The List. The List. The List.

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There are two key factors in devising an effective mail effort: the offer and the list. Mistakes can be costly. That's why choosing the list can be the most important part of your campaign. It's an industry axiom that a bad offer mailed to a good list can be profitable but that no mailing - no matter how good it is - will work if it's sent to the wrong list.

Learning the ins and outs of the list and database businesses is daunting, even for people who have done it for years. Technology is rapidly changing, and legislation has to be watched constantly. That is why we put together the special supplement included with this week's issue: DM News' Essential Guide to Lists, Database Marketing and Data Services. As in our previous guides, we've broken the articles into three categories - basic, intermediate and advanced - so there's something for everyone. Take a look through it and learn. I'll bet you walk away richer if you do.

Columnists Make Hay With MPA

Several columnists poked fun at the Magazine Publishers of America last week while raising some legitimate questions regarding its involvement with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Judging from the "We'll-have-to-get-back-to-you-on-that" answers that the MPA and its PR firm Rubenstein Associates Inc. give anyone who asks a question, we'll have to wait until Abramoff tells prosecutors more of his story.

The MPA hired Preston Gates Ellis Rouvelas & Meeds LLP in March 2000 to lead a $10 million campaign to curtail a 15 percent rate increase for Periodicals mail, making sure to tout Abramoff's name in the press announcement. Ultimately, the U.S. Postal Service lowered the increase, and the MPA declared victory. "Now everyone who ever shared an elevator with Abramoff is being placed under a microscope. It isn't long before your payments to Toward Tradition get noticed," writes Slate "Chatterbox" columnist Timothy Noah. "What is a sober and nonpartisan group like the Magazine Publishers of America doing writing checks to a cockamamie sectarian group like Toward Tradition?"

Was the MPA sucked in by a bad man who took matters into his own hands? That question may not be answered for some time, and many industry observers said they expect the MPA to weather the storm. Still, what I find interesting is how many millions of dollars Abramoff put into his pocket while his plea agreement is about paying the wife of a staff member of a top official just $50,000.

Tad Clarke is editor in chief of DM News. His editorial appears Mondays on and in our e-mail newsletter. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters by visiting

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