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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

Time Event
10:05p
Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head

There's no limit to the odd things capitalists will do if you give them some breathing space. One of them consists of a local duel between free daily newspapers -- Mediaworks's Today, which has the worst newspaper web site in the world; and the Straits Times's offshoot Streats. They're both tabloid in size, although their content is about as racy as the sports pages for The Rutgers Daily Targum (the ``weather girl'' in Streats is run across one column, half-page height, only, and is dressed respectably enough). Why are corporations competing to give away newspapers which would seem to draw readers away from their own publications which people pay for, like The Straits Times and The New Paper? They don't say explicitly, of course, which means they make money on advertiser revenues and have to boost their ``readership'' counts.

The result is both corporations have taken to running advertisements which display all the classic ``How To Lie With Statistics'' patterns, showing trivial differences in readership with huge bars or measuring tiny fluctuations and presenting them as trends. There's also a battery of hugely qualified ``we're number one'' advertisements posted, all terribly amusing to me. (``Greatest readership increase in December 2003 for any English-language free tabloid newspaper,'' anyone?)

Streats upped the ante several months ago by delivering to my complex. None of us asked for this, of course; they just drop off a paper, Monday to Saturday. Occasionally they miss a day, but it seems petty to complain about that. I take it in every morning, although often I forget to read it. But then -- I've been away a few times, for as much as a week or more, and the newspapers don't pile up. Yet there is today's paper when I return. The conclusion must be that when they deliver, they take away yesterday's. I just wonder, do they deduct ``returned'' papers from the readership count, so that they claim a higher readership if I take the paper in and don't read it, and a lower if I leave it outside?

Trivia: Only approximately 36,000 children were born in Singapore in 2003. Source: Govt unveils focus of campaign to boost birth rate: Childless, 1-child couples targeted, Streats newspaper of 3 March 2004.

Currently Reading: The Green Man, Kingsley Amis.

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