Interviewing for the five-market ComBase pilot study began September 18.

Behind the scenes many things had to come together before the project could begin. The first, and perhaps most important component the study was making sure the phone interviewers knew what they were doing. Thompson Lightstone, the company performing the pilot study for ComBase, spent the past two-and-one-half weeks in intensive preparation for the ÔÇÿopening night.ÔÇÖ With the help of their full-time, on-staff trainer, preparations included:

o programming the questionnaire,
o testing its flow with a dozen or more test respondents,
o preparing a written training manual for supervisors,
o selecting seasoned interviewers who were dedicated to the study,
o face-to-face training with the individual interviewers in two phases:
o general training on response rates, refusals, cooperation techniques,
o specific training on the intricacies of complex readership studies
o a briefing session with the project manager to answer any interviewer and supervisor questions before the study went live.

Interviewing will be conducted using a pool of 30 interviewers in each of Thompson LightstoneÔÇÖs four call centres located in Toronto, Edmonton and Moncton.

In addition, a formal, documented incentive program is in place for the interviewers to achieve specific goals for the project, including:

o high completion rates,
o low refusal rates and
o week-by-week improvement in the above categories

Interviewers who perform well on these key measures can win gift certificates ranging in value from $5 to $50 from a list of attractive retailers such as HMV, Sam the Record Man, Future Shop, McDonalds and others.

Many interviewers who will work on the pilot study have also worked on the NADbank study, so they are quite familiar with the methodology and the need for sample management. That experience can only help ComBase achieve a gold standard of measurement for the community newspaper industry.

Elena Dunn will monitored the interviewers for the first week of the study, and will continue to monitor for the remainder of the study in each of the call centres. Monitoring includes listening in on live interviews to ensure that certain specifications are being met as well as answering any questions or resolving any problems that may arise. Monitoring is an effective quality control measure and a certain level of monitoring by Thompson Lightstone is specified in the ComBase contract.

One factor that may affect both response rates and readership ÔÇô and one that there is no way of anticipating ÔÇô is the intense media blitz caused by the recent events in New York.

There is no way of predicting the impact of recent events on peopleÔÇÖs willingness to participate in surveys and their availability ÔÇô are they, for instance, still glued to CNN? Nor is it possible to say whether readership of all publications will be higher or lower than normal. It is hoped that readership levels can only be higher than they would be during an average fall season since people are looking for more information from the media than usual.

Interviewing continues to December 15. The Publisher and Publisher Bulletin will continue to carry updates on ComBase. For all the latest information, visit the ComBase web site at .