The Prickly Process of Merging Print and Digital Subscription Files
As publishers move aggressively to increase content traffic flow between print and online properties they're facing the ugly prospect of reconciling the technical back-ends of what, in many cases, have been traditionally separate product lines.
Take, for example, b-to-b publisher Prism Business Media's (formerly Primedia Business Information) 160 e-mail newsletters, which make up approximately 13 million monthly e-mails. Each is tied one of 70 print cousins. Some magazines have as many as a dozen related e-newsletter titles. Yet the two mediums diverge in terms of fulfillment and a unified, rich customer and prospect database. That's about to change as Prism outsources its e-mail fulfillment and distribution processes to e-mail marketing solution provider Digital Connexxions.
"Currently, if you want to subscribe to one of our print magazines you go to one Web page and fill out a qualification form and if you meet the criteria you're put on the magazine file," says vice president of audience marketing Jerry Okabe. "If you want an e-newsletter, you have to go to a different place to sign up even though they are very related and complimentary."
One immediate goal is to offer consolidated subscription pages online that present groupings of related products. Once a customer fills out a form for a particular product, other choices are presented and if they select another item that same demographic information is attached to that record;thus corralling consistent customer information across multiple product lines.
But it's more than simply setting up "related products" functionality on a landing page, though gathering industry-related products will shrink the number of subscription pages from about 200 to 70 and dramatically open up cross-promoting opportunities.
Okabe wants to merge the subscription process for magazines and e-newsletters as well as successfully send each product subscription to the right processing center;e-mail to Digital, magazine to Hallmark;while capturing consistent demographic information into a single data repository. Going forward, this will correct Prism's perennial problem of having inconsistent demographics between its print and e-newsletter records.
"On one form we might ask 'Are you an executive or a manager?' and on the other the question might ask for a specific title," says Okabe.
Legacy Issues Linger
A gap remains between products. "Even though almost all of our e-newsletter recipients come from our print magazine files, because that's where we gather the e-mail address, the demographic information that we've had on our print subscribers has not been a part of the e-newsletter recipient record because they were on separate systems," says Okabe.
All available print demographics are to be transferred to the database that Digital maintains. "The Hallmark print subscriber records will be overlaid on the files that are maintained at Digital. Now we will have demographic profiles that we haven't had in the past and we will be gathering the same demographics for both the print magazine and the e-newsletter."
Ultimately, the unified demographic records will enable Prism to provide advertisers with company and title profiles and track the new system's ROI in more detail. "Advertisers will get a feel for how high up in an organization they are reaching," says Prism VP for online development and new media Prescott Shibles. "They can bump that against their internal CRM product, or at least from a sales perspective say, 'Who do we know at these companies we should be following up with?'"
Prism can, however, offer advertisers greater lead depth on customers who've opted into third-party messages. "We have the option where a person's privacy settings permit," says Shibles. "However, we are not going to make it a point of just giving away names of people who've clicked on an ad. I don't consider that a lead. Otherwise you're just providing contact information for a click. I've gone to a lot of Web sites, that doesn't mean I want a vendor call."
Okabe says that it will be business as usual for newsletter editors who've been using a previously-built template to input content, which, however, creates yet another interface issue for Digital. "The [content creation] process doesn't really change but obviously Digital had to have the right interfaces with our e-newsletter tool in order to get each edition of the newsletter and put it through the test message process and deploy them at the right time."
At the end of the day, Okabe says it's about knowing how each customer connects with the organization. "It lends itself to having a database where we know a customer gets a magazine and takes two e-newsletters and went to a show and he's a good prospect for other products. We're still a long way from that but I think it's a step in that direction."
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