Telemarketing has increased nearly 500 percent in the past decade—by more than 17 million subscriptions—to become the largest source of controlled circulation for publishers, according to an article in Folio: sister publication, Circulation Management.

The industry, like any component of publishing, still faces some curve balls. The latest one is the BPA’s Telemarketing Recording Rule, which went into effect in January and stipulates that every telemarketing call must be recorded, which means an extra layer of responsibility all around.

In-House Vs. Outsource

These days, telemarketers are taking on a lot more responsibility: controlled circulation projects, outbound calling for requalification and new name acquisition; paid projects; renewals and acquisition/subscription; lead generation to promote trade shows and conferences; welcome calls and client surveys; and inbound customer service.

Vertical Web Media, publisher of Internet Retailer, relies on telemarketing for subscription renewals and it doesn’t pick up the phone until it’s exhausted all of its other campaigns, from print to the Internet. Publisher Jack Love places priority on print campaigns because they bring in more committed subscribers. Love turns to telemarketing to quickly and efficiently fill in the gap of subscribers before an audit. He estimates that nearly a quarter of its 42,000 subscribers are obtained through telemarketing. It’s also a cheaper alternative, costing about $3 per subscriber to a print campaign’s $10, he says. Still, he’s “amazed at how many publishers rely on telemarketing for too much of their subscription base because it’s so easy.”

The Chicago-based publisher uses Ark TeleServices for its telemarketing. “We outsource it because we don’t know how to do it the way they do. We just don’t have the manpower and technical capabilities to do this,” Love says. “I couldn’t imagine doing this in-house.” He ticks off a number of ducks in the telemarketer’s row: the automated dialing system, setting up the recording system, properly recording the qualified for the BPA audit purposes. In addition, there’s the cost of staff, recording software, hiring costs, training, overhead, QA and floor management to consider. “It’s a big job and it requires a lot of capabilities and it requires a specialist. It would be like trying to print the magazine in-house. It’s just much more efficient to do it through a provider,” he says.

Not everyone agrees. Golf Inc., which is published by San Diego-based Cypress Magazines, does its telemarketing in-house for requalification of both its print and digital subscribers, new subscribers for its digital magazine, updating past conference attendee lists and as a tool to increase attendance for future conferences, says Jennifer Posey, circulation coordinator for the magazine. The company relies primarily on remote contract employees who work from home, mostly stay-at-home mothers and retirees looking for flexible work, a group called the “Home Team.” The company handles telemarketing in-house because of cost and quality control, she says.

“We found it to be substantially cheaper to keep our telemarketing in-house. We do not have the office costs such as space, electricity and office supplies,” Posey says. Another way the publisher keeps costs down is by having the telemarketers make calls through a new and affordable Internet-based phone service named Skype.

Do-Not-Call Update

In February, both Congress and ultimately President Bush, signed into law new legislation that will basically make registration to the Do-Not-Call Registry permanent. The original law set forth by the Federal Trade Commission in 2003 had a five-year expiration period built into it and consumers would have had to re-register after that. Not so, thanks to the new law. All numbers will remain on the list unless an individual requests the number be removed or if the number becomes invalid.

The list currently has about 150 million phone numbers. Certain organizations, like charities, political organizations and businesses which have an established relationship with consumers, are exempt from the legislation.

The list has been a sizeable thorn in the side of telemarketers since its inception making it difficult for telemarketers to acquire new subscriptions. Telemarketers can only go back 18 months for dead expires. Previously, that window stretched to up to three years.

One bright spot for telemarketers: the new law requires the FTC to periodically check telephone numbers registered on the list to make sure they have not been reassigned or disconnected.