Monday, December 31, 2012


Demand for Newspapers

Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), The Greek Islands (1978; rpt. London: Faber and Faber, 2002), p. 145:
As for the science of statistics, I must report respect tempered by scepticism. There was a fine example in Rhodes, where I was saddled with a clerk who went to exaggerated lengths to secure statistics of sales for our little newspaper. Of course you must know who buys your paper and where, for distribution purposes, so I did not discourage his ardour. One day he came to me in some puzzlement and showed me the sales for one small island off Leros, which startled us. Apparently we sold five times more copies than the total population of the island, on which there was only one tiny hamlet. Moreover, I knew from a friend that there was almost nobody except the priest who could read in the place. How then came these prodigious sales?

On my next trip north I called in and the mystery was revealed to me. The price of ordinary brown paper, such as tradesmen use for wrapping, had become very high, because of shortage; they were using my precious newspaper to wrap up their fish because it was cheaper than any other. It was not the prose or the layout or the information which it carried that made them buy; it was a godsend to them for wrapping fish. This was a salutary lesson and I often think of it when I study the circulation of a big London paper. Who is wrapping fish in it? Every editor should ask himself the question at least once a day.

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