In the past few years, magazine circulation has gone through serious changes. One of the biggest has been the modification of the top executive title from circulation director to audience development director. “This is important,” said Ed Youdell, group publisher at FMA Communications. “This alone encourages that whole department to be thinking in a new way.”
And in the wake of recent hard economic times, publishers are not just hoping circulators have found new ways to think about the vast storehouse of knowledge they've accumulated in the last year but are banking on it.
“Our jobs are changing at a rapid pace,” said Michelle McKeon, an audience development manager at PennWell Publishing. “As our audiences move more and more to the Web for information, we are being asked to communicate with them online via blogs, RSS feeds and social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.”
Youdell said it's important for audience developers to be exploring social media. “We're not sure if it helps bring in subscribers yet, but you need to be looking at it because it's part of the total branding strategy,” he said. “It's just a different way of thinking about how you can add value to the magazine.”
McKeon added that audience developers are being asked to find fast, cost-effective ways of building audiences online using new methods such as link building, SEO/SEM methods and other online marketing methods.
Jim Savas, VP-automotive at Advanstar Communications, said the role of the audience developer has expanded as the need for more specific customer information has grown. “We need to know much more about our customers because it doesn't really help us unless we know who they are, what kind of specific content they want,” he said. “It really puts the audience development people back in the mix instead of them just keeping busy trying to satisfy BPA or ABC.”
Savas' automotive group is currently trying to find all the different decision-makers at car shops. “That's meant changing our telemarketing scripts, being much more specific in the lists we buy, going much further when we cross reference different lists,” he said.
FMA has also changed its telemarketing scripts in order to incorporate an advertiser survey, which helped defray the telemarketing cost. “That's the kind of thinking audience development needs to be doing,” he said.
Some of the other things FMA has done in its circ dept., according to Kim Clothier, director of audience development: telemarketing that combines efforts for more than one magazine; creating “BPA Quick Stat” reports for the sales team; researching demographic information for every issue for both editorial and sales; mining monthly list-rental reports for potential ad sales; and providing reports by issue of the cost savings of digital versus print copies.
McKeon noted that her department is turning out more reports and analytics as well. Eric Rutter, VP-audience marketing at Reed Business Information, said audience marketers will only become more important as attempts are made to monetize online content behind paid subscription walls. “As this trend continues, it will be essential for audience marketers to play an integral role in developing revenue from all the products under the brand umbrella—Web sites, webcasts, e-newsletters, lead generation, white papers, databases and, of course, print magazines,” he said.
McKeon said she wouldn't be surprised to see audience development managers getting more involved with editorial, sales and clients.
At FMA, it sounds as if such unions have already been forged: “For us, there are three legs to everything: edit, sales and audience development,” Youdell said. “Audience development is almost like the conscience of our company. They know if certain audiences can be created and reached. And their knowledge of the market is invaluable.” M