Letter from the editor: It's down to choice


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The Independent Online

It’s an over-used cliché: “the public gets the newspapers it deserves”. For “newspapers”, insert TV, the Top 40, chocolate, wine... It was the basis of Dominic Lawson’s column yesterday — one that has clearly polarised you.

Many agree with Dominic, but readers like Jim Farrell, of Harewood, believe his view to be “facile” and “out of touch” with public sentiment, claiming the 2.6 million people who bought the News of the World before its final Sunday was a “paltry” 8.7 per cent of the population. Mr Farrell was not alone in pointing out he never bought the paper, nor did he read The Sun! Leaving aside that 2.6 million buyers equates to 7.5 million readers, what of his contention?

I am not sure that the statistical evidence proves his case. The unspoken coda to the “what it deserves” cliché is often: as long as you can afford to pay. This clearly applies to food or wine, but less so to culture. If you could pay more for one download over another there wouldn’t be a better Top 40. You are neither incentivised nor forced to see the Harry Potter film more than you are The Tree of Life. They cost the same. It’s entirely down to choice.

Every day the public can choose from a wide array of newspapers, catering for all political and cultural tastes. That decision is not made primarily on price — although i proudly makes price one of its selling points. Most people can afford to pay £1 for a newspaper, and the fact that 2.6 million of them still did so this deep into the internet age is remarkable. Like it or not, this does say as much about the taste of the great British public as it does about the skills of the journalists and marketers who made and sold it.