From Circ Manager to Audience Developer

It’s tough to find a circulation manager these days. Oh, the function still exists. And there are people doing it. But they are called “audience development managers.” And they are doing a heck of a lot more.

The title of audience development manager started on the consumer side a few years ago. Does anyone know who takes credit for it? Who was the first audience development manager? I suspect it evolved from the customer relationship management arena in recognition of the need for a coordinated effort to research, build and maintain a healthy database of buyers and prospects for an increasingly complex stable of products: print periodicals, online products, one-offs and more.

The advent of the Web site and all that happens on it demanded a new skill set for the traditional circulation manager. Trade publishers seeking brand expansion with their online newsletters, conferences and digital editions, plus the other aforementioned products, quickly got on the audience development bandwagon. Business-to-business circulation managers decided this was a catchy title, too.

But you can’t take a title to the bank, so let’s look at what audience development managers do. For starters, it is often their mandate to pull together various databases, housed at various locations with non-uniform data and codes. With the traditional print products as flagships, they must merge, create commonality, append data and establish hierarchies and maintenance guidelines.

This is, of course, after the turf battles over whether to maintain parallel databases or combine many into one.

A manager with a background in circulation is invaluable in interpreting the data, often having to educate the IT people and database managers on the file’s nuances. This could range from explaining the difference between a qualification date and transaction date to ensuring the opt-in functionality complies with industry regulations.

Seasoned circulation managers also know that source documentation of any name and list in the database is a must, whether the names will be used for rotation for a controlled product or forced free trials for a paid one. This is a requirement for any audited product, print or electronic.

Beyond traditional fulfillment. With the evolution of the audience development manager came the evolution of fulfillment services. It’s not just circulation fulfillment anymore. Services include:

• Relational database maintenance

• Merge/purge

• Gatekeeping

• Digital edition alerts

• E-product registration and fulfillment

• Single-order fulfillment

• E-mail blasts

• Privacy/opt-in capture

• Tracking by product and channel

All aim to help the audience development manager promote, analyze and promote again in a coordinated effort to build and expand the brand. Tap the knowledge of the fulfillment professionals before you go too far.

Audience development begins with the ability to extrapolate data at any time for analyses of expires, prospects and conversions by product and by unique names. Historical data are critical. Appending data is a must. Knowing subscribers and multi-buyers enables cross- and upselling.

A classic example is the online newsletter registration file where the only data captured are first name, last name and e-mail address. Once this is part of a corporate database, the complete address can be appended. Offers for various products can be made because a buying history exists. This is especially beneficial as new products launch.

The audience development manager also functions as the audience retention manager, so being able to analyze one consolidated database of expires, suspends, prospects and actives allows forecasting and planning for replacements by kind.

Multichannel promotions. Expanding the audience is a challenge, given the competition for readers’ dollars and time, plus the tight budget at most media companies these days. That’s where today’s Web-savvy manager shines, with the ability to mix and match traditional and electronic marketing efforts.

One inexpensive technique for getting new subscribers is to use the digital edition as a sample copy rather than mailing a hard copy. An e-mail blast to prospects with the link to a digital issue and then to an order form is a cost-effective way to build circulation for the traditional print product.

Few people think print is dead. The print edition gives the in-depth analysis behind the news on the site or in the e-mail newsletters. Advertisers still love magazines and like to bundle outserts with them. The established, trusted print edition gives credibility to the new-age products.

It is the audience development manager’s mission to know the market and to differentiate the products to a particular segment of the market. Equally important is how segments respond to various offers and products. Fortunately, as the manager minds new lists and markets, the tools are there to slice and dice the results and target new efforts accordingly.

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