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Campus Notebook: House to Publish Details on Web-Based Ad Franking

Because more Members are using Facebook and Google to reach constituents, the House will begin publishing a detailed breakdown on online franking in disbursement statements.

The new report will reflect how many Web ads, telephone town hall notices and other types of nonprint franked items Members are using each quarter.

The quarterly report currently publishes a lump sum for each Member — how many total mass mailings and communications they sent that quarter — along with the number of pieces sent per address in the Member’s district, total postage costs of mass mailings and postage cost per address.

But the reports led to confusion, giving the appearance that Members were sending, in some cases, millions of pieces of franked mail — as many as 70 per household in their district — when the number in fact reflected mostly Internet advertising.

“To improve transparency and the accuracy of the reports,” House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) wrote in a letter to Chief Administrative Officer Dan Strodel, the office will now “create two separate summary reports.”

The first will list only the number of hard-copy mail pieces, number of pieces sent per address, total postage costs of mass mailings and postage cost per address, Strodel spokesman Dan Weiser said.

The second will break out the total number of communications according to what type of media was used in addition to the information detailing the average number distributed per household, total cost and the average cost per household address.

House Administration Committee spokeswoman Salley Wood said the report will include Web ad impressions (how many times it was viewed) and click-throughs (how many times it was clicked), among other information. The report will not, however, include the website on which the ad appeared.

In May, Wood told Roll Call that the panel would contact the Chief Administrative Officer and ask for such a breakdown.

Weiser said the reports will appear in the second-quarter statement of disbursements, set to be released in August.

Strodel also announced Wednesday that the office would be canceling online subscriptions to two popular news wire services: Dow Jones/Factiva and the Associated Press.

The move will save the House $1.2 million in fiscal 2012 and $195,000 for the remainder of this fiscal year, according to the CAO.

In a letter to Members, Strodel said the results of a chamberwide survey showed the subscriptions were not worth the cost.

“The vast majority of survey respondents did not utilize the Dow Jones/Factiva and Associated Press subscription-based services,” Strodel wrote. “Therefore, at the direction of the Committee on House Administration, to reduce expenditures on under-utilized services, the House will terminate these subscriptions effective July 31, 2011.”

Wood declined to release the number, but she said the number of offices that used the subscriptions was “surprisingly low.”

The wire services have announced that they will offer individual subscriptions for Members who wish to continue subscribing.

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