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An MP in Scotland is plotting to offer a free one-year newspaper subscription to all young people in an effort to foster long-term readerships.

In a column for The Scotsman, Pauline McNeill, Scottish Labour’s culture spokesperson, suggests that a free newspaper scheme would help protect quality journalism, and writes that the country needs to act because “the newspaper industry is facing the biggest crisis in its history.”

She cites a similar program in France that gives youths aged 18 – 24 a free yearly subscription to their chosen newspapers.

But can hundreds of thousands of free newspapers really aid the ailing newspaper industry? Do the youth of today even read print newspapers anymore? I’m a news junkie, and I am provided with free newspapers at my school (currently the Toronto Star, though years ago Ryerson students also got the National Post), but I’ll admit that I never read it, and I recently cancelled my Star subscription. I just didn’t read it. I get 100 percent of my daily news online (and sometimes on the evening news), and though I felt bad about cancelling, I couldn’t justify the wasted paper that just ended up my recycling bin, unread, at the end of every day.

I can’t help but feel like the newspaper industry’s resources could be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps the solution would be to provide free online access to newspapers’ archives? Or to offer a free subscription that could be accessed on a smartphone. I do believe that young people could be better engaged, but I think there’s got to be a better way to do it.

What do you think the solution is?

(Tip via Editors Weblog)