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.