ABC Approves New Community Newspaper Service

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Seeking to accommodate community newspaper publishers squeezed by the recession, the Audit Bureau of Circulations board has given its final approval for a new Community Newspaper Audit service with lower costs and simpler requirements.

The new discounted service, open to all newspapers with a daily average circulation under 25,000, is set to debut in March 2010 in U.S. markets. Canada will follow later that year.

The new CNA service will be supported by all-inclusive fees, beginning at just $2,000 per year.

It also simplifies requirements for complying with the audit, which should allow publishers to reduce the amount of time spent assembling data for the audit and lower administrative costs. The low-cost service also brings inclusion in ABC's online database, a searchable resource for advertisers and ad agencies.

While not impervious to the effects of the economic downturn, smaller community newspapers have, on the whole, fared substantially better than big metro dailies, which tend to dominate headlines with their dramatic revenue declines.

According to a long-term study from the Inland Press Association, newspapers with circulations under 15,000 did see revenue grow 2.4% over the last five years. While only a modest increase, that's far better than the newspaper business overall, which saw total revenues decline 22% from 2004-2008, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

It's hard to find reliable numbers for smaller newspapers, which are often privately owned, but Cribb Greene & Associates -- a broker which handles M&A for small newspapers -- said ad revenues are typically only down 10% to 15%.

Separately, the ABC board also reiterated its support for a task force that is studying how changes in publishing and distribution, and the emergence of print-digital hybrid models affect advertising. Findings will have implications for ABC measurement and reporting standards.

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