By Barbara Love

Over the last five years, publishers have invested in collecting email addresses in the hopes that email would grow and become an important new subscription source. It hasn’t turned out that way.

Lori Magill-Cook, executive vice president, American List Council, reports that one of the things her company is talking to publishers about is email. “Publishers are having difficulty monetizing email in these challenging times,” she says.

“How do you successfully monetize email in an environment with a lot of privacy issues around email?” she asks. “You need to be smart on how you are leveraging your email assets.

“Stand alone email messages don’t work. But publishers have invested in sites, capturing as many email addresses as possible. Yet, no one has figured out how to monetize that. So what we’re talking about with our customers is getting them to place as much emphasis on collecting and permissioning their email databases as they would their postal address databases.

“We’re creating online mechanisms and data append strategies to help our clients capture more email addresses that are connected to their postal address files. Why is this critical? Because if you have the link with postal, it allows you to be smart about who that customer is and more effectively target your communications with them.

“We are telling our clients that, in many cases, as much as 50-60 percent of their email communications should be non-commercial and that the offers they do send need to be relevant and targeted. Why? Because the real cost of email marketing is not the blast fee, but the unsubscribe rate.

“Once you know who your customer is and what their interests are, you can create online co-ops, leverage third-party offers and your own offers as value-add that the publisher’s brand brings to those customers,” she explains.

“That includes high-value, exclusive and sponsored offers that enhance the relationship that the publisher has with its customer, creates new revenue streams for the publisher and creates a value add for the advertiser.

“This is a win for all parties involved;the customer who now receives relevant and valued offers, the publisher who has enhanced its reputation with its customer and derived revenue from the sponsored offers, and the advertiser who now has another source of new-to-file names with greater conversion potential because the advertiser is able to leverage an endorsed sale mechanism.

Another thing Magill-Cook is focusing on with publishing clients is subscriber profiling. “We need to go deeper than MRI or Simmons and things like that,” she says.

“We need to really dig down into not just doing a global overview, but looking at a customer who is agent-sold vs. direct-to-publisher, how are men different from women? We need to dig down to attitudes and psychographics. With that information, our clients can talk to their customers more effectively.

“There’s a lot of noise out there,” she adds. “People have too many choices. Customer loyalty is on the decline for customers of all of our clients.”

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