By: George Garneau
Controversial New Haven Register memo is revealed by competing Hartford Courant sp.
THE MARKETING DIRECTOR of the New Haven Register has asked the paper’s advertising staff to subscribe at home and warned that those who don’t will have to explain why to their bosses.
The memo by marketing director Mike Lynch was reported Feb. 10 by the Hartford Courant, whose story by reporter W. Joseph Campbell said the Register “is struggling to keep daily circulation above 100,000.”
In the memo to about 80 ad staffers, Lynch said it is “imperative that you support your product by subscribing to it.” He also urged staff subscribers to inform the circulation department if their paper doesn’t arrive or if newsracks are empty.
“I know that many of you subscribe on the weekends,” he added. “However, I feel it is important for you to change that buying decision, and by doing so help this company maintain and grow our circulation base.” Employees get a 50% discount on subscriptions.
Lynch said he would give his staff until Feb. 28 to subscribe. “At that point, if it is determined that you do not subscribe, you can expect to meet with me and your supervisor to discuss the issue.”
Lynch warned that after the cutoff date, the paper’s circulation database would be checked to determine who has not subscribed.
Register publisher William J. Rush defended the memo’s thrust, but said Lynch “was a little zealous and he probably went a little too far, but, I think, not much.” While Rush said nobody will lose a job over a subscription, he rescinded Lynch’s threat to check the circulation database for names of nonsubscribing employees.
Rush said he has run a handful of papers, all of which encouraged employees to buy and read the paper, but conceded it is unusual to put such a prompting in writing. “I can’t imagine anybody saying, ‘[Employees], we don’t care if you read the paper or not,’ “
The Courant reported that Register’s six-month circulation as of Sept. 30 was 100,160, down from 100,399 a year earlier. Rush said he resented the implication that the memo was intended to bolster the Register’s flagging circulation. “It was more to help them do their jobs right,” he said. “It’s not to help circulation.”
He said that, to be fair, the Courant story should have reported “what I believe are the biggest circulation losses in the state ? the Courant’s 3,000 daily and nearly 6,500 Sunday.”
In fact, Audit Bureau of Circulations’ rules allow publishers to count employees ? and carriers ? twice in tallying paid circulation: once, when they get a free copy at work, and a second time, if they choose to pay to subscribe at home.
ABC regional director Ronnie Williams estimated that 75% of newspaper employees subscribe to their own paper, but he said some publishers don’t know about rules allowing free papers for workers to count as paid circulation.