By: Mark Fitzgerald
Penn State program papers to count as paid circulation
The “free” daily newspaper program that dramatically increased readership among Pennsylvania State University students could spread to campuses nationwide now that the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) says the papers distributed to students qualify as paid circulation.
“I think this could really catch on ?although it’s not a slam-dunk by any means,” says Henry Haitz III, vice president and chief financial officer of one paper that will immediately benefit from the rule change, the 25,000-circulation Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.
Penn State buys local and national daily newspapers in bulk and makes them available to students free of charge in racks placed in campus dormitories. A survey this spring shows the percentage of students reading a daily paper every day or nearly every day increased from 15% when the program started two years ago to 73%.
In creating the new “college-resident” category, ABC also adopted its least imposing standard yet for the accept-or-decline decision that has always been critical to its definition of paid circulation. When newspapers distribute copies in hotels, for instance, guests generally must be notified they will pay for them and given the option at check-in to decline. In the college-resident category, students in residence halls “accept” the paper by picking it up and “decline” it by walking past the rack.
“One of the things that really helped was [the ABC board’s] understanding that you can’t inconvenience your business partner,” Haitz says.
In another significant change, the new college-resident copies will be reported as a separate category of Newspaper In Education (NIE) sales in paragraph 1 of ABC statements ? even if the papers are not used in a classroom setting. The policy, which will go into effect with the new school year this fall, retains the traditional requirement that newspapers be sold for at least 50% of their basic price. At Penn State, part of the cost of the papers is passed on to students through an additional $5 in their activity fees each semester.
Penn State’s Residence Hall Newspaper Readership program has been a circulation windfall for the dailies involved. Two national papers, The New York Times and USA Today, and the student paper, The Daily Collegian, are available at the main campus and all seven satellite campuses. As the local paper serving Penn State’s main campus, the Centre Daily Times says the readership program has increased its average weekday circulation 2.5%.
“There are 2.2 million students in residence halls across the country, although only about 10 [schools] have more than 10,000 on campus. So there isn’t a lot of potential for abuse,” Haitz says.
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