List business becomes data, media industry

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The list industry is transforming as direct marketing, once focused almost exclusively on direct mail, has become a multichannel business filled with innovation, list executives say.

Alert observers knew that the shift to this multichannel norm would produce change in the list business.

"[The knowledgeable individuals in the industry] are becoming media professionals rather than list professionals and changing as direct marketers diversify their media mix," said Phil Wiland, chairman of Wiland Direct, Longmont, CO.

List professionals are encouraging clients to take advantage of the technology advances designed to make life easier for the list business. The rise of cooperative databases is an example.

"List brokers, list managers and list compilers who adapt to media and technology changes and embrace new opportunities will benefit," Mr. Wiland said. "Those who simply long for the good old days, when the world was something other than what it is today, will not benefit."

The list industry possesses computing power. List professionals can do a lot with their data: slice, dice, optimize, project, predict, maximize, append, enhance, organize, filter, test and model, said Donald Libey, president of consultancy Libey Inc., Des Moines, IA.

But, he said, list firms first need to learn to ask their clients, "What would you like us to be and do for you in a multichannel future?"

The list industry's future is in an online world where the depths and sophistication of data and information are magnitudes more complex than before.

"When they find their way in organizing and interpreting that massively complicated, arcane, formulaic and data-driven milieu, they will have passed through to the future of the list business," Mr. Libey said.

Such a change is sure to be reached within five years, he said.

"If I owned a traditional list firm - consumer or business to business - I would be acquiring a leading Web analytic and design firm; a direct marketing benchmarking consultancy for marketing, merchandising and operations; a data manipulation and database mining firm; an e-mail management firm; a consumer and business research and survey firm; a product sourcing and merchandising analytics company; an Asian product sourcing firm; a supply chain consultancy; and attempting to attract the brightest and most innovative minds in online marketing to my list firm," Mr. Libey said.

Database giant infoUSA Inc., for example, is already living the life. The Omaha, NE, company is the nation's leading list broker and manager. But it got that way by acquiring not just list brokers and managers - Walter Karl, Edith Roman Associates, Millard Group, Mokrynskidirect and Rubin Response Services - but also e-mail firms like Yesmail and content organizer OneSource Information Services. The company also is in the process of buying Opinion Research.

In addition to such properties, infoUSA is paying attention to online lead generation through its Sales Genie franchise. Salesgenie.com offers online users leads for a fixed subscription fee.

ParadyszMatera is another company with roots in the list business. Founder Chris Paradysz and his team are diversifying the firm beyond direct mail and insert media into interactive media and agency services with PM Digital. The New York and Minneapolis company also has a research, analytics and planning offering called MarketRelevance and a statistical modeling solution via PM Modeling.

These are just two among several list firms that are expanding beyond their traditional bailiwick.

"Oh, and by the way, I would continue to rent lists," Mr. Libey said. "It's a superb business. And it is just beginning to pupate."
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