By: Lucia Moses
Parade magazine may quit sponsoring bulk copies of Sunday papers now that the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has frowned on the practice.
The ABC board decided earlier this month to limit qualified third-party/sponsorship sales programs to primarily business-to-consumer organizations, starting Oct. 1.
The move came after advertiser board members expressed concerns over such programs, said Jeff Beckley, vice president of circulation at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and chairman of an ABC circulation subcommittee which discussed the concerns. Because the Sunday supplements seek to strengthen their relationship with the newspaper, he said, advertisers felt such a program is “not quite an arm’s-length transaction.”
Parade considered the sponsorships a success, but in light of the ABC ruling is revisiting its sponsorships, according to Publisher Randy Siegel.
Parade has a third-party deal with Cox Newspapers’ four Ohio papers; it also sponsored copies on a smaller scale with its carrier Sunday papers in Denver and Salt Lake City after getting ABC approval, Siegel said. (USA Weekend pursued no such sponsorship arrangements, a spokeswoman there said.)
Al Smith, vice president of circulation for Cox Ohio Publishing, said he hopes he won’t have to end a program that has had a roughly 25% acquisition rate.
In the year-old Dayton Daily News program, the paper delivers Sunday and Thursday Parade-sponsored copies for four weeks to 500 households thought to be prospective Sunday-and-Thursday subscribers. Households got a letter explaining the sampling program, subscription form inserts, a doorknob offer, and phone call solicitation.
“It’s a wonderful acquisition program,” he said. Referring to the ABC’s position, he said, “They think it’s double-dipping, and I can’t argue with that.”
Cox just signed a six-year contract with Parade that called for continuing the sponsorship for three more years, he said. Siegel said Parade can change such elements of its contracts, however. “Dayton was a good learning experience for everyone involved, but if we can’t do them anymore, we can’t,” he said.