Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Scapegoating NIE Circ

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Editorial: Scapegoating NIE Circ

Article excerpt

Wall Street, which championed the relentless penny-pinching that met quarterly financial targets but too often led to smaller newsrooms filling smaller newsholes for smaller audiences, wants to help newspapers again.

This time the Street's on a jihad against circulation that falls short of its newly dreamed-up standards of "quality." Bright young media analysts have suddenly discovered that sometimes third parties pay for the newspapers people read -- and frankly, they're appalled.

So the same thundering herd that dispatched urgent "buy" recommendations for Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing and the rest, is now tarring all third-party circulation as suspect. Newspapers probably shouldn't pay attention to any of this nonsense -- but they court disaster if they follow the particularly ignorant advice they're getting about Newspapers in Education (NIE).

Prudential Equity Research, for example, has ginned up a "circulation quality screener" that sets off alarms if a paper's NIE circulation grows 20% or more in a year or represents more than 4% of total circ. How Prudential settled on these standards isn't clear, but it sure isn't historical trends: With Wall Street's usual attention deficit disorder, the research covers a whole year.

NIE, on the other hand, has been growing readership for seven decades. "The body of research done on NIE proves quite the opposite of what these shortsighted individuals are telling newspapers," says Dr. …

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