Editorial: Response to recent comments about Morinville News contract

To our readers and the public:

I do not generally respond to The Free Press’ annual attack on The Morinville News’s advertising contract; however, I think some facts need to be presented in response to an article they recently published as a similar article was written last year when my company’s contract came before Council as is required under law.

This is not something new

We have had an ad contract with the Town for four or five years now and it has become a matter of public record, as it should, for the past two years due to my role on Council.

This year, the Town of Morinville advised all publications, including The Free Press, that they were doing a six-month review of their advertising purchases to see where people were getting their information. As such – they were only committing to six-month contracts and would review contracts at the end of six months.

Here’s the contract we actually got

The Morinville News is in receipt of a signed contract for $18,260 plus GST – NOT $33,000 as indicated in the article as there is NO guarantee that the Town will continue as they have with either publication in town past the review period. Contracts UP TO $33,000 have been approved and that number includes GST.

Our signed contract runs from February to July. If the Town decides to continue with the contract for August to December, the value of the second contract is an additional $13,943.00. The combined total is $32,203 plus GST.

Why the increase?

Because of the uncertainty of the contract term, we submitted two contracts – one based on six months with our company’s standard six month discount, and one for the remaining five months, which we have included a full year discount, treating the potential extension contract as if it were a full year. AGAIN – there is no certainty that the second contract will even happen.

Last year the Town entered into a full one-year contract and received a full-one year discount accordingly.

Let’s compare apples to apples

If we look at straight up comparisons between the 2014 and 2015 ad contracts, the difference is 46.6% difference – however, the 2015 contract includes other items that were not present in the 2014 contract, as well as additional services we were not offering in 2014.

The main additional difference is the inclusion of an advertising banner the cultural centre uses to promote their upcoming shows and which the Town uses to promote major events, including the recent arena announcement.

LOOK UP – it’s at the top of every page on this site.

The value of this is $1200 of the $18260 contract and another $1500 of the POTENTIAL post-review $13,000 contract. Our company previously donated that space to the Town for a six-month period to support this season’s performance series. Value $1800 the taxpayers did not pay.

If we compare purely the apples for apples items between the 2014 and 2015 contracts we get an entirely different picture than The Free Press presents in their article.

IF – and this is a BIG if – the Town purchases the services in the UNSIGNED contract for the second half of the year – here is the comparison.

In 2014 the Town paid $21,960 or $430.58 per week for 2 full pages in our publication, and a dedicated side bar ad on our daily news site linked to the Town’s website.

In 2015 ,the Town would pay $29,383.8 or $599.67 per week for two full pages, an online dedicated side bar link to a dedicated Town ad page, which includes all of the events and notices in the two page spread. This has been added so we can provide our client better data on the impact of their spending and better distribution of the information to all news readers, not just print readers. This Town advertising is also included through social media and in our daily email to subscribers.

Excluding the additional items we were asked to include in the contracts, the apple-to-apple comparison is a $7,423.80 or 33.8 per cent increase – NOT a 54.4% increase as the article suggests.

What are they getting for their dollars?

In 2015 we increased our mailed distribution by 80% over what we promoted in 2014 and our overall print run has increased by 25%. Our web traffic numbers on MorinvilleNews.com continue to increase year over year and our social media presence on Facebook alone increased from roughly 1000 followers in 2014 to 1771 as of this writing. To emphasize that in small town terms, the St. Albert Gazette has 1440 Facebook followers.

Despite the increases in our print distribution, our full-page print price increased from $350 to $400 this year. That’s a .14 percent increase. Our prices have remained the same for a few years while costs have continued to rise.

Contract term and discount

Where the major differential in price occurs in the contract this year is in the fact that the Town is committing to ONLY a six-month contract and not a one-year contract. We offer a significant discount difference for clients signing up for one year versus those signing up for six months or three months.

It is the Town’s right to take a look at and review their ad spending. We encourage it and I think their review will find most people are getting their Town information through social media and other non—print-newspaper channels. As such, they need to be able to cut print spending if it is in their interest to do so.

But it is also our right to give our clients, including the Town of Morinville, a discount in accordance with the length of time they are actually committing to. We must do that to be fair to all of the businesses that advertise with us.

According to the Free Press’ current price list, they charge $793 for one single full page in colour in their paper before any discounts. We charge $400. Their publication offers a weekly print edition that is mailed far and wide and a PDF version of the same. There is no web presence beyond a PDF version of the print edition.

Assuming $793 per page is the price the Town pays, the possible value of the Free Press contract with the Town is $38,000 for a single page advertisement with no web or social media presence.

The total potential value of my company’s contract for two full pages, online advertising, social media advertising, and additional online advertising components is $33,000.

We do not know what discount the Town gets from the Free Press as their contract is protected by the same FOIP legislation as ours. That is why the Town will not disclose details of our contract any more than they would for any contract with a business, including The Free Press. The public can know the total value of the contract, but not details regarded as proprietary information that could reduce a company’s competitive advantage in the marketplace. I’d expect a “journalist” to know this.

While the Town cannot disclose the details on my contract, I can. Below is a copy of the ONLY signed contract we have received this year. We received the signed contract Feb. 3.

first contract

Why did the contract come before Council?

Allow me one final comment on the matter – contracts with newspapers, caters and photocopy repair services are traditionally signed by the Town manager with NO input from Council.

Council approves a budget each year – the budget includes an amount for ad spending, and how many paper clips they need. The only reason The Morinville News’ contract is brought before Council is because the Municipal Government Act requires it for any contract to be signed with a business owned or partly owned by a member of Council.

I am not allowed to even be in the room when the vote is taken and I declare a pecuniary interest at the start of the meeting when the evening’s agenda is approved.

A “journalist” would know this. A “journalist” would report this.

Tristan Turner covered this in his article on the matter in our publication.

Stephen Dafoe,
Publisher, The Morinville News

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  1. Stephen , thank you for your very honest and exact reply in regards to the advertising issue. It is very unfortunate that an explanation was needed but we enjoy Morinville news and hope you continue your excellent reporting of all that is going on in our great town.
    Lil Boddez

  2. Not much point in trying to add to what Lil Boddez had to say on this as she summed it up quite nicely! We can’t ask for anything more than forthright honesty in our journalism, regardless of the medium. And whether it’s digital or paper news, you consistenly “deliver”, Stephen!

  3. I think you have covered this issue thoroughly, and hopefully that will be the end of this. Even though I am a Sturgeon County resident, and not a Morinville resident, I prefer Morinville News over The Free Press. I hope they are reading the commentary here, because I am weary of their sensational stories. For example, I am tired of the overly detailed in-depth coverage of dysfunctional municipal councils over the last couple of years. Thank you for the balance in your paper, and I am also really enjoying the recent addition of more regional and national articles. Job well done Morinville News staff! I hope one day you will expand your paper to include more Sturgeon County regions.

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