DM News Essential Guide to Lists and Databases: Editor's Note

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"Direct marketing is not only a technology, it is a process. It not only seeks to make a sale, it builds profitable relationships. ... What is essential is that the customer's name and address be 'captured,' to be recorded on a list which becomes the heart of the marketing process. The mailing list is the means by which we fulfill our obligations to the customer or prospect; provide satisfactory service; collect payments due us; and make subsequent offers of products, services, or information."

- From "Direct Marketing: Strategy, Planning, Execution,"

by Edward L. Nash, first edition, 1982

Yes, lists always have been at the root of direct marketing and always will be - as long as there's a system that delivers mail to people's addresses.

Who knows when the first mailing list was created to begin this exchange of information? In DM News' 25th anniversary supplement in 2004, list veteran Ralph Stevens wrote that the list has been an industry mainstay for 125 years. In this DM News' Essential Guide to Lists, Database Marketing & Data Services, Donnelley Marketing Group's Ed Mallin writes that compiled files have been around since the 1840s, when a young Abraham Lincoln was employed as a correspondent to collect information about business data for use in business report compilation.

Still, it's safe to say that we've seen the biggest changes in the list industry in the past three decades, thanks to the computer, which also brought the emergence of database marketing. It was in the early 1970s when IBM researcher E.F. Codd formed the concepts for organizing and accessing data in relational databases.

DM News has covered lists, database marketing and data services since the publication's inception in 1979. The industry has weathered its share of problems over the years, but this decade is proving the most challenging to conventional wisdom and practices because of the Internet, proliferating consumer choice, user-friendly technology, privacy concerns and fragmenting media. The challenges facing the list industry come from all sides: reduced commissions, technological advances, privacy concerns, lack of new files, rising costs, postal increases, lack of innovation and investment. The list goes on. Database marketers and data services firms have many of the same issues.

As you read through the articles on the following pages, I hope you'll gain a better understanding of many of these concerns and how you can adapt their messages to your goals.

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