ComBase not beneficial to all provinces

For the past several months publishers have been bombarded with a pitch that would rival the Kmart Veggematic, promising to dice, slice and spin your readership numbers into a larger piece of the advertising pie. While it may well do all it claims, even the kitchen wizard has limited value on a rice paddy in China.

In an industry that prides itself on critical analysis of other peopleÔÇÖs spending, I have yet to read or hear from the national or regional association, a single downside to the ComBase study. This is particularly striking because of its implications in Quebec. In a nutshell, there are seven million people in Quebec, roughly 11 per cent of them are English-speaking.

QuebecÔÇÖs English-speaking population is not concentrated in one area but situated in pockets throughout the province where they compete in a market with French-language weeklies that capture 85-90 per cent of the market. For example, in the Sherbrooke area alone, of the 147,000 residents, 7,000 have English as a mother tongue. The area is covered by two French-language weeklies, each with a total market circulation of 45,000 and an English language weekly which serves a wider area with a circulation of 3,000.

If you were selling a car, where would you place your ad?

Not only are the associations pushing a readership survey that would lay this picture out in black and white to national advertisers, the regional and national associations are asking publishers to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of shooting themselves in the foot, then allowing their major competitors in the marketplace, the 150 French-language weeklies in Les Hebdos du Quebec, to buy into the study and use it against QCNA’s 33 English-language papers.

ComBase may appear to be the best thing since sliced bread for papers in the rest of Canada, but in Quebec, buy in and youÔÇÖre toast.

[EditorÔÇÖs Note: French language weeklies in Quebec have not been invited to participate in the first ComBase national study. The study is available on to those newspapers who were members of CCNA as of Dec. 31, 2001.]