CCNA Board sets deadline for ComBase participation

June 14 is the deadline for signing up participants for the Community Newspaper Database (ComBase) research project.

That was the message delivered by the Canadian Community Newspapers Association (CCNA) Board of Directors meeting on April 19. The Board said the deadline was necessary in order to get the readership research study into the field by the fall of this year.

Each regional association has until June 14 to get commitments from their member papers for participation in ComBase. They will use a pricing structure based on 476 newspapers participating in the study, which would place the low cost of participation at around $2,700 and the high cost at around $9,300.

After the deadline, ComBase Project Manager Elena Dunn will recalculate the ComBase rate card based on the number of papers committed. CCNAÔÇÖs Board will meet by special teleconference on June 20 to determine the implementation status of the ComBase study for the proposed fall rollout.

Potential problems include not getting enough papers to participate or not getting enough small- and large-market papers to participate. Either condition would change the ComBase rate card. Board members said they did not want to get into a ÔÇÿchicken and egg routine,ÔÇÖ where participation numbers did not exist so a rate card could not be finalize. Since the rate card could not be finalized, participation numbers could not be accurately predicted.

The Board felt that implementing a deadline would be the best way of eliminating the potential problem.

Each association faces its own challenges in securing member participation for ComBase. For example, the British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspapers Association (BCYCNA) is in an unique situation in that about 80 per cent of its members are owned by four corporate groups: Black Press, CanWest Global, Bowes Publishing and Madison Publishing. BCYCNA President Peter Kvarnstrom told the CCNA Board that BCYCNA has chosen to use its $200,000 reserves to help pay for its membersÔÇÖ participation in ComBase and hops its members will commit to the readership research project.

ÔÇ£We are facing some pretty tough realities,ÔÇØ said Kvarnstrom. ÔÇ£But we are hopeful.ÔÇØ

Other associations are ensuring their members will participate in the project. The Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association (SWNA) recently agreed to donate two pages of advertising each year for two years towards the national costs of ComBase and two pages of advertising towards the regional (SWNA) contribution to ComBase. SWNA publishers also voted a one per cent levy on regional advertising sales. All of SWNAÔÇÖs members can participate in ComBase at no cost.

The Alberta Weekly Newspapers Association (AWNA) Board of Directors approved a four-point funding approach that will be presented to its members at AWNAÔÇÖs spring meeting on May 10. The approach includes funds from AWNA reserves, AWNAÔÇÖs operating budget, a service fee on national advertising placements and the sale of pages from members. The AWNA Board will also present a motion to its members at its annual general meeting in September to make ComBase participation mandatory for all members.

The Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (MCNA) instituted a levy on national advertising last year in anticipation of ComBase. The association is also looking at other ways of helping to pay for the readership research project. ÔÇ£My intent all along is to get all 46 members aboard,ÔÇØ said MCNA Executive Director Rick Major.

The Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) is still looking at a variety of methods to help fund ComBase, including a possible levy on AdReach sales and the sale of full-page ads. OCNA president Fred Heidman said the association hasnÔÇÖt ruled anything out to make ComBase as affordable as possible to its members.

Both the Quebec Community Newspapers Association and the Atlantic Community Newspapers Associ