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Spanish Eyes, English Words

A blended blog - Spanish life and culture meets English freelancer who often gets mistaken for Spanish senora. It's the eyes that do it, rather than the command of the language. Anything can and probably will happen here.

Free newspapers get content on the cheap - and it shows
15 March 2013 @ 09:52

As I mentioned in a previous post, English language newspapers are very expensive here, so it's great that on the Costa Blanca there are a number of free papers produced every week. Okay, there's a lot of adverts and not an enormous amount of content, but they have to fund the papers somehow, so you just have to accept it.

What I have a real problem accepting is the standard of the content. Most of the free newspapers only seem to have one in house journalist. The rest of the copy comes from eager amateurs who are happy to see their name in lights, so to speak, but are not really up to the job of producing content of a consistent standard. One newspaper blatantly offers writers the chance of fame and fortune, and then qualifies the statement by saying 'not exactly fortune, as we won't be paying you, but you will have a byline, and be read by lots of people.'

Big deal! I was approached by that particular paper a few years ago. The editor tracked me down through Facebook, after reading one of my articles online, and asked for permission to publish it. I was building up my freelance business, so I was happy to oblige, as I thought it may bring a few contacts my way. It didn't, but it was very gratifying when strangers stopped me in the street and said how much they enjoyed reading my article.

A couple of weeks later, the editor contacted me again, and said they'd received a lot of comments online about my piece, and would I consider writing a regular column, as well as reporting on local news in my area? 'Of course,' I replied. 'How much are you going to pay me?' To paraphrase Hamlet, 'The rest was silence.' 

I don't expect to be paid megabucks - especially by a free newspaper - but I don't see why I should work for nothing. The editor admitted there was a lot of favourable feedback from my piece, so I reckon I was worth a few Euro a week to keep me on the paper and get regular quality content.

This isn't just my experience - a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to someone whose wife is a retired journalist. She approached the local papers with a view to a part time income, but the answer was the same from almost all of them - they were happy to publish her contributions, but they couldn't pay her.

The result of this false economy is that the papers are filled with substandard copy, and circulation is going down. It's no coincidence that the only free newspaper that seems to be expanding rather than shrinking or stagnating is the Coastrider. That's also the only newspaper that seems to have a proper editorial team rather than one journalist and a lot of occasional unpaid scribblers.

The Coastrider is now expanding into the North Costa Blanca with a Benidorm edition, and it has the largest circulation of all the free English language newspapers in the area. Maybe there's a lesson here for the others. When it comes to filling up your newspapers, quality counts. You get what you pay for - or rather don't pay for, in most cases.

 



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6 Comments


Davespain said:
15 March 2013 @ 13:34

But thats their business model and it obviously works for them. Many free papers make far more than paid for ones. They might like you to contribute but the fact is - it doesnt really matter if you dont. They dont need you that much.


eggcup said:
15 March 2013 @ 14:55

I wonder what the policy of the UK free paper 'Metro' is. I've noticed it going from strength to strength...
And you're right Sandra. People want things for nothing or for peanuts these days, and maybe because of the obsession with celebrity, people are willing to provide articles for nothing. It certainly isn't fair if the newspapers are making a good profit; but if they can get away with it, they will. I find your articles on here extremely well-written and I can't believe how prolific you are. Good luck and I hope you can earn some money from it.


Sandra Piddock said:
15 March 2013 @ 17:00

Eggcup, thanks for those kind words, and I take your point about the desire for celebrity. I never thought of that aspect, but it ties in with the pitch of that paper that offers 'Fame and fortune - well, not fortune.' As you say, they can get away with it, so you can't really blame them.

I earn well from my freelance clients, so I'm not just chasing the money, but I don't see why I should do a regular column, plus other reports, for nothing.


Angie said:
16 March 2013 @ 10:10

Dave - I think their business model will need a rethink in the long term as I agree with Sandra, the circulation of some newspapers is falling.

There are some of us that want a good read as well as finding that unobtainable item or service that might be located in small print on page 36.

Many of the papers circulated now are used in this household for wrapping of kitchen waste and nothing else.


Rahele said:
17 March 2013 @ 11:18

Sandra, why don't you start up your own newspaper, I'm sure it would be wildly successful!


Sandra Piddock said:
17 March 2013 @ 11:46

Thanks for the vote oc confidence, Rahele - I might just do that if I can get some backers. Anyone want to throw a few thousand Euro in my direction?


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