Guess what is the most widely read daily newspaper in France? Le Monde? Le Figaro? Libération?
A recent survey proved that it is actually 20Minutes, a free daily paper that gets the Gold medal, with 2.4 million readers each day. L’Equipe, a daily sports paper, with 2.3 million readers, gets the Silver medal, while the Bronze medal goes to Métro, another free daily paper.
Are the French just becoming stingy or is this a phenomenon happening in all countries? Why is it that two free dailies have claimed places on our winners’ podium?
Maybe it’s because you just can’t get away from them. The free press is invading our streets, metros and shops. You can’t even pretend not to see them as they are usually hawked by distributors in the morning and evening at most stations. Recently, Matin Plus even won the right to be distributed inside the metro as well as in the supermarket Monoprix in the Paris region.
I must say that I really dislike some of these free press titles even if I don’t have to pay to read them (the content tends to be more gossip than news). But on the other hand, some titles are really well done, and offer interesting articles (for example: Sport, A Nous Paris, and Economie Matin).
I remember when the first free daily showed up in the editorial market, some people said that it would help boost the sales of traditional titles, with the argument that readers would pay to get more substantial information on subjects they were interested in. However, for the most part this has proved to be nonsense, though special events such as the recent Presidential Election have been beneficial for the hard news magazines (a circulation increase of 11.2%).
On saying that, a similar argument is currently being made for the continuing relevance of traditional TV news ie. what’s its place in a world where people increasingly get their news online (or so it’s alleged)? The response is that broadcast news still sets the headline agenda because of its ubiquity, and that the internet is used for more in-depth research into stories of interest – which kind of parallels the argument above.
So, maybe the free press is to the newspaper world what TV news is to the internet, and that perhaps old and new media have more in common with each other than was previously suspected? Or maybe the ease of access to the medium is becoming more important than the medium itself?