While eating my breakfast at George's Restaurant in Oak Park this morning, I noticed that just about every other customer, upon entering and saying hello to George, stopped at the counter and browsed through a stack of newspapers: The Sun Times, the Tribune, the local Oak Park paper. They'd pick out one or more and carry the papers to their booths to read over breakfast.
On their way out, the diners would pay their bills and return the free (to them, anyway) newspaper to the stack for the next patron. And so on.
I've noticed similar systems elsewhere, including coffeehouses that provide free copies of The New York Times despite selling The NYT out of a rack by the cash register.
So yes, somebody paid for the content in those newspapers, but certainly not everybody who consumed it paid.
Which raises the question: Why aren't newspaper companies cracking down on the sharing of their products in restaurants, diners, bars, coffeehouses and other public gathering places? Why should newspapers sell copies to libraries, which are just going to share them with the public, at the same rate that they sell subscriptions to individuals?
And if newspapers aren't all whacked out about this blatant theft of their intellectual property at George's Restaurant, then why do so many otherwise rational newspaper employees wax certifiably insane whilst lecturing the rest of us about the evils of "giving away content on the Web?"
And the answer is: Because they're in the business of giving away content in order to sell ads. The only difference between "stealing" a read in a print copy versus the same free read online is that print ads are expensive enough that newspaper companies never had to care about all this rampant diner piracy. If online advertising were nearly as valuable, newspaper companies wouldn't be bitching.
Got it? Any questions?