LETTERS

LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.CCNA sessionsIn september 1992, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association conducted...

LETTERS to the editor should be accompanied by a home and business telephone number so that they may be verified. The editor reserves the right to edit letters for brevity if necessary.

CCNA sessions

In september 1992, the Canadian Community Newspapers Association conducted a focus session of 12 knowledgable media buyers and planners from national and retail advertisers and agencies.

Their views and suggestions were similar to those which appeared in Strategy’s Special Report on Community Newspapers in the March 22 issue.

CCNA, which represents 683 English-language community newspapers, is addressing several of their concerns.

Readership research seems to be the primary concern of agencies and advertisers.

Major groups within our association such as MetroValley, The VAN Network and Metroland conduct readership surveys of their own.

CCNA has administered readership surveys for an additional 120 community newspapers over the past three years.

We also sponsor questions in the pmb survey. Results have shown readership of community newspapers to be most impressive, especially when compared to other media.

CCNA is currently exploring options on conducting further readership surveys.

Another concern seems to be credible audits of a newspaper’s circulation.

Currently, 86% of ccna’s membership is either audited or verified through abc, ccab, odc or our own vcp (Verified Circulation Paid) or vcc (Verified Circulation Controlled) programs.

We are presently addressing other issues, such as standardization of column widths and line rates.

ccna is listening to and addressing concerns and suggestions we receive from our advertising clients.

Michael Mozewsky

Marketing Director

Canadian Community Newspapers Association

Toronto

Smoke and mirrors

The special Report on Community Newspapers in the March 22 issue caught my attention and I eagerly anticipated being updated on the issues and challenges facing that industry.

Holy smokes and mirrors, I wasn’t prepared for an article (‘Survey gets surprising results’) bashing daily newspapers, extensively quoting David Jenneson, who represents one of the community newspaper groups in the Lower Mainland.

That stuff should be kept to paid ads.

There are so many errors, omissions and just plain misleading statements in the article, it’s hard to know where to begin commenting.

I’ll restrain myself to a few key points.

First, the survey did not cover major portions of the Lower Mainland. Specifically, Vancouver’s North Shore, East Vancouver and only about one-third of the West Side households qualified.

It did include, however, the communities of Hope (154 kilometres out of Vancouver), Mission, Abbotsford and Matsqui.

Thirty-six per cent of The Vancouver CMA households were disqualified from the sample, yet the article implies the survey is representative of the Lower Mainland.

Second, Jenneson did not divulge this same survey found that 65% of the respondents would not pay for their weekly newspaper.

Third, The Vancouver Sun and The Province have a combined daily circulation of over 316,500 in the city and retail trading zones. (abc, six months ending, September 30, 1992), and on a weekly basis we sell over 2.4 million papers.

NADbank ’92 reported that on each and every weekday, 65% of all the adults in the Vancouver CMA – that’s over 835,000 people – read either paper.

In a week, the readership grows to over 1.1 million people, or 87% of the market.

Readership and market penetration of both dailies has been up three years running and is continuing to rise.

Community newspapers fill a need in the marketplace.

The Vancouver market has over 36 of them. That point is obvious.

But for Jenneson to conclude, ‘how quickly dailies are evolving out of the marketplace’ is, at best, ingenuous, and, at worst, misleading.

Let’s get the facts straight and avoid the smoke and mirrors.

Ron Clark

Vice-president, Marketing

Pacific Press

Vancouver

VAN responds

This letter and analysis of the MetroValley Newspaper Group research results is in response to the press release issued by Metro Valley Newspaper Group that Strategy used as a basis for the story (‘Survey gets surprising results’) in your Special Report on Community Newspapers in the March 22 issue.

We at the Vancouver Area Newspaper Network have the following comments and observations:

1. The ‘top-of-mind’ question was asked with a geographic modifier that would tend to lessen the response for one of the daily newspapers.

For example, in the market served by MetroValley’s Tri-City News the question asked was: ‘Thinking of newspapers available in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, what newspaper comes to mind first?’

We would suggest that this geographic specifier might result in a different answer than that which is implied by the question.

It is reasonable to assume that many people are confused by the geographic specifier and select a community newspaper over the dailies.

It should be noted that our firm does not currently publish a weekly publication in South Surrey and White Rock, but the information suggests that this market was included in the comparison.

If that is judged as acceptable by the marketplace, why did the MetroValley Newspaper Group not survey market areas where VAN Network published newspapers exclusively?

The addition of The North Shore, the unsurveyed areas of Vancouver’s West Side, Vancouver’s East Side and South Delta would significantly skew the numbers from the ones represented in the MetroValley findings.

The unsurveyed markets account for over 250,000 additional households, or approximately one-third of the total Lower Mainland households.

So, really, The MetroValley Newspaper Group is saying that they have a 38% ‘top-of-mind’ awareness in a geographic area that excludes one-third of the total market, the third that they do not reach.

2. They have drawn a conclusion that high top-of-mind awareness relates to whether a newspaper is, to quote their findings, ‘The newspaper of record.’

There is no evidence to support this linkage. Further, what criteria must a newspaper meet to be the ‘newspaper of record?’ This is a somewhat of a subjective issue.

What defined the ‘newspaper of record’ in a community? There is no quantifiable way to determine this.

Perhaps a focus group might allow this esoteric issue to be explored, but we must agree that asking a person ‘what newspaper comes to mind first in this geographic area?’ hardly gives one a definitive idea of who has ‘the newspaper of record.’

There is no evidence to suggest that high top-of-mind awareness figures can be linked to ‘the newspaper of record.’

In light of how the top-of-mind question was asked, they’ve made a rather large assumption on a poorly worded question.

Daily newspapers seem to be quoted more widely in other news media. Could it be that that’s the criteria to determine who’s the ‘newspaper of record?’

Our concern rests with the interpretation of the data and the relevance of some of the questions.

3. Before and during the data-gathering phase of the MarkTrend survey, the MetroValley Newspaper Group ran a contra radio ad campaign on cknw and conducted in-paper promotions including grocery giveaways.

If the purpose of research is to determine average levels of awareness or readership, the research environment was tainted.

Presumably, market research is intended to help the customer determine the reach and readership of a media outlet.

Television and radio know when the rating periods are, and run promotions and contests, as well as their best programming during the ratings period.

While we could argue the philosophy and ethics of such an approach to audience measurement, it is a level playing field, in that everyone knows when the surveying will be done.

4. MetroValley newspapers are not delivered in areas representing as much as one-third of the Lower Mainland, specifically North and West Vancouver, Vancouver’s East Side, the majority of Vancouver’s West Side and South Delta.

Your reporting of MetroValley’s study leaves the impression that these areas were included in the survey by using the vague phrasing of ‘downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack.’

The figures quoted do not represent Lower Mainland averages in any category. They represent averages in The MetroValley Service Area, an area that excludes nearly 250,000 households. This fact is glossed over.

5. A graph titled, ‘The MetroValley Newspaper Group Quick Fact Sheet’ shows the list of markets in which they distribute publications.

The circulation is totalled at the bottom, and a pmb research study figure of 2.4 readers per household is used to extrapolate a potential readership of 968,488.

This use of this figure is unconscionable in that it implies that every household is a reader household, and uses a provincial pmb ‘readers per household’ figure.

MarkTrend has provided them with a reader per household figure as part of the core survey they conducted to provide this top-of-mind figure.

This graph was the one that caused the greatest concern amongst our marketing staff.

As members of The Canadian Community Newspaper Association (ccna) and British Columbia and Yukon Community Newspaper Association (bcycna) we have access to omnibus surveys done in b.c. and Canada

Because of the high cost of market research, the national and provincial associations have done general surveys to measure readership of community newspapers in general.

MetroValley and VAN Network have both conducted extensive third-party research using recognized research firms.

In past presentations (1991 and 1992) provided to us by clients, MarkTrend reported a reader per household figure of between 1.3 to 1.7 readers per household in various MetroValley markets. Ask them to provide this information to you.

This is consistent with the 1992 Starch Research Services survey conducted in the Lower Mainland on behalf of VAN Network.

The figure of 2.4 readers per household is inflated somewhat by figures in rural b.c. markets, which were included in the overall pmb figures.

Bob Grainger, executive director of bcycna, can provide information on the methodology used in the pmb survey that MetroValley is quoting. (Number of households interviewed, type of questions and numbers of people interviewed in urban areas versus rural areas, etc.)

The second issue here is that you can’t just add up your circulation and multiply by the average readers per household.

If that were the case, VAN Network would have 1.2 million readers, using the pmb reader per household figure. As much as we’d like to have that many readers, we don’t.

The reality is that some people don’t read weekly newspapers. We also know that some people don’t read daily newspapers, some people don’t listen to the radio, and some people don’t watch television.

For some reason, MetroValley is implying that every household is a reader household, and, further, 2.4 readers per household pick up each and every issue.

This may seem like a rather critical review of the MetroValley study, but it is in the interest of VAN Network to make sure that newspaper research is seen as a credible tool for the advertiser.

Community newspapers have become an important part of the media mix available in this region.

We have, however, all suffered from a perception that community newspapers are not professionally run, and consequently advertising agencies find it easier to persuade their clients to deal with other media rather than defend the community newspaper industry.

Community newspapers suffer from an image problem. We lack the lights and glamor of television, the booming presence of radio and the ‘older than time itself’ credibility of daily newspapers.

To address this concern, our industry has tried to provide survey data that will support our readership and reach claims.

The ccna and bcycna have tried to convince the industry that consistent research such as NADbank, used by daily newspapers and magazines, and bbm, is used by electronic media outlets, in order to demonstrate definitively the enormous power of the community press.

They have been unable to convince their members to participate in a comprehensive program due to cost, and the fact that one newspaper is going to get better results than another. They have, therefore, conducted omnibus surveys in some regions of the county.

For companies like MetroValley and VAN Network, who are locked in a competitive market battle, this information was not very conclusive.

Both companies have research that measures readership. Our company also publishes newspapers in Lower Mainland markets, some exclusively containing one-third of the households, so no matter how MetroValley adds the numbers, we’re going to have an overall higher level of readership in the Fraser Valley.

We acknowledge that they have slightly higher net readership in some markets, that’s why we have different rate structures.

They will not acknowledge that in most markets we have virtually the same levels of readership and, in fact, we have slightly higher readership in some markets where we compete head to head.

Rick O’Connor, vice-president of newspaper operations for Lower Mainland Publishing, has frequently told VAN Network staff and clients ‘community newspaper readers are community newspaper readers.

‘Overall, a very small number of readers choose to read one paper or the other exclusively, most read both, because each publication offers a different package and approach to news and advertising in the community.’

The decision to buy one newspaper over the other invariably comes down to value and service. Top-of-mind awareness is merely smoke and mirrors to cloud what should be a straightforward decision-making process.

Readership, reach and rates and service – let’s get back to basics and talk about the things that really matter, because at the end of the day the person who carries the advertising is expected to deliver results, not hot air.

Cheryl Carter

Marketing Manager

VAN – Vancouver Area Newspaper Network

Vancouver