10 Things I Learned at Circulation Marketing Day

March 07, 2011  |   Marketing   |     |   1 Comment

After flying back to the relative quiet of my home in Oregon, I took some time to think about the Direct Marketing Association’s yearly Circulation Marketing Day. The conference was a great opportunity to learn new things and meet other circulation marketers. Below are 10 things I learned plus some questions I had on further reflection.

1) Big publishers are ahead of the game on mobile devices (because they have to be)

Tablets are changing the way publishers present and sell their online content. Forrester projects that, by 2016, 82 million Americans will use tablet computers. At the conference, publishers called tablets their “second chance” to properly sell web content. Indeed, they give publishers far more flexibility in giving their subscribers an interactive brand experience.

In my opinion, reading a magazine on a tablet is far nicer than reading the same content on a laptop. For a great example, check out The Economist app, which gives users a pretty slick presentation of its articles.

2) In driving ROI, there is no match for great database marketing

Database marketing promises great returns on investment for the publishers who can do it right. A good, custom-built database can mimic and surpass many well-known marketing automation platforms by allowing customer segmentation based on demographic and activity, presenting offers based on past behavior, renewing and approaching customers in the media they prefer and making sure advertisements for discounts only reach the prospects they are meant for.

3) Excel is still the visual analytics tool of choice for publishing executives

From what I saw and heard at Circ Day, Excel remains the most-used tool for presenting and consuming analytical information. Other reporting mechanisms have proven too difficult to use across organizations as marketers and other information consumers tend to ask for data they can manipulate and transform themselves. Despite its limitations, it looks like Excel is here to stay.

4) Things are definitely looking up

As the economy recovers, publishers are excited to sell more content online and transform their businesses in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The mood seemed upbeat, as evidenced by the “Back in the Black” theme. But attendees understood that selling information would not be the same as before. Still, they are more confident that their journalists produce enough value to charge for it, regardless of the medium.

5) Great creative comes from the gut

I always trust tests and analysis as the best way to develop creative. But testing creative doesn’t let you out of your self-imposed box. Sometimes you need to rely on your gut to completely revamp the marketing pieces you send, and your prospects will thank you with higher conversion rates.

6) Future revenue will come from a mix of pay-wall content and advertising

Publishers will no longer rely exclusively on advertising for their revenue. Good content created by professional journalists has value, and shouldn’t always be free. Going even further, paid content may even convince advertisers that their prospective audience is more committed to the information community in which they are participating.

7) An email and landing page are really the same campaign

This sounds like common sense, but a lot of marketers design an email first and think of the landing page as the afterthought. Marketers should think of both as a single campaign to help drive customer conversions.

8) It really does take a village

From all the keynote speakers who had done wonderful things with their businesses, we heard that it takes a team. If you want to do testing, database marketing, develop content for the myriad mobile devices out there and produce great creative, you need an amazing team of professionals who can get it done.

9) For some, get the email address. For others, get the money.

Some publishers find more value securing as many email addresses as possible, and then moving prospects to a credit card form. Others like prospects to fill out all their information at once. If you value a larger database, it makes sense to ask first for an email before scaring away potential signups with a credit card form. But if net sales mean more, get the commitment up front. If you’re not sure which option will work better for you, test!

10) Everyone loves a bookmark, especially in publishing

I hope everyone enjoyed the bookmark I handed out on Circ Day. Here is the full article on the 11 Essential Metrics for Paid Circulation Marketers. If any of you have different formulas for calculating lifetime value, I would love to see them.

4 Questions

1) Will micro- and segment- advertising take off with Tablets?

Yes, tablets create a total brand experience for information consumers, and they allow publishers to place ads in much the same fashion as in print publications. But how will tablets allow for advertising segmentation? For example, will publications be able to serve up ads based on users’ geographic area or other, self-entered demographic information?

2) How far will publishers push progressive profiling?

Some publishers are asking first for an email address and following up with a full form. What about asking for an email, then billing information and then filling in certain demographics each time a subscriber visits your site? The questions could be listed in a sidebar and not required. Interested subscribers could fill them in and give you more information on how to help them. Later on, that information could be used for segmented advertising or serving custom content.

3) Are publishers selling themselves short on email analytics?

In one presentation with email results, I saw mentions of open rates, clickthrus and conversions. But with more powerful email analytics tools available (check out Litmus), you can also track the below:

–          Who read, scanned or skimmed your email

–          Which email client they used

–          Whether they forwarded or printed your email

Using these, you can know your email recipients’ engagement, and you can determine which email clients IT needs to code for. You can also connect this data to individuals and use it to target emails. For example, you could send iPhone users emails on your next new app.

4) A lot of publishers have great data on their customers, understanding them by their purchase actions. Where does market research fit?

One thing that struck me about Circ Day was how well publishers know their customers by their actions.  But they didn’t say much about speaking directly to subscribers in the form of a focus group or survey. Do publishers have effective market research that they can incorporate into their offer copy? Do they survey subscribers to discover new content to launch? Do they have a strategy to connect questionnaires and reporting to their business objectives? See my article on how to create a great survey.


1 Comment for this entry

  • thom

    March 9th, 2011 on 6:48 am

    Thom, found these comments right on target and wanted to share.


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