SWNA makes ‘dramatic step’ in ComBase participation

ComBase has taken three steps forward and one step back.

While the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association (SWNA) is making the readership research project a requirement of membership and Alberta has seen five chain papers sign on, Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (MCNA) publishers have rethought their involvement.

SWNA members voted at the associationÔÇÖs meeting in September to make participation in ComBase a requirement of membership. The requirement would only apply to new members; current members would not be affected.

Because the decision would change the associationÔÇÖs bylaws, it will need to be ratified at SWNAÔÇÖs semi-annual general meeting in February, 2003.

SWNA pays the cost of its membersÔÇÖ participation in ComBase. The association has had a one per cent levy on national ad sales since March, 2002 to help pay for ComBase participation. SWNA also plans to sell four pages of advertising per member per year to help offset costs.

SWNA President Chris Ashfield said the decision reflects SWNA membersÔÇÖ dedication to ComBase. ÔÇ£The publishers are behind it and believe it will increase our sales and get our names out there,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£Everyone believes very strongly in ComBase.ÔÇØ

Canadian Community Newspapers Association President Jim Cumming said SWNAÔÇÖs decision was ÔÇÿdramatic.ÔÇÖ

ÔÇ£I believe it is a very body step ÔÇô pretty dramatic,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£The publishers believe that ComBase is very crucial to the industry in Saskatchewan and they feel it will help make newspapers in Saskatchewan stronger. They are so committed to it that they made it a condition of membership.

Support for ComBase across the county has remained firm. The Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) has announced that it has put aside $150,000 to be divided equally among the 66 Ontario papers participating in ComBase. This means that each participating Ontario newspaper in ComBase will receive approximately $2,300 towards the cost of ComBase in the first year.

ÔÇ£This shows great leadership by the OCNA board and their commitment to ComBase and readership research in the province of Ontario,ÔÇØ said Cumming.

The Alberta Weekly Newspaper Association is paying for every member newspaper who wishes to participate by using one per cent levy on national ad sales to help pay for it.

Also in Alberta, five Bowes Newspaper Network papers have signed on to participate in ComBase. The newspapers are Whitecourt Star, Leduc Representative, Camrose Canadian, High River Times and Strathmore Standard.

Bowes President Bill Dempsey said he hopes more Bowes papers will participate in ComBase in the future. ÔÇ£I think that ComBase is worth a shot to see if we can get on the radar screens of these agencies,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£To me, over the years there has not been a combined effort to try and put our story forward to the decision makers on a consolidated bases and I think that win, lose or draw, itÔÇÖs worth a shot to go ahead and see what happens.ÔÇØ

Dempsey said Bowes is planning on participating in ComBase in stages. ÔÇ£Now Rome wasnÔÇÖt built in a day, but after we get this thing going, if in fact the results become positive, I think itÔÇÖs going to pick up some momentum and take on a life of its own,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£If the proof is in the pudding, everyone will benefit.

ÔÇ£We said right at the outset that we were ComBase supporters,ÔÇØ he said.

Despite the positive signs for ComBase in the rest of the country, the readership research project is going ahead with fewer Manitoba publishers than originally expected.

Citing cost as the main stumbling block, Manitoba Community Newspapers Association (MCNA) publishers have rethought the idea of selling two pages of advertising and using a levy on ad sales to help fund the readership research project for MCNA newspapers.

This puts the decision whether or not to participate