PaperChain: Free Paper Industry Has Reason to Cheer

Latest Audit Numbers Show Wide, Deep & Stable Circulation

Before the national circulation narrative turns to gloom and doom next week, there's plenty of reason to celebrate right now at the community level. Audit data for the first half of 2009 has just been crunched by Circulation Verification Council (CVC), and their Media Facts Release details continued circulation stability across the community (country?) and niche publication sectors. Even better news: lots of actual gains! Circulation gains were reported by 45 percent of the publications in the Community Newspaper category, 54 percent of the publications in the Alternative Newsweeklies category, and 54 percent of the publications in the Ethnic Publications category.

"Obviously, this is good news and it's great to finally see an appetite to cover it," said Dan Holmes, president of the board of PaperChain and executive director of the Free Community Papers of New York, referring to recent positive coverage of community newspapers. "Our peers at NNA started the cheers with their survey of 500 adults, and we're excited to be able to back their local community findings with thousands - actually tens of thousands - of independent zip-level phone surveys. CVC's work on that front has been critical and their long-standing partnership invaluable."

The good news from community papers is even better news for advertisers. Remarkable local penetration and solid readership numbers are now being met with rising purchase intention scores. The number of readers indicating they frequently purchase products or services from advertisements seen in their community and niche publications is up over a point from last year, topping three out of four with a 75.6% score.

"This increase is potentially significant because purchase intention scores have been stable for years," said CVC President Tim Bingaman. "A blip in the national average of one to two percent requires substantial change in purchasing behaviors from existing readers. This shows that readers are increasingly looking to community and niche publications to research sales and buying opportunities before spending money."

Some might rain on this parade out of knee-jerk reaction to free publications, but Holmes points to the recent move by Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) that now allows product sold for one cent to count as paid. "The distinction between barely paid and honestly free is now as thin as it can be," said Holmes, bringing the high profile battle between Wall Street Journal and USA Today into context. "I think Nat Ives put it best describing their efforts to discredit each others' circulation. In his AdAge post, he concluded with today's wisdom: ‘And plenty of people are increasingly interested in the simple number of readers, whether they paid for it, read it in a doctor's office or found it on the subway.' And that's where we're at, with CVC scrutinizing the numbers, calling readers in our markets, and delivering statistically certain bona fides."

PaperChain is the nation's largest integrated organization of its kind, dedicated to connecting media buyers and our industry with reliable, factual information and proven results. www.paperchain.com

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