Rosy Outlook for Many

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Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are making headlines daily as they lead the online revolution and transform how we use our computers and the Internet, not to mention how companies do their marketing. Meanwhile, the direct channel proved resilient once again for many retailers reporting January sales last week. Judging by the commentary in DM News' Outlook 2005, which is included with this week's issue, those same companies will turn to direct marketing even more in the years ahead.

There's truly something for everyone in this year's Outlook: forecasts, trends, tips, advice and challenges in every sector. The marketing landscape is changing rapidly, and the opportunity is there for those who want it. Most on our panel of experts are bullish on the DM industry and its future as targeting, measurement and accountability become even more critical to the bottom line. Take what Don Libey wrote in his piece about catalog marketing: "After years of having only one strategy- discounting - retailers need to find new answers, and cataloging is a very attractive answer to growth." Or these words from Howard Draft: "Technology ... has made consumers more sophisticated, marketplaces smaller and marketers - especially DMers - smarter. We have become more targeted in our approach and more selective in our messages."

Sounds like the direct and interactive marketplace has never been hotter, right? For the most part, yes. Though some areas - nonprofit fundraising and circulation come to mind - are down, others are thriving. However, Don, Howard and the other industry leaders we interviewed also raise the usual issues - privacy, relevancy and the industry's image. Futurist Kenneth Gronbach adds a concern I hadn't thought about: Generation X has twice as many college-educated members as baby boomers. Therefore, its members have more options and are far less inclined to work in the trades ... which means a shortage of workers and higher prices down the road for many DM necessities - printing costs, delivery fees and postage rates. Still, Ken has good news, too, saying direct marketing "could be the last and most effective means of reaching audiences in this century." Let's hope he's right.

I would like to thank the many contributors as well as staffers here who worked on the editorial portion of the supplement, specifically Mickey Alam Khan, John Ervin, Sophia Jongsurasithiwat, Glenn Kalinoski, Pat Patullo and Rob Vaglio. You wouldn't be reading it without their help. We hope you enjoy this year's Outlook.

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