SWNA leads the way for ComBase

The Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association (SWNA) is leading the way for its sister associations by approving SWNA participation in ComBase under the proposed funding structure.

I am very pleased with our publishersÔÇÖ support for this national readership study, but not too surprised; for months, publishers have been telling me that we need this project and the solid data it can provide. The only catch was the cost, and even then, SWNA members realized that this study is too valuable to pass over.

ComBase will be a tremendously broad, deep study of who reads community newspapers in Canada. The early results from last yearÔÇÖs pilot study are encouraging. In fact, they go beyond most peopleÔÇÖs expectations.

The study will not come cheaply.

The arms-length board that manages ComBase has been juggling figures daily, quite literally. As Project Manager Elena Dunn put it, it has become a chicken-and-egg dilemma: she canÔÇÖt calculate costs until she knows how many papers are in, and papers wonÔÇÖt guarantee theyÔÇÖre in until they know how much it will cost.

Assuming approximately 390 Canadian Community Newspapers Association take part (a conservative participation rate of 55 per cent), the cost to SWNAÔÇÖs members will total about $350,000. SWNA approved its participation at this rate, with the proviso that if the associationÔÇÖs share rises by 15 per cent during the next four years, the association will automatically review its involvement with ComBase.

The membership also approved of a plan whereby SWNA would try to sell up to four full-page advertisements to a new client, with the money going towards ComBase rather than individual publishers. Our central office is confident of landing such advertising, and this will certainly take the sting our of the cost of ComBase. The membership also approved a one per cent levy on regional advertising sales.

Regardless, members are reminded that the final decision to participate in ComBase is an individual decision. ComBase will contact papers in the coming year to finalize whether or not they are taking part. The fee structure, based partially on circulation, will be presented at that time but is available upon request right now. If a member opts out, that member will not have access to any of the data generated by the study, and thus lose a valuable local marketing tool. Opting in will be an investment of money and/or advertising space, but I do not doubt that every participant will see positive results.

One final, very important note: a notice of motion has been made to make ComBase participation mandatory for all SWNA members. This motion will be debated at SWNAÔÇÖs September annual general meeting in Regina. Mandatory or not, the more people participate, the lighter the burden on each of us.

I am proud of SWNAÔÇÖs participation in ComBase.