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Renting a read from 'newspaper landlords'
April 20, 2011 6:29 AM   Subscribe

The poor in Ethiopia are often unable to buy newspapers, so they 'rent' papers for 20-30 minutes at a time from local entrepreneurs.
posted by reenum (26 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Reading this makes me love my daily newspaper just that much more. Wow.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:31 AM on April 20, 2011


"A newspaper in Addis Ababa costs about six birr (35 U.S. cents) to buy. In contrast, it costs only 50 Ethiopian cents (less than one U.S. cent) to rent one."

Huh? Those ratios / currency conversions don't make sense.
posted by Perplexity at 6:33 AM on April 20, 2011


Maybe a birr is the analogue of a dollar and not a cent.
posted by 3FLryan at 6:40 AM on April 20, 2011


Yeah, the ratios didn't make sense to me either, and google not seeming to be able to do ETB to USD currency conversion rates is odd too.
posted by yeoz at 6:40 AM on April 20, 2011


Let's see here, if there are a hundred Ethiopian cents per birr, that means it's 1/12th the cost of buying a paper to rent one, and 1/12th of 35 cents is between two and three cents.

I can only assume their money conversion doesn't scale linearly.
posted by mikeh at 6:42 AM on April 20, 2011


It seems that a dollar is about 17 birr or so. Birr apparently can be broken down into centum (cents I assume). It seems like there are 100 cents to a birr. Which means that 1700 cents = 1 US dollar. Meaning fifty of those cents are most assuredly less than a US cent. Did I do that right?
posted by dubitable at 6:43 AM on April 20, 2011


Birr to dollar.
posted by likeso at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2011


When I was a kid in Mexico in the 1970's these newspaper/magazine rental places were common.

Usually it'd be a small shop with lots of magazines, newspapers, even books and lots of benches for people to sit on. It usually operated buffet-style. You pay to sit there for an hour or so and you could read whatever you could in that time. I remember most of the other customers were reading comic books or Mexican serials. Given the disposable nature of these serials, it made a lot of economic sense for everybody - except the publishers of course.
posted by vacapinta at 6:45 AM on April 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


Um, also this is an interesting article. The newspaper publisher's argument about losing money on not selling papers reminded me a bit of record companies or book publishers in the U.S. complaining about losing money off of cds/books being resold in used cd/book stores. A load of crap...if those folks can't afford to buy a paper, and are therefore renting them, as a newspaper publisher why would you think you are losing money?
posted by dubitable at 6:46 AM on April 20, 2011


It's inspiring to see people so devoted to knowing what's going on in the world. Last fall, when I gave workshops in their classes, I asked over 150 college students if they read the news on a regular basis. Only a handful did. In the very first class I went to just one student raised her hand. I happen to know that she works full-time and she's goes to school full-time, and she is a full-time single mom. Without naming her I used her as an example to shame the students in the rest of the classes I went to.
posted by mareli at 7:01 AM on April 20, 2011


If a number of pharmacies in the U.S. had thought to "rent" comics out to kids back during the 70s and 80s, I'd probably be working my debt off on a prison barge along with mathowie, cortex, jonmc...
posted by Smart Dalek at 7:06 AM on April 20, 2011


...so they 'rent' papers...

Ethiopian paywall.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:26 AM on April 20, 2011


Which means that 1700 cents = 1 US dollar. Meaning fifty of those cents are most assuredly less than a US cent. Did I do that right?

Nnnnnnnn....o.

If 1700 Ethiopian cents = 100 US cents, then 50 Ethiopian cents = 100 x (50 / 1700), or not quite 3, US cents.
posted by rory at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2011


It's a little surprising to me that people who are too poor to buy a newspaper can read. I guess it's not something I had ever thought about before. It's great that they are literate, but sad that they are so poor.
posted by snofoam at 7:31 AM on April 20, 2011


Not only can they read, their math is pretty good too.
posted by Flashman at 7:35 AM on April 20, 2011


Not only can they read, their math is pretty good too.

And their music is totally badass.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:47 AM on April 20, 2011


It's inspiring to see people so devoted to knowing what's going on in the world.'

While I'm sure some people do rent the papers to keep up on current affairs, the article does say:
Most of the readers focus on vacancies rather than regular news," Tesfaye says.
Among his customers are unemployed university graduates who tend to rent several publications a day as they desperately hunt for work.
So it's a cheapish way to get access to the jobs section.
posted by WalterMitty at 7:52 AM on April 20, 2011


Smart Dalek: "If a number of pharmacies in the U.S. had thought to "rent" comics out to kids back during the 70s and 80s, I'd probably be working my debt off on a prison barge along with mathowie, cortex, jonmc..."

Not quite a pharmacy, but the concept is ripe for importation, and the criticisms from the authors is the same as well. Seems like everyone in the durable goods business is required to hate secondary markets. Newspapers, books, comics, record labels, video games. It makes me wonder how much of a fight the car companies put up over rentals.

A lot people today buy stuff like games at 50 because they can sell it for 35 later. And the person who buys at 35 can expect to sell for 20-25 later. By making that chain impossible, it seems likely you will lose customers at the 50 entry point, rather than transform enough 15 customers to 50.

Yet, in this case there seems to be an economic argument for lowering the price:
"Most of the readers focus on vacancies rather than regular news," Tesfaye says. Among his customers are unemployed university graduates who tend to rent several publications a day as they desperately hunt for work.
If you could account for the increased viewership, you'd be in a stronger position for selling classifieds, which are clearly what's being demanded here. Also, looks like university students in Ethiopia are no different than here: they don't read the paper unless it directly and immediately benefits them in some way.
posted by pwnguin at 7:53 AM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


If 1700 Ethiopian cents = 100 US cents, then 50 Ethiopian cents = 100 x (50 / 1700), or not quite 3, US cents.

Ah, yup, I see now. Well, seems like a flub in the piece then...

posted by dubitable at 8:48 AM on April 20, 2011


It's a little surprising to me that people who are too poor to buy a newspaper can read.

I'm surprised that the poor have enough brains to wake up in the morning, let alone read.
posted by blucevalo at 9:09 AM on April 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


pwnguin: It makes me wonder how much of a fight the car companies put up over rentals.

Car companies love rentals, which contribute to fleet sales and spur additional word of mouth referrals. People who may not be inclined to purchase a particular make/model, but would be tempted to consider driving one for a weekend or business trip are effectively previewing the vehicle - not merely for themselves, but for anyone they relate their experiences to (positive or otherwise). And rental agencies are happy to rent sporty models like Mustangs and Chargers, since the resale value of the vehicles (following the rental cycle) draws a higher return for them than offloading an economy sedan amassing more miles over a shorter period than a dealer lease option.

For publishers, the market cycle of a book or periodical is too brief for them to consider risking a tiered usage system. Even if the media can last for decades with case, the companies expect the majority of their returns within weeks, or even hours, as would be the case of periodicals. The transition to e-media is particularly daunting, as it's not as guaranteed to "lock in" customers as, say, breaking headlines or the (traditionally) immediate demand for classifieds that newsprint enjoyed prior to the web's emergence.
posted by Smart Dalek at 9:51 AM on April 20, 2011


According to UNICEF (stats a few years old)...

- The adult literacy rate in Ethiopia is 36%
- The proportion of kids attending primary school is 46%
- The gross national income per capita is $330 pa.

The people renting newspapers are probably not the poorer half of Ethiopians who have less than a buck a day in total to spend and likely can't read. As WalterMitty notes the article mentions unemployed graduates as an example of the kind of people that rent newspapers.

This kind of buying or renting things in very small portions is a common practice for all kinds of things in developing countries. e.g. Buying a single sachet of shampoo, or making a single phone call via a "phone lady".
posted by philipy at 9:56 AM on April 20, 2011


What an interesting world we live in. An FPP about renting paper newspapers directly below one arguing the merits of various e-readers. I love that there are so many ways to share the printed word amongst ourselves.
posted by Go Banana at 4:50 PM on April 20, 2011


It's a little surprising to me that people who are too poor to buy a newspaper can read.

I'm surprised that the poor have enough brains to wake up in the morning, let alone read.


Well, they only half wake up in the morning. They mostly just lie around in bed all day, drifting in and out of sleep, until their welfare check arrives, at which point they get out of bed and head down to the local bar.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:57 PM on April 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess you guys are either having fun, or you simply don't understand the difference between what "poor" means in the US and what it means in a place like Ethiopia.

If the latter, an interesting comparison is this article on the lives of a poor person on welfare in the US versus a surgeon in the Congo. Yup, the surgeon in the Congo is, if anything, worse off in material terms.
posted by philipy at 7:06 AM on April 21, 2011


Can't wait for these charming third-world "newspapers" is it? to make it to our shores. Next fad in 3...2...
posted by Eideteker at 7:13 AM on April 22, 2011


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