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Students Get Digital Daily

Statesman counting online college subscriptions in circulation numbers

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UPDATE: This story has been corrected below.

Since about August, every Boise State student, faculty and staff member has gotten a five-day-a-week e-mail from the Idaho Statesman.

The e-mail provides five headlines from the paper, three from the university's communications office, a few ads--furniture, jewelry, Bronco wear--and a link to a digital edition of the morning paper.

Boise State approached the paper with the idea about a year ago, but the Statesman may be the first daily paper to enter into such an arrangement with a local university.

"The Statesman and the university sat down a while back, looking for ways in particular to provide students with easier access to news and information and to help them become better informed citizens," said university spokesman Frank Zang.

Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish announced the partnership in her October address to the City Club of Boise. Parrish credits Boise State President Bob Kustra with the idea.

"They came to us with the hope and idea that it would help make more informed citizens," Parrish told citydesk.

The university pays the Statesman $5,000 a year for the service, which Parrish said just covers the cost of producing the digital edition, a well-designed, zoom-able and searchable flip book of the complete paper.

It also allows the paper to count digital editions toward its circulation.

Parrish said only a few hundred people click through to the digital edition, but numbers are growing.

An un-audited Publisher's Statement provided by the Audit Bureau of Circulations shows that the Statesman is reporting an average of 1,614 paid electronic editions--presumably the Boise State edition--for the 26 weeks ending Sept. 27, 2009.*

A recent Associated Press report detailed the recent inflation of newspaper circulation numbers based on paid online content. Since April, papers that charge at least a penny per reader, can count those readers toward paid circulation numbers--whether they deliver content on paper, online or via .pdf. This is what bumped the Wall Street Journal, which charges for much of its online content, to the top of the circulation charts, according to the AP.

Parrish said the Statesman only reports audited digital edition circulation numbers--people who click through to the online version of the paper--separate from its daily paper numbers. But in an un-bylined October story in the Statesman, the paper reported a daily circulation of 52,169, a 10 percent drop from the prior year, and Sunday circ of 72,042, a six percent drop. Those numbers include the 1,614 electronic daily editions, according to the ABC report.

The ABC has counted college copies for years, as long as the university or a sponsor pays for students to read the paper.

"That's nothing new, the fact that a newspaper is distributing its paper to a college," said Kammi Altig, communications manager at ABC.

The daily e-mail may be a novel approach to distribution, however, and Parrish said other McClatchy Company papers, including the Tri-City Herald, The State in Columbia, S.C., and the Fresno Bee are considering a similar model.

Zang said the $5,000 cost to the university is not covered with student fees; it comes out of the Provost's budget. There is an opt-out on the bottom of the e-mail, but Zang said the opt-out numbers have not been large.

Zang said that the university, in its discussions with the paper, has also arranged for several internships at the Statesman, asked that its faculty experts be consulted more frequently, encouraged teachers to use the paper and incorporate current affairs in their lectures, and plans other yet-to-be-determined "special projects" with the paper.

Of the students that citydesk spoke with, some read the e-mail, some click through to the paper and others did not even notice the daily newsletter in their clogged inboxes.

Zang, who reads the print Statesman front to back over his morning coffee, said it's just another way of delivering the news.

"They do a really nice job of tailoring it to what college students would be interested in knowing," he said. "And so the stories that are highlighted in the e-mail carry a relevancy for this particular audience."

Since we're on the topic, and since the Thanksgiving week was a slow news week, we'll stay with the Statesman here for another minute. The paper reported last week that some Treasure Valley legislators are considering making it more difficult for Boise to create a Local Improvement District to help pay for a downtown streetcar.

You may recall from the Nov. 25 BW--available both online and in a paper version for free--that the city wants downtown property owners to cover some of the cost of building a streetcar line downtown. Rep. Mike Moyle, a Republican from Star, told the Statesman that he'd like to require a vote of property owners before a city passes an LID worth more than $1 million.

"We have gotten away from the initial purpose of an LID, which was to help on small projects--very local, small projects," Rep. Raul Labrador, an Eagle Republican who also says he is running for Congress, told Statesman reporter Cynthia Sewell.

Boise Democratic Rep. Branden Durst countered that the Legislature needs to help empower local governments, not trample on them.

It was just a matter of time before Boise's streetcar plan made waves at the Legislature. We wonder how many Boise State students are following the streetcar debate in their personal digital edition of the Idaho Statesman.

CORRECTION: The electronic editions reported on the Statesman’s publisher’s report reflect both the Boise State edition and electronic Newspapers in Education editions, which are distributed to grade schools. Forty-two of the 1,614 average daily electronic editions reported in the six months prior to September 27 come from Boise State, according to Statesman publisher Mi-Ai Parrish.