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by Lloyd A. de Vries

Vol. 38 - Do You Read Newspapers Online?

Do you read newspapers online?

I do, and I don't.

I have bookmarks set for the New York Mets pages of two of the local newspapers here, including my own. I find my wife has thrown out the morning paper or left it at work before I get home. And, if I have a moment at work, I'll drop over to the site.

My work, both professionally and for stamp collecting, often is aided by a trip to local newspaper sites.

In philately, for example, if I receive an e-mail telling me that a collector has died, I try to find the obituary in the local newspaper to confirm it. I don't want a daughter to read my erroneous story to the collector, the way Bob Hope's daughter told him in 1998 when the Associated Press mistakenly put a story about his death on its Web site. Hope laughed, and lived another five years.

Some newspaper sites are a joy: Well-organized, frequently updated.

Others are terrible: They're more advertising than content, the stories are updated once a day, if that much, and with stories from the papers, and the search function is a joke.

Many require that I register. If I'm in a hurry, I grumble, but comply. I understand that they want to gather demographic information about who their readers are (so they can sell more-focused advertising) and perhaps even control who writes comments about the articles. I do try to remember to uncheck the boxes that give them permission to send me all sorts of electronic junk mail.

Some, such as the Wall Street Journal, require that I subscribe to their online service. Thanks, but no thanks. I may only need access to that newspaper's site once, ever.

And then there are the ones that make me want to reach through the monitor and commit mayhem: Their sites are only available to those who subscribe to its print edition!

As unlikely as I am to need to visit the Web site of the Treetop Tattler more than once, I certainly have no interest in paying to receive its print edition for the next few months by mail three days after it is issued.

(My local paper is one of those sites, but since I already subscribe, it's not a problem — until my "cookies" (Web markers) are deleted and I have to try to remember the password the paper assigned me. There's no way for me to change it to something I can remember.)

I'm also finding that, on the papers that I do want to read regularly, I'm not reading them as thoroughly as I do or did their print editions. I'll turn pages on a "hardcopy," and stories of interest will jump out at me.

Sometimes, I'll have a print edition of a newspaper with me while I wait on line — that's on a line, as in a queue of people — and, when I've finished the article that prompted me to grab the publication, and my car or turn or whatever isn't ready, I'll read something else to pass the time.

With online editions of newspapers, I have certain targets I go to each time, rather than browsing. If I can go to a target directly, such as those Mets pages, I won't even pass the intervening pages. I don't really know how the New York Yankees are doing, other than what I hear on the radio, because I don't see those stories.

The other newspaper online edition to which I subscribe is Linn's Stamp News. I couldn't depend on timely delivery of the paper's print edition, so I switched. It's there every Thursday sometime in the early afternoon.

But I find that I'm not reading it as thoroughly as I used to when it was a hard copy. I have certain pages that I read every time, and I'll check the index for stories that might be of interest, but I'm missing all those little fillers that don't rate a listing, but may still be of interest to me.

Worse, some weeks I forget to access the paper at all! Thursday, when it comes out, is a busy day for me. (I don't always remember to check the Mets pages every day, either, but that's not as critical. They win or lose without me.)

I find I need the reminder that receiving something in the mail gives me. I suppose an e-mail reminder would work, but I get so much legitimate e-mail (not to mention spam) that I suspect it wouldn't be as effective.

I'm also not as absorbed by what I read online. For recreational reading, I prefer paper books and magazines.

I know this means I'm becoming an old fogy. My sons are more comfortable reading online than I am, and their children will find books, magazines and newspapers quaint.

Oh, well.

Want to be online while at a stamp show?

Practically all convention centers these days might be held have Internet access, but it's unlikely to be free or even inexpensive. Blame the business trade shows that are the staples of convention centers: Those attending are often on expense accounts, and more and more these days, are expected to be online for e-mail and messages. In addition, those with booths want to use the Internet to show off their products and services.

Merchants at trade shows once used telephone connections to call in credit card purchases; now they're more likely to use the Internet.

The convention center Internet providers aren't likely to adjust their fees for stamp shows.

The other alternatives (dialing in via a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, signing up for a cellular Internet account) are expensive.

Hotel ballrooms where many stamp shows are held, in my experience, always seem to be just out of range of the hotel's "free" wireless Internet service, whether accidentally or by design. But there are Ethernet (wired) connections in all the ballrooms and meeting rooms. If you pay, you can connect.

At the moment, the choice for connecting to the Internet while at a stamp show either seems to be to pay a lot for it, or do without.

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