Newspapers sell out in the great grab for a slice of history

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 November, 2008, 12:00am

Readers of Hong Kong's newspapers were keen to grab their own slice of Barack Obama's historic presidential win last week, with the city's sellers reporting a big jump in sales on Thursday.

A number of convenience stores spoken to by the Sunday Morning Post said all newspapers sold at their outlets were snapped up faster than usual.

A shop assistant at a Circle K convenience store on Bonham Road, Sai Ying Pun, said papers sold out hours earlier than usual. 'Newspapers sold out at around noon that day. Usually, they last until 4pm to 5pm,' she said.

Most convenience stores spoken to by the Sunday Morning Post reported a similar increase in sales.

One would-be buyer said they tried to get a copy of the South China Morning Post and several Chinese papers on Thursday afternoon, but could not find them anywhere.

The scenes mirrored what happened in other countries.

In the United States, people queued to buy newspapers in major cities and some publishers had to print extra copies to meet demand on November 5. Ordinary or commemorative-edition copies about Senator Obama's victory became instant collectibles, with some copies immediately hitting the online auction sites. A copy of the Chicago Tribune newspaper offered at an original auction price at US$25 on eBay had attracted six bids already, with the highest at US$36. A copy of The New York Times received 10 bids, the highest at US$61.

Australian papers were also on sale on the website, while two copies of the South China Morning Post published on November 5 and 6 are being auctioned on a local eBay website. Three people had placed bids, with one willing to pay up to HK$59.

A reader had wanted to buy Thursday's newspaper on Friday at convenience stores and newspaper stands in Robinson Road and Happy Valley, which normally kept old stock, but was told all papers except two Chinese titles had sold out.

However, Liu Sair-ching, the chairman of the city's newspaper hawkers' coalition, said sales on Thursday were not much different from usual days, though it remained one of the best amid the financial crisis.

'Things could have been different if the results came out late at night and people might have had to catch up with them in the morning in the print media,' he said.

Mr Liu said Hong Kong readers were not much 'into politics' and preferred breaking news or gossip about the entertainment sector.

'The recent stock market slump also hit sales badly,' he said. 'People suffering losses in the market almost lost all interest in reading about news, especially the bad news.'