Linking Electronic, Print Fulfillment

Visit many magazine Web sites, and you might have trouble learning about the magazine and how to subscribe. The sexy, highly promoted elements are the digital editions, online newsletters, latest headlines and ancillary products.

No wonder, for in a recent survey of consumer magazine Web sites by the International Federation of the Periodical Press, 84 percent of publishers said a main objective for the site was to expand the audience beyond the print base by creating a new online audience. However, 81 percent said a main objective was to attract new readers to the print publication.

These goals need not be at odds.

Though publishers use varied and creative ways to put their brand on multiple products to expand audience reach, attract more advertisers and create new revenue streams, we in circulation and fulfillment must look at these products not as distractions and competition but as potential marriage partners. It’s up to us to show how the marriage can work.

Focus on online newsletters. Once a sidebar to print magazines, the subscriber database for an online newsletter now sometimes exceeds the print magazine’s file. The same IFPP study showed electronic newsletters rose from being offered on 65 percent of the sites in 2003 to 75 percent today.

This is good news if it opens new marketing opportunities. It’s bad news if no interaction occurs between the two. The electronic product often is managed by the publisher’s marketing or editorial department and pushed out by a third party separate from the print subscriber fulfillment operation.

If the two files are maintained in one relational database at the fulfillment house, the possibilities for cross selling and cost savings are extraordinary. They include:

· Appending demographic data from the print product to the electronic: Traditionally, little information exists on online newsletter subscribers other than individual name and e-mail address and sometimes the state or ZIP. By matching on e-mail address/ZIP or whatever available, publishers can learn more about their electronic product subscribers, enabling more targeted online newsletters with the chance to sell more-targeted advertising.

· Better list hygiene: Changes can be applied across the board, with certain rules, of course, so as not to drop a record entirely if the subscriber cancels only one product. Also, most fulfillment houses have excellent deduping programs and double-checks for e-mail address accuracy, contributing to more efficient mailings.

· Frequency control: With a central repository, one department can coordinate and control the number and timing of e-mails sent to each recipient, with the goal of better open and response rates. The system captures the history of all e-mails sent per recipient.

· Fresher files: Changes come in from many sources, so the latest data are always available for that one unique name regardless of program or product.

· Upselling: A person who receives one product can be identified easily and solicited for other products.

· Multibuyer analysis: When files for various products are maintained in one relational database, it’s easy to pinpoint the best customers for that brand, encompassing one-shot products and subscription-based ones alike.

· Inexpensive renewals: Because the records are linked, the online newsletter recipient can receive a reminder with the blast when it is time to renew or requalify for the magazine. If the magazine can get e-mail addresses from the electronic product, more e-mail renewals can be sent, usually boosting response and contributing to a much lower CPO than a wrap, telephone effort or direct mail.

This brings us back to the No. 2 objective for a Web site: to get more print subscribers. Let’s make it easy. E-mail blasts for our clients contain links to customized order forms. By clicking on the link, the subscriber’s account number, name and address are prepopulated. Hard-copy renewals direct the subscriber to the Web site where, by entering the account number, the rest of the form is prepopulated.

Likewise, visitors to the Web site or recipients of the electronic products should be able to see and click on the link easily. By transferring a source code, orders can be tracked.

Many publishers like to handle the online newsletter blasts themselves. That’s all right. They can even pull the lists from the fulfillment house via the Internet at no charge when they are ready to do daily or weekly blasts. But a system is needed for returning the bounce-backs to the fulfillment house for maintenance.

With a live file and updates coming from many sources, the publisher is assured that each time the list is pulled it will be the freshest possible. No wasted circulation for the electronic products. This data exchange also benefits the magazine, especially one with a low frequency. Chances are the recipient has received several e-mails since the last print issue, so the most current data are available for whatever effort the circulation manager is doing.

the circulation manager.terrific, overworked person faces rate base guarantees, audit reports, issue closings, customer service problems, constant regulation changes, on and on. Is there really time to take on the challenge of integrating the electronic product database with the print? Is it worth getting involved? Absolutely!

The circulator and the fulfillment house are the keys to expanding the audience base for the brand. It’s amazing what the circulator knows and the service bureau can do – and most likely is doing for other publishers. As a former circulation director, I’ve learned we can’t take for granted what other publishing folks know about database management and fulfillment.

So the circulator and service bureau management need to sit down with the publishing division responsible for electronic products to discuss possibilities – the benefits of a unified dynamic database. It’s a win-win situation for all involved.

But like any solid marriage, it starts with good communication.

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