Campus Plus, the national advertising placement agency for university newspapers under Canadian University Press (CUP), announced last Wednesday it will be closing.
In an email to all CUP members, chair and Ontario regional director of CUP, Jessie Willms, said that the agency has experienced three years of losses and is too fractured and mismanaged to restructure.
She said CUP is trying to lighten the effect on more than 100 university papers. She hopes none will close.
“We’re doing everything we can so that situation never comes up,” Willms told The Ryersonian. “Whatever we can do for those papers we’re doing.”
Campus Plus, or C+ gives student newspapers access to national advertisers they may not otherwise get. It was formed in 1980.
The largest advertisers through C+ were from the education, government and financial sectors.
But the closing of the service doesn’t come as a surprise to some people at various newspapers.
Liane McLarty, general manager of The Eyeopener, says the losses Campus Plus suffered were felt industry wide in newspapers.
“In 2008 the advertising market just went away,” she said. “That year the CBC lost 40 per cent of its advertising … and C+ took the same kind of hit.”
For Bryn Ossington, executive director of student publications at Laurier in Waterloo, Ont., the closing has been something they’ve been not prepping for.
“We’re not in a position where it will kill us,” he said, referring to the university’s paper, The Cord. “It will hurt in some ways, but ads have dwindled significantly anyways.”
Ossington says the sales they received from Campus Plus made up only 20 per cent of their advertising profit, whereas their revenue used to be almost evenly split between C+ and local profit.
He said The Cord has been working with Rouge Media, a national advertising placement company, on its own digital advertising strategy since September 2012.
“C+ wasn’t doing enough to stay on top of things … the medium is changing day-to-day,” he said. “There was a lack of accountability on C+’s part.”
CUP has tried to work to establish digital advertising strategies for their papers outside of Campus Plus, starting their own partnership with Rouge Media through their Rouge Campus department January of this year.
Problem is, digital advertising sales don’t bring in profit anywhere close to print.
“I’ve seen some industry reports that say for every dollar lost from print advertising, only a dime is replaced by online ads,” said Gavin Adamson, a journalism instructor at Ryerson University.
“University papers still make all their money in print,” said CUP president Sam Brooks. “It’s just not a profitable sector with or without Campus Plus.”
Brooks agrees with Ossington, and says part of the reason C+ failed was because of mismanagement.
Campus Plus was run by permanent employees, including 12-year Executive Director Robert May, while CUP has a different president each year.
“You have a full-time, year-to-year CEO you’re supposed to report to as a recent grad to learn how to run a company in one year,” said Ossington. “C+ wasn’t doing enough to stay on top of things.”
Now, the organization is looking at different partnerships to offer the same ad services to university papers. Though he wouldn’t elaborate, Brooks said there are three partnerships CUP is looking into, one of which is the Ontario Community Newspaper Association.
“It’s one partnership possibility,” Brooks said. “But it’s too public of a deal to say anything yet.”
As for the papers in the meantime, Ossington says the dwindling sales of the past few years have prepared many campus papers for this sort of lack of revenue.
He said he’s not sure if The Cord will pay for a new plan from CUP.
“We’ll have to look at it first before we pick a pony and ride,” he said.
This version corrects the title of Robert May.