The newspaper industry is in decline. Not the news industry, which is booming with the many independent online news sources; but the industry of the physical paper.
People do not pick up and read a newspaper very often anymore. They get their news online or from TV or radio.
However, there is one part of the paper that many people still pick up, still desire and will still go out of their way to get: coupons.
Coupons are no new invention and having them in newspapers is not new either, yet now more than ever they have become an important and even advertised section.
Some newspapers, like the Poughkeepsie Journal, advertise how much money can be saved with all of the coupons they will offer in their Sunday paper. They advertise it the same size and in the same area at the top of their front page where they advertise a big story that will be published soon.
Coupons have become as important to the recipient of the paper as the news itself; even more so for some.
I work at Vassar Brothers Medical Center checking patients in to the emergency room. On the counter next to my desk a few copies of the Poughkeepsie Journal are put out each day for patients or visitors to take and read while they wait.
So one Sunday night there were no papers there and I wanted one because I do read the news and the comics and do the Sudoku puzzle. I went behind the counter and found two papers sitting there. They were full and untouched, coupons and all.
I decided to hold a test to see who would arrive first between someone who wanted the paper to read who wouldn’t care about the coupons and someone who would put in that extra effort to get the coupons from behind the counter.
I took out the comics and the Sudoku from one for myself and then put both on the counter. But, I took the coupons out of both and put them on the desk behind the counter; they were visible to one standing at the counter looking at the newspaper.
I sat back at my desk, read the comics and began to work on the Sudoku.
Fifteen minutes later a woman came up to the counter and looked at the paper, for literally one second. Then she opened it straight to the middle, not removing any sections to read, but picked it up to look towards the middle.
She closed the paper and went behind the counter and looked through some other loose sections of the paper from the day before, two full stacks of coupons right next to her.
Then an epiphany: she sees the coupons.
She picks up both identical piles, opens the paper again and puts them in the middle where they were before I removed them.
“Something to read,” she said to me as she walked past my desk toward the waiting room.
She sat down, put her large gray purse on the green and brown armchair next to her and put the paper on her lap.
Then she put on her reading glasses and, at the same time with her other hand, she opens the paper to the middle and proceeds to flip through the coupons.
She left the waiting area maybe 10 minutes later. I never saw her read a single page of the newspaper.
My test was complete, my hypothesis sound and I was left with only question: Why did she take the paper at all?