All hail to Wally, my local newsagent. He is a very
useful man, though I suspect he needs to get a life. He keeps in his head the
details of all the newspapers to which his customers subscribe, and lets us know when
any of them have a special deal coming up. Thus we can, if we wish, cancel our
existing subscription and jump on the bandwagon of whatever cheap deal is on
offer.

How many newsagents do this, I wonder? It makes you
realise that these days the cover price is relatively unimportant. It’s all
about circulation and readership figures, no matter how you arrive at them. New
rules mean that later this year we should find out a lot more about how much
newspaper circulation depends on cheap deals and promotional copies. But in the
meantime Wally has a new and cheaper deal for me almost every
month.

When my last “special deal” for The Age expired, I got a call from a very
fast talking young salesman. He was offering a deal even Wally didn’t know
about. The young man talked so fast that I’m not sure I got all the details, but
I am now paying even less than the previous very low rate.
Over the last week or so I’ve been making a point of
talking to people about the deals under which they receive their
newspapers.

University students get a subscription for only $20 a
year providing they pick the paper up on campus. But at both the Royal
Melbourne Institute of Technology and Melbourne
University,
I have seen stacks of hundreds of papers left untouched and unread at the close
of each day. Doubtless this counts as
circulation.

A schoolteacher friend of mine gets his subscription for
$10 a year providing he picks the paper up at school. He doesn’t bother because
he is also a St Kilda football club member, and a home delivered subscription is
included in his membership. Then there are copies of The Sydney Morning Herald
on sale for half price at Starbucks.

Is The
Australian
falling behind in the hype? A couple of months ago Wally
signed me up for a special deal on that too. It expired two weeks ago. I was
expecting a call from another fast talking salesman to persuade me on to a new
deal. So far, no call.

Wally assures me that will be another deal along soon.
In the meantime I’m trying to get over the shock of paying full
price.

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