Content once was king, but these days data holds power over all. Audience developers rule the data universe for publishers, and that knowledge has given circulation leadership a lot more responsibility, power—and stress.
Developers continually attempt to pour data into one massive database while pulling out leads on the other end. Meanwhile, auditor BPA Worldwide is adapting to the many ways data are stored, used and distributed. And the circ people, once hidden in publishers' back rooms, are innovating and developing ways to create and maintain audiences.
Here are four areas to keep an eye on in the industry:
It's been a while since audience developers reversed course and chucked their siloed data into one massive cauldron. Should hairstylists and jackhammer operators be listed in the same database? What if they both like video games?
Kim Clothier, director of audience development at FMA Communications, said that when all customer information is in one database, it allows publishers to determine how different brands touch a customer. “[It] helps retention and builds loyalty; this also helps advertisers know that their message is being seen by the right people.”
“This is critical going forward,” said Gloria Adams, senior VP-audience development and book publishing at PennWell Corp. “We need to know how each individual interacts with us to help determine not only value but how to best promote—and what to promote—to each individual.”
Emelda Barea, VP-circulation and distribution at Jobson Healthcare Information, said: “Another issue is the lack of personnel to manage the databases. This is a full-time job, but I doubt there are companies out there that have a dedicated database manager.”
Bobit Business Media has spent the last year trying to get all its data into one place. “It isn't enough to just know list sizes and general info for each list,” said Tony Napoleone, senior audience marketing manager at Bobit. “You need to have truly homogenized data that can be used across mediums and, in many cases, across markets.”
As the U.S. economy slowed, advertisers have asked for additional proof of ROI and access to publisher data; that, in turn, has led to more customized lead-generation programs.
This has let audience developers improve their partnerships with advertisers and publishers, Napoleone said.
Clothier agreed that that has allowed all parties to zero in on specific needs.
International Data Group has created LeadAccel, which “interprets user engagement to determine where [users] are in the IT purchase cycle and what content will help facilitate conversations and move the lead closer to the decision-making point,” according to Gregg Pinsky, senior VP-online operations at IDG Enterprise. The mindset shift is going from quantity to quality, he said.
Audience marketers said that recent rule changes by BPA Worldwide to allow confirmation of demographics on telemarketing renewals and qualification of subscriber downloads or access of a digital edition twice within six months as a renewal would be positive.
The changes will “not only save money [but] will truly start reflecting interaction [and] involvement,” PennWell's Adams said.
“It's a great service to our subscribers as they don't have to listen to a phone operator reading off all the answer choices,” she said. “It'll also cut down on the call time, which should help keep our telemarketing costs down.”
Napoleone said he believes the changes should improve the user experience. “My concern is we sell a lot of our properties based on the high-quality, verifiable audience demographics of our readers,” he said. “If I'm making a media buy on a digital magazine, I'd rather know that all 10,000 [users] have directly requested it in the last year and not worry that a percentage only open a couple every six months but don't read it.”
As the world continues to go digital, email is becoming an even more crucial way to connect with consumers.
“We rely heavily on email for cross-marketing of our publications and events, for driving traffic to our websites, for surveys and for revenue from third-party advertising,” said Nick Cavnar, VP-circulation at Hanley Wood Business Media.
Cavnar said that despite all the pressure to add email addresses, he is concerned about the unusable email addresses in his company's database due to consumers opting out or to bounce-backs.
”Given the tightly defined universes of b2b markets, email attrition poses an even more serious obstacle than it might somewhere else,” Cavnar said. ”Our advertisers and marketing clients want access to the most important decision-makers in our industries. There's nothing more frustrating than realizing we've got the key people on our list but can't use email to reach them.”
As a result, Cavnar is planning a special campaign to “reactivate” some of those addresses. For example, he'd like to have a call center phone every person who opts-out of emails in order to get a sense of why they opted out. “I don't know how many opt outs we'd reactivate, but I have to believe we'd learn a lot about how to retain the emails we still have,” he said. “In my mind, that's become even more important than collecting new ones.”
Bobit's Napoleone said his company has become much more diligent about collecting emails at all touch points and focusing on quality as well as quantity. “We want to help guide our advertisers away from just asking about list size and blasting out general promos, and instead focus on promoting to very targeted audience segments that, in turn, will have much higher open/click/conversion metrics,” he said.
Desiree Bennett Forsyth, principal of consultancy Density Media, offered a different take, saying that email databases are often the result of good social media efforts. “Publishers now realize that the key to ROI on social media leads through email,” she said. “Start by building the community, establishing trust and interaction. ... The next step is to convert those users into email addresses.” She recommended using contests, fan gates and lead-gen downloads to achieve it.