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Newsstand Owners Say Web is Killing Their Business
By Catherine Ivey   Associated Press
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — When it comes to delivering news from afar, few places stand on tradition like the Harvard Out of Town News.

For 44 years, the small brick kiosk across from Harvard University has offered news from all corners of the globe. The landmark stand offers the Ha'aretz from Tel Aviv and the Connacht Tribune, a weekly from western Ireland. It has news printed in Spanish, German, French and Japanese, and publications from countries like Greece, Italy, Australia and Russia.

But the newsstand, and others like it, are in jeopardy.

With international news available on the Internet and 24-hour cable television networks, old-fashioned newsstands are dwindling fixtures in big cities across the country.

"I've lost 50 percent (in sales) in the last four years," said Fred Cohen, the manager of the Harvard stand. "The Web is killing us."

In New York City, the landmark Hotaling's News Agency retreated this summer from its Times Square locale of 74 years. It now shares space with a tourist information center several blocks away.

At World News & Globe in Los Angeles, the number of out of town titles has been cut by 20 percent over the past several years to keep the business in the black.

Cohen has seen many changes at the stand since his brother started it in 1955. In addition to the Internet and cable TV, Cohen said business has suffered from a decline in the number of people who read newspapers and from competitors such as Barnes & Noble and Borders — superstores which now sell some of the most popular international publications.

The biggest change to the stand came five years ago when Cohen sold Out of Town News to New Jersey-based Hudson News with an offer he couldn't refuse. He stayed on as manager but had to reduce its out of town selections and expand its non-news inventory.

"I had to bring in a soda machine," Cohen said. "I never had to have that stuff. It was all occupied with printed matter."

Like most old-fashioned newsstands, Out of Town News catered to international clientele and once played a greater role in city-goers lives.

In the summer, people would gather around the stand to listen to Red Sox games on a portable radio. On the day Kennedy was shot, thousands gravitated to the stand in search of the latest news.

"People were in shock, wanting to know when other editions were coming out, was there any more news, had we heard anything," Cohen said.

The stand sold more than 10,000 papers that day, more than any single day since.

Still, the stand has not lost its appeal for all readers.

"They said this is one of the few places in the U.S. where you can find international newspapers," said Ido Swart, a recent visitor from Holland who was looking for Telegraaph, a Dutch daily. Cohen said the paper was sold out.

The stand's regulars hope it can survive the threat of expanding technology.

Paul Gagnon, a 74-year-old Boston University professor of comparative politics, has made a weekly pilgrimage to the stand for years to pick up L'Express, a French news magazine, and Le Figaro, a French daily.

"Almost any person, or visitor who wants to, can read about their own country here," he said. "This is a great spot."

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