I Read A Newspaper Yesterday. It Made My Hands Dirty.

My seven year old son wanted the Patriots cards you can get for free with a coupon in yesterday's Globe. Considering the price of sports cards these days, the $2.50 for the Globe seemed like a fair deal. I last bought a Sunday Globe in the spring - when my son wanted the Red Sox cards you could get for free with a coupon in the Globe.

I have a few observations.

First of all, the Sunday paper is heavy. What are all those sections? And why do all the glossy pages fall out when you carry it? It just doesn't seem to be very user-friendly. Oh well, my son got his Patriots cards and I headed to the recumbent bike with my Sunday Globe. It was so big I thought maybe I should divide and conquer, start with the important bits and move onto the fluff.

I couldn't find the important bits.

Maybe this is because I had already read the Huffington Post (always plug the place that gives you free bottles of water whenever you're in New York) I had read CNN.com. I checked out Drudge Report. Daou Report. Daily Kos. MYDD and Boston.com for my weather and sports. I managed to do all this in a few minutes. I had done this early on Sunday morning as I wanted Sunday's news. I had read a great piece by Chris Bowers at MYDD on Russ Feingold not running in 2008. I felt quite well informed if I do say so myself.

I wondered what happens to people who try to stay on top of things by reading a newspaper. I am not trying to be a smug and self-centered blogger ranting in my pajamas and to be fair. The Sunday Globe was right on top of some news - it's just that it was Thursday's. It was like taking a step back in time, a small twenty-four / forty-eight hour step back but a step back nonetheless.

But then again, as you take that step back, you do get to see a lot of ads. A lot of ads.

The front section of a Sunday Globe is essentially an advertisement for Macy's with an occasional story that I didn't have to read because I already know how it ends. I figure 50% of the front section was advertising, minimum. I also noticed that all the stories I had already seen on Boston.com were in the Globe. I wonder if they realize this, if it gets out that you can read the same stories for free online, well, that can't be good for business.

It then occured to me that I hadn't read the business section. It didn't take long - it was essentially the stock and mutual fund indexes.

I recycled the help wanted, the real estate and the car sections. I'm not looking for a job, a house or a car.

I didn't even glance at a single circular. Or the PARADE magazine.

I was ten minutes into my ride. And my paper was all in the recycling section. Except the travel section. I opened it up. And it was all ads. I think there was one article on Skiing in New Hampshire. I don't ski.

Newspaper circulation has been declining for twenty years now - twenty years. This is what is known as a long term trend. And a trend, to be honest that I don't see ending. I had the opportunity to deal with the Globe when I was doing a marketing turnaround program a few months back. Their circulation is declining so they are raising their prices so they make the same amount of money. The faster the circulation goes down, the faster they have to raise rates. Boy, that cliff sure is coming fast boys. Hold onto your free sports cards when you go over it.

Look. I know some newspaper columnists. I spent some time with Maureen Dowd at YearlyKos early this year in Las Vegas. She's short. I met Ellen Goodman of the Globe with Arianna a few weeks ago. She was very nice and seemed like a good person. It's not that I want all newspapers to vanish. It's just that they're going to and I think everyone working at one really needs to think about what they're going to do next.

Then I noticed my hands. Covered in black ink. Just the lucky strike extra that you should remember should you ever think about actually buying a newspaper again.

Here's my takeaway. I paid $2.50 to see advertisements and read stories that I knew about last week. I was left with a big bag of paper to recycle and stained hands and twenty minutes on the bike with nothing to read.

At least my son is happy.