How NIE Works

In 1993, the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC monitors newspaper & magazine circulations for comparison of advertising rates) permitted Newspapers to charge 1/2 price for newspapers that went to schools, and still count them within ABC Full Circulation numbers. Newspapers wanted to educate students in current events, and at the same time, increase their circulation numbers. Yet their NIE programs were static: a Teacher’s Guide on a topic would accompany a classroom set of papers (usually 30) delivered to a school, but with no assurance that anything in that day’s newspaper would relate to the Teacher’s Guide topic.

sitesALIVE! presented a new model to newspapers. Since newspapers were for current news, and sitesALIVE would produce a program Ocean Challenge Live from a live, at-sea adventure, sitesALIVE argued that our updates from sea would be current news, and thus should be published in the full run of the newspaper. Thus when the participating teacher received the classroom set of papers, there would always be a feature published in the newspaper that directly correlated to the Teacher’s Guide topic of that week. The teacher would have live information from a dramatic adventure to inform the classroom discussion of that topic. Our hometown newspaper, the Boston Globe, loved this idea, and committed under contract 12 x 1/4 page (broadsheet) spaces for 12 weeks of features. On the day of publication, the classroom sets would be delivered to the schools that had signed up to their marketing campaign for the program.

Thus the newspapers became both our marketing and distribution partners.

The Boston Globe NIE director, Kim Canney, introduced us to other major market newspapers’ NIE department heads. Trip Lowell and I toured the country, talking to each paper in person, to show them the benefits. With this idea we could help solve the greatest problem for schoolteachers: how do you get and keep the kids excited and engaged? The idea was so well received that the San Francisco Chronicle, with a target of 375 teachers, received 2,000 applications. By the time of our voyage departure, we had 12 major market newspapers signed up (including Denver Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Detroit News, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, …) whose cumulative circulation reached 13 million readers each day and about 250,000 students.