Free papers for 18-year-olds to beat Google News?

The French government has decided to give a free newspaper to every 18-year-old because, Sarkozy says, "the habit of reading the press is learned very young."

Chris Matyszczyk

It is said (by biographer Michael Wolff, for one) that whenever Rupert Murdoch meets Sergey Brin and Larry Page, he quizzes them as to why they don't read newspapers.

The President of France has decided to roll up his copy of L'Equipe and strike a blow for paper reading.

Every French 18-year-old will be given a newspaper subscription free for his or her birthday. Yes, a paper version, one that can be clutched on the subway and used as a receptacle for one's pommes frites.

"Hey, Dad, what's this? France invades Britain?" CC Qole Pejorian

The publishers themselves will cover the cost of the papers, while the government will pay for the cost of delivery. "The habit of reading the press is learned very young," Mr. Sarkozy said.

But isn't the habit of getting all your information online now forming when kids are 3 or 4? Isn't waiting until kids are 18 before they can be blessed with a free copy of Le Monde a little like waiting to lose your virginity at 40? Or marrying your first rock chick at 53?

Mr. Sarkozy is rightfully concerned that he must fight for an "independent, free, and pluralistic" press. Does this mean, though, that such a thing is not possible online?

Let me Google that and get back to you.