France: Bailout for newspapers? Sarkozy gives free youth subscriptions.

In France, the Sarkozy government is giving free youth newspaper subscriptions as part of a $905 million aid package to the French press.

Only 10 percent of French youths read a newspaper daily.

A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

This may be the era of Twitter and blogs, but the French government won’t give up on the printed press. In fact, it is stepping in to bail out the print-news industry in an unusual way.

In an attempt to get young people to read the printed stuff again, the Sarkozy government this fall started giving every 18-to-24-year-old a one-year subscription to a paper of their choice – free of charge.

“If I have the newspaper in my hand, I’m going to read it,” says Leone Salle, a high school senior in Paris, one of many young people who gets his news from the radio and Internet videos.

The French press is among the least profitable in Europe. In 1997, 70 percent of France’s young people read a newspaper and 20 percent said they read a paper daily. Nine years later, 10 percent say they read a newspaper daily.

“Mon Journal Offer” is an attempt to reverse things. It’s open to the first 200,000 young people who sign up and choose one of 60 participating newspapers. The measure is part of a €600 million aid package ($905 million) for the French press.

“Is it a good idea? Yes, as long as we ... succeed in interesting them in the news, with relevant content and approaches, by investing in other platforms, and by strengthening links with them,” says Jeanne-Emmanuelle Hutin of the newspaper Ouest France, speaking at the World Young Reader Conference in Prague, Czech Republic.

Since Ouest France started giving out free newspapers to young people four years ago, the number of regular readers among 18-to-24-year-olds has increased by 22,000, says Ms. Hutin. Almost 12 percent resubscribed after their free subscription ended. And 65 percent of the young subscribers continued to read Ouest France after their subscription ended.

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