Prospecting publishers should look at modeling, co-ops

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In publishing the need for new quality publishing files for prospecting is greater than ever. Finding lists to mail is really the challenge today. For publishers, direct mail continues to be a prime source of new subscribers.

One truism in magazine publishing hasn't changed, particularly with consumer titles. A reader is different from a buyer, and publishing files work for publishing offers. Generally, there is little list crossover into other areas where files might be available.

Theoretically, a decorating magazine should be able to mail not only to other publishing decorating titles, but to a decorating catalog where the buyers may find the editorial of the magazine appealing.

This does not always hold true. The very same corollary often applies on the catalog side where a decorating catalog is unable to mail to subscribers of the decorating magazine. There are exceptions but these traditionally involve highly vertical consumer publications.

Direct mail for business magazines and newsletters is generally in a different position because of the ability to mail beyond other publishing files. Their better performing files, however, often are related publishing lists.

The main reason for the lack of new publishing files is a reflection of the absence of new, subscription-based magazine start-ups. Think about the number of really large, paid-circulation magazines that have been developed during the past few years. The Magazine Publishers of America lists on its Web site "New & Noted" reflecting magazine launches. In 2005 we saw only six new titles from some of the major multi-title publishers.

While there was some early optimism that the Web might be a new list source for publishers, results have been disappointing. These names, for a variety of reasons, tend not to be responsive on both the front end and back end.

In the absence of circulation-driven publishing files, how do magazines continue to find "new" subscribers?

In addition to heavy use of house files and pushing the exchange and negotiating envelope, publishers and the list brokers that serve them out of necessity have become good at list segmentation. This often means continuing to rely on hotline names from existing lists and drilling down into these very same files to open up new segments.

However, this means that most publishing mailers tend to promote in the 0-3 month or 0-6 month hotline world churning many of the same names. Real growth can only come from identifying new universes or prospects to mail to.

Where will publishers find these new universes and prospects? There are a number of trends emerging in the publishing area.

List-specific modeling. Both business and consumer publishing mailers are being a bit more open to the idea of doing some kind of modeling, and this represents an untapped opportunity. For example, a handful of large multi-title publishers (Time Inc., Hearst, Meredith, Oxmoor House, Primedia, Rodale, Reader's Digest, Reiman, Doubleday), along with a number of single-title publishers (Newsweek, Essence) offer modeling services.

On the business publishing side, modeling is a bit more challenging but Dow Jones does offer modeling against The Wall Street Journal file and Equifax offers a profile match model against its 18.5-million business file.

However, there are still many large files where modeling is not available. List managers have to be proactive and educate their list owner clients to the benefits of opening up their files to outside modeling. There is a need for these managers to educate their sales people on how they are sold.

Again, it is for publishers and catalog mailers to cross over into their respective affinity markets. List-specific modeling would provide the opportunity to cross over into affinity vertical areas.

Publishing cooperatives. Where catalog mailers have embraced the idea of cooperatives, magazine, newsletter and book publishers have been slow to accept this concept. There are only two cooperatives today that specialize in developing prospect names for publishing mailers - Circbase from Experian and the relatively new PubCoBase from Mal Dunn.

Alliant Cooperative Data Services is another publishing-focused database cooperative that primarily helps mailers improve their existing direct mail campaigns through modeling.

Beyond providing supplemental prospect names, cooperatives participants can avail themselves to other tools, including reactivation models and member-specific models within the database. Pricing is generally less than what publishers would pay for individual list titles and there is the opportunity to test models without any large-volume commitments.

This is really significant since one of the issues with many list-specific models is a test commitment beyond what most publishers view as list test quantities.

There is a certain amount of hesitancy by publishers in participating in list-specific modeling and exploring publishing cooperatives for a number of good reasons. As the need to find new subscription files increases and additional cooperatives develop, many of these mailers should consider this concept for their direct mail efforts.

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