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Boosting newspaper reading among youth
The publishers provide the newspapers for free and the French Government
pays for distribution
Presently across the world and India as well, every newspaper publisher is facing a challenge to keep ‘youth’ in touch with newspapers. To examine initiatives for encouraging and increasing young readership, the eighth World Young Reader Conference, recently organised by WAN-IFRA in Prague, brought publishers, marketing executives, education and young reader experts together.

Here’s brief of the case study from France.

Having the highest printing costs in Europe, the French newspaper publishing industry is among the least profitable in the continent, constrained by a distribution monopoly, lack of sales points and strong unions.


here has been a lot of debate about the French government’s decision to give free, one-day-a-week newspaper subscriptions to every 18 to 24 years old in the country as a way to encourage newspaper reading and civic participation. But those who have dismissed the idea ought to consider that 41 French regional newspapers have been experimenting with the concept since 2006, and the publishers say it works, though the free giveaway is not the only factor.

“Is it a good idea? Yes, as long as we don’t disappoint the young and succeed in interesting them in the news, with relevant content and approaches, by investing in other platforms and by strengthening links with them,” said Jeanne-Emmanuelle Hutin, a member of the directors committee at Ouest France and co-chair of the French Presidential Youth-Press Commission. “It’s a fantastic opportunity, but a huge challenge.” Speaking at the World Young Reader Conference in Prague, Czech Republic, Hutin said Ouest France, the nation’s largest general interest newspaper, increased the number of regular readers among 18 to 24 years old by 22,000 in three years, with twelve percent re-subscribing after their free subscriptions ended. And 65 percent of the young subscribers continue to read Ouest France at least once a week after their free subscriptions end.

But it did work, says Hutin, and more needs to be done. The newspapers had to devise special content for young people for the day it distributed the free subscriptions - in the case of Ouest France, it was a ‘Special Future’ recruitment section. A marketing campaign using new media has to be created - traditional marketing didn’t really work. And a strategy to move the free subscribers to paid subscriptions had to be planned.

In Ouest France’s case, a two-day-a-week paid subscription was offered after the one-day-a-week free subscription expired. “Free subscriptions are not the only remedy, especially if there is nothing of interest to young readers in the newspaper. But it is the backbone of several initiatives to meet the needs of the youth,” said Hutin.

“What do the publishers want? They want to thwart the large-scale flight of young readers,” she said. “The situation in France is alarming: from one generation to the next, young people are less likely to read newspapers. It is vital to reverse this trend.”

The free nationwide subscriptions are part of new government subsidies to the French press totalling 600 million Euros over three years. The publishers provide the newspapers for free and the government pays for distribution. The subsidies are part of a package of measures recommended after a three-month government study of the French press last year. Other measures include: tax breaks to investors in online journalism; doubling of government advertising in print and online news media; an increase in the number of distribution points; and government support in negotiations with printing unions.


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