FFor those of us living in the northern hemisphere, winter has arrived and shops are ready for Christmas. In the southern hemisphere, it is spring, but the shops are also prepared for Christmas. In any season, they want your money.

December 25th is celebrated as Christmas Day by many of the world's population, whether as a religious festival or not. For the lucky ones, the festivities are shared with friends and family — cards and gifts are given and received. It is also a time when consumer-directed advertising increases and businesses try hard to persuade us to buy their products.

I remember one recent December in Communist China, being surprised to see shop assistants wearing Santa Clause hats, and their shops brightly decorated. The Chinese know a commercial opportunity when they see one!

During this busy, and now over-commercialised holiday period, will you be able to find the time to sit in a comfortable chair and read a newspaper? That is news on actual paper, or will you download a newspaper to your iPad? Will you read it online or rely on television to bring you your news? Either way, almost all of us in the modern world will want to be kept informed of local, if not national and international events.

Call me old-fashioned, but what better gift than a subscription to a newspaper? If a print subscription is purchased, and not a digital subscription bought through the Apple iTunes store, then at least the newspaper gets to keep all the revenue, and it could be the start a life-long newspaper reading habit. For those publishers that are happy to sell their products on the iTunes store, you can buy them as a gift.

You never know, given engaging content and the opportunity to try, the young might prefer their own newspaper subscription to a computer game.

Perhaps therefore circulation departments should take a leaf out of the Chinese book and, if not already doing so, also see Christmas as a commercial opportunity — and a time to sell gift subscriptions. So far as I can remember I have never gifted a newspaper subscription as a Christmas present, yet I have gifted magazine subscriptions. Could this be because magazine publishers do a better job at promoting subscriptions as gifts?

If so, it is something that newspapers need to change, quickly. There are not that many shopping days left.