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My, how times have changed. Australian publisher News Ltd just launched what it claims is the first internet service able to deliver a complete digital replica of a major newspaper - in this case, The Australian - to subscribers willing to pay two bucks per day.

          My, how times have changed.

          Australian publisher News Ltd just launched what it claims is the first internet service able to deliver a complete digital replica of a major newspaper - in this case, The Australian - to subscribers willing to pay two bucks per day.

          The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune are primed to follow suit using the same software system called NewsStand Reader.

          Two dollars may seem steep when stacked against the printed 50 cent paper the neighbour kid drops on your doorstep every morning. Then again the deal might smell like shrimp on the barbie if you're an Aussie exiled in New York, or, once The Times becomes available, a transplanted New Yorker in Sydney. Buying a print version of The Australian costs $US8 in New York, and it arrives a full day after publication.

          A free trial of the digital version is available through The Australian's website. Registering for the service and downloading the reader is a nontrivial task that Buzz made more difficult by merely skimming the directions. A real-time online help feature not only saved me from myself - thanks, Drew - but also showed that the company is aware that its target audience will need lots of assistance in getting over the technical obstacles.

          The digital paper itself looks super, and, as advertised, includes every blessed line of type, every photo, and every advertisement, exactly as you'd find on the newsstand. Which is a problem as well as a selling point. Navigation around and between pages is awkward and takes some getting used to ... perhaps too much.

          So will this delivery method ever put your neighbour's kid out of a job?

          Not likely, and not just because you'll have trouble bringing your digital paper into the bathroom or onto a crowded subway.

          The Australian, like every other major newspaper worth the designation, already has a website that provides a comprehensive - albeit incomplete - menu of daily news offerings. And it's free, which beats two bucks a day on any continent.

          Weaning readers off the freebie will take some doing.

          Nothing succeeds quite like failure in the corporate boardroom.

          The latest example: Two spectacularly puffy golden parachutes breaking the falls of a pair of Lucent executives on whose watch that once proud company plummeted to the edge of oblivion.

          According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, former CEO Rich McGinn left last fall with $US5.5 million in cash, a $US4.3 million personal loan paid off and an $US870,000 annual pension.

          Meanwhile, former CFO Deb Hopkins - having toiled less than a year for the company - netted $US3.3 million in cash.

          The standard defence of such largesse is that the directors of these corporations can attract the brightest executives only by providing incentives that measure up to those being offered by the most insane among them.

          But all that booty still begs the question: What might this Lucent duo have commanded in terms of parting gifts if the company had actually been successful?

          In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that the Buzz retirement portfolio includes a small amount of Lucent stock.

          Might this personal stake cloud a journalist's judgment of those payoffs?

          Hell, yes. Stockholders should be angry.

          Job offers of that ilk only, and comments of any kind, should be sent to buzz@nww.com.

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