving the on-line world and doing more things in the real world.
In ten years, will we find Le Cool guides in every European city?
I hope so! We would be very excited to go beyond Europe. All the cities that we have are European. It would be great to have something at the other side of the Atlantic, such as Mejico DF, São Paulo, or even in from China. That would be very cool! But I don’t know if it would be in 10 years time, I don’t even know what would happen with Le Cool Barcelona. I hope it’ll continue, but we’ll see. Today things change so fast. I’m very curious about it!
Which is the secret of your success?
Like I said at the beginning, we offer something different from the others, recommendations that you won’t find elsewhere, not for exclusivity reasons. We’ve reached a certain familiarity that we receive events that don’t arrive to other places, or that we discover ourselves. All of this makes you have a special view of Barcelona and a different experience of the city. We don’t sell what we are talking about, our way of writing and our style is very personal. I think this is why people feel so attracted to our project.
Text by Sílvia Cabra and pictures by Silvia Conde.