In a unanimous decision, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association board of directors has approved the full national launch of the ComBase readership research project.
In a special teleconference of the board held June 20, directors confirmed that the first-ever community newspaper study would begin life with a minimum of 290 member newspapers. In making its decision, the board stressed that while the study will still have gaps in some markets, notably the lower mainlaind of British Columbia, the participation of 300 newspapers was a major achievement.
The majority of participating newspapers are independently owned, in small and medium size markets. Many of the industry’s leading corporate owners, such as Osprey Media, Black Press and CanWest, declined to participate in the study. Others, such as Sun Media (Bowes), Metroland and Transcontinental are joining the study with a small number of strategically chosen markets.
Preparation of the study will begin immediately with telephone surveying to start in September. Final results, which will include some 40 publications surveyed in the pilot markets, will be delivered in Spring 2003.
According to Jim Cumming, CCNA vice president, chair of the Research Task Force and a major force behind the study, the final national study will have data for over 330 newspapers, including the massive Greater Toronto Area which was surveyed in the pilot. In its motion, the board also made it possible for individual titles and corporate groups to join the first study during the summer.
“We’ll accept last-minute participants for as long as it’s operationally feasible,” said Jim Cumming. “The important thing is that this project is now a reality and it’s the independent owners who have lead the way with their investment.”
With the current level of participation, total cost for the project over the next four years will be some $4 million. This will include a full national study in years one and four. Individual papers will pay an annual fee that amortizes all costs over the four years. Fees are calculated from a rate card based on circulation.