Okay, we all know that the print industry is completely and totally screwed. Circulation is plummeting around the world … leaving ink jockeys little hope of keeping their jobs for the rest of their lives (which is really their only goal anyway). They may have hope, however, thanks to an unusual French bailout plan. Leave it to French job protectionism to set a model for the rest of the world. The folks at the NY Times – which rain this story – must be salivating right now.
In an effort to win the hearts and minds of the 18-to-24 year old demographic, the French government is launching a project called “My Free Newspaper.” It’s pretty simple, really. If you fall into that age group and live in France, you’ll get a free one-year subscription to the newspaper of your choice. If you can’t win with free, you can’t win: period.
So, what happens if the kids decline the offer? Well, it is France, after all, so there is direct financial support for the newspapers (in addition to this giveaway program).
The situation is pretty dire for an industry that really doesn’t deserve to exist anymore, thanks to mismanagement and the amazing discovery that you can actually produce news without all the overhead of printing and delivery and newsstands.
Newspapers are in the shitter around the world, but the situation is pretty bad in France. France sees only half as many newspapers sold as Britain and Germany (per capita), according to the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. Around 60 newspapers are participating in the French government’s plan – in an attempt to save their asses and fundamentally change public behavior – including Le Monde and Le Figaro … and the International Herald Tribune.
The new gig is expected to cost $22.5 million over three years, and 30,000 people have already signed up for it. The question remains, however, will these kids renew if they have to pay? Hell, will they even read the newspaper once the novelty’s worn off?
About five years ago, this concept would have made sense. Give the newspaper away to kids to develop the relationship, and then, when they’re older, take advantage of that to get them to pay. I’m not sure if this is part of the goal now, but I don’t know if the print folks have five years to invest.