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PUBLISHERS REMINDED OF THEIR DUTY TO PROMOTE Annual Audit Bureau sessions focus on print's strength in a web-crazed world.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The occasion was the annual meeting of the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The setting was the ornate Fairmont Hotel atop this city's ritzy Nob Hill. The keynote speaker was Dan Logan of Time Inc. His talk was full of facts and figures. But his best line -- and the true keynote of the meetings -- was a good-ole-boy saying from his Southern boyhood: "It's a sorry dog that won't wag its own tail."

Logan, the chairman, president and chief executive of Time Inc. of New York, called on the 500 publishers, circulation and marketing executives, advertisers and advertising agency representatives at the annual Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) meeting on Nov. 3-5 to let a world seemingly obsessed with the Internet know that magazines, newspapers and other printed matter are here to stay.

His keynote was echoed by P. Anthony Ridder, chairman and chief executive of Knight Ridder of San Jose, who declared that "the newspaper industry is alive and well -- and will be for as far out as I can see." Ridder backed up his optimism with hard facts and statistics. He also urged the newspaper industry to, as Logan said, wag its tail.

And six participants in a roundtable on circulation and readership agreed that advertisers want -- and need -- more information on readership of newspapers and magazines. While praising the integrity and validity of ABC audits, the roundtable speakers urged the print media to develop in-depth information about its readers. Again, bragging -- wagging the tail.

Among several ideas for increasing newspaper circulation that surfaced at the sessions was the use of bulk sales at colleges and universities to reach younger readers. Another hot topic was the tying in of newspaper sales with events such as fairs, festivals and auto races.

Time's Logan began by saying he is "bullish on print" and that the changes involving magazines and newspapers "are making a stronger and healthier industry." He said that Time Inc. has had 13 percent growth during the last eight years and hopes "to do the same in another five years."

After noting the loss of sweepstakes stamp sheets as a major subscription source (because of their misleading people into thinking they had won prizes), Logan went on to say that Time had found a new partner in TicketMaster, which offers subscriptions to magazines such as Sports Illustrated and Entertainment Weekly when tickets are being purchased. There is also Time Inc. advertising on the tickets.

To reach young readers, Time Inc. is now publishing Time for Kids (which in four years has built its circulation to 2.6 million), Teen People and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

"And," Logan asked, "have you noticed all the ads from dot-coms in print and on television? If this is obsolescence, I think we all can get to like it."

He concluded with a plea for an ABC statement "for the 21st century. We have to prove to advertisers that we are reaching people. The ABC statement has more sub-clauses than the tax code and has had more face lifts than Zsa Zsa Gabor. What is really needed is information on net paid circulation, basic rates, premiums and inducements. We have to demonstrate our 'wantedness.'"


While Logan focused on the magazine industry, which has problems not unlike those facing newspapers, Ridder took a hard look at newspapers.

After declaring that the business is alive and well, he said, "The industry's publishers and editors are working very hard to improve their content and service so that the daily newspaper remains -- I repeat, remains -- the single most efficient and powerful advertising medium. ... Newspapers are in a great position to take advantage of the Internet. I see the Internet as a real opportunity for newspapers to bolster their position as the premier source of local news, information and advertising."

Ridder pointed out that "newspapers have continued to enjoy healthy revenues even as the doomsayers predict our demise" and that "the newspaper industry has demonstrated that it is remarkably resilient and robust." As a result, he went on to say, "newspapers have the financial ability to invest substantially in their on-line efforts, as well as to reinvest in their core business."

Ridder cited three fundamental strengths of newspapers:

* In any given community, newspapers employ the largest newsgathering force and the largest sales force: "The newspaper has deep roots in the community as well as valuable business relationships ... intangible but priceless assets."

* On weekdays, nearly six adults in 10 read a newspaper; on Sundays, the number is nearly seven in 10. "Compare that reach to a typical half-hour of prime time television on the four major networks combined. That half-hour doesn't reach even four in 10 adults."

* "Newspapers get results for advertisers."

Ridder then took on the argument that newspapers' share of advertising spending declined more than any other media between 1993 and 1998, and that circulation has shrunk over the last 10 years because "young people don't read and older readers are dying off."

Drawing on research by Bill Drewry, who tracks the newspaper industry for the Wall Street firm of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Inc., Ridder said that between 1996, when the World-Wide Web began to emerge as a mass medium, and 1998, newspapers' share of total advertising revenue declined from 22.1 percent to 22 percent, the Internet has gotten a 0.5 percent share, and the four major television networks have dropped from 7.5 percent to 6.8 percent.

He attributed the circulation loss over the last 10 years to the decline of afternoon papers, saying that morning circulation has continued to rise during the same period. He did note that Sunday circulation is off about 3.5 percent over the last eight years, but then said, "That eight-year decline of 3.5 points equals approximately a one-year loss in audience for the four major TV networks."

As for younger readers, he said that more than 412 out of 10 adults age 18 to 34 read a paper on a weekday -- and 512 out of 10 on Sundays. "That's a lot of reading by people who are accused of not being readers," Ridder commented.

Throughout his talk, Ridder emphasized local, local, local.

"If you are the typical retailer," he said, "or you're selling cars or homes, or seeking new employees, most of the time the transaction happens locally. And as Bill Drewry noted, newspapers offer the largest local audience penetration of any medium, and when you include the local newspaper web site, the audience is even greater. ... The point is, the more local content we have -- news and advertising as well as listings of places to go and things to do -- the more useful people believe their newspaper is."

The industry, he added, "must be more aggressive in promoting and marketing the newspaper. We have a good story to tell -- we need to tell it better than we ever have."

To strengthen the appeal of the daily newspaper, Ridder said his editors and publishers are trying to make newspapers easier to use, with better and consistent sectioning, grouping of classified ads in a way that makes sense to the occasional user, better indexing, more news summaries, and "a relentless focus on news that matters."

"We, as an industry," Ridder continued, "have to remember that our product is not ink on newsprint. Our product is information and ... our product is highly adaptable. That's why local radio stations so eagerly 'adapt' our news copy every morning and TV news editors 'adapt' many of our local stories as well. Why do they do that? Because it's quality information. As Bill Drewry says, 'Think reliability, trusted brand, guidance, packaging, valued opinion.' And because of that quality, that adaptability, and in particular because of our localness, we can leverage it into success on-line."

Ridder went on to discuss his company's Real Cities web network which he said operates either the No. One or No. Two site in each Knight Ridder market. "The next challenge for Knight Ridder," he said, "and frankly it's the same challenge for the entire newspaper industry, is to develop a true national network of local web sites, which is what we intend to do through our Real Cities concept. ...

"The newspaper's advantage is our localness, but we have to be a network of local sites based on a common platform, with a common look and feel, and one that is truly innovative as well."


Logan's and Ridder's stimulating and challenging comments were followed the next day by a lively roundtable discussion of circulation and readership.

Representing newspapers was David Murphy, vice president for marketing and sales for the Chicago Tribune. Steve Seabolt, president and chief executive of Sunset Publishing, represented magazines. Terry Prill, director of newspaper strategy and special products for Minneapolis retailer Dayton Hudson's corporate marketing division, and Bobbi Asano, manager of media buying for Kraft Foods, outlined advertisers' needs and wishes. Hugh Dow, president of Canada's Initiative Media, was the panel's survey expert.

Jayne Spittler, senior vice president and worldwide media research director for Leo Burnett, moderated. When Spittler asked what the panelists would like to see on an ABC statement, Kraft's Asano stressed the demographics of circulation as well as information on product usage, lifestyle and "psychographics."

Dayton Hudson's Prill wanted information on section and insert readership, as well as data on what makes a market unique. Dow called for "as rich information as we can get ... portraits of subscribers and readers." Seabolt pleaded for information on total audiences and said "forget circulation." The Tribune's Murphy agreed that demographic information emphasizing consumer spending was needed.

"All households are not created equal." Murphy went on to say, "The question is not how many, but who are they? Where are they likely to shop? How much will they buy? Circulation is getting less attention. Advertisers want to know what is the composition of the audience. Newspapers with less circulation may be of more value because of their audience. We never hear about the newspaper share of the mass audience."

Sunset's Seabolt echoed Murphy's comments. "Every eyeball is not created equal," Seabolt said. "You don't want to take eyeballs off the street just to fill up a cup." Spittler summed up many of the issues discussed by the panel, noting that advertisers want to know about paid versus unpaid circulation, primary versus pass-along and subscribers versus single-copy sales.

At another session, John Payne, senior vice president of member services and strategic planning of ABC, discussed his agency's new Reader Profile Service, which he said "was created to fulfill newspaper advertisers' growing demand for credible, standardized readership data." So far, he said, 17 newspapers have signed up for the service, which includes interviews in readers' homes as well as information compiled in newspapers' offices.

Another lively session focused on bulk newspaper sales to colleges and universities for distribution in dormitories. Larry Lindquist, senior vice president for circulation for USA Today, and Henry Maitz III, executive vice president of the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., described how the program began at Pennsylvania State University at the suggestion of the university's president, who was concerned about the decline in newspaper readership among students.

The success of the program at Penn State led ABC to sanction such bulk operations as paid circulation, and the program is spreading. Jeff Beckley, vice president of circulation for the Dallas Morning News, described the Texas College Newspaper Reading Program which has expanded to seven schools and includes 11 newspapers.

"It's a golden opportunity," he said "to reach students at an impressionable age." Typically three or more newspapers are distributed together, with the mix including a local paper and USA Today, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.

And here is one more piece of good news.

"Kids," said USA Today's Lindquist, "do not go on-line for hard news." And what better place is there to find hard news than a newspaper?
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Comment:PUBLISHERS REMINDED OF THEIR DUTY TO PROMOTE Annual Audit Bureau sessions focus on print's strength in a web-crazed world.
Author:Duscha, Julius
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 22, 1999
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