Hearst's Malloch Questions Qualified Circulations

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NEW YORK -- At least one business-to-business circulation professional said he worries more about maintaining qualified circulation numbers than about the cyclical nature of advertising revenue, according to a keynote address here yesterday during The Circulation Management Conference & Expo at the Hilton.

"Advertising comes down to the rate card," said Richard P. Malloch, president and group head at Hearst Business Media Group, New York. "We can compete on something other than price."

Despite recent studies touting the readership of business-to-business publications, it is increasingly harder for controlled-circulation publishers to maintain qualified circulation, he said.

Malloch said that in recent years he noticed a reduction in the number of questions controlled-circulation publishers ask new and existing subscribers for qualification. Many publishers also have increased the percentage of non-request subscriptions they send out.

He offered three possible explanations for these trends. The first was fragmentation of the business-to-business publishing market. From 1988 to 2002, the number of BTB publications grew 50.2 percent.

The second was alternative media. The average business-to-business publication reader is visiting 7.5 BTB Web sites per month.

The final possibility Malloch cited was the economic downturn. With a 3 percent reduction in the work force over the past year or so, the BTB audience declined.

Malloch challenged BTB publishers to examine their own circulation and answer some tough questions.

"Are b-to-b publications delivering the audience they claim?" he asked.

Malloch also asked whether circulation should be independently monitored.

"I challenge the industry to adopt some standards," he said.

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