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Changing world of circ

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Circulation's Old World image of quiet backroom workers painstakingly filling in BPA statements with No. 2 pencils is being steadily crushed by the new world order of electronic publishing. E-newsletters, electronic editions, webinars and other digital forms of communication have created an onslaught of products, subscriber information and means of tracking reader behavior. How does an audience marketer organize today's circulation department with all of its new responsibilities?

"It's really impossible to say," said Nicholas Cavnar, VP-circulation at Hanley Wood. "But it's important to get as involved as possible in the electronic side of things. That's the future of our business."

At Hanley Wood, the electronic publishing division and magazine division have been merging for the past year to create one consolidated department, Hanley Wood Business Media. Their databases, which carried many of the same names, are being integrated.

This is the No. 1 topic for circulators when they get together now, Cavnar said. "There are a million ways to organize everything and everyone wants to know how everyone else is doing it."

Maurice Persiani, VP-business services at McGraw-Hill Cos., said that it is not easy to prioritize everything that needs to be done."It's a matter of staying informed of all the different sources of information and being ready to find the connections between them," he said.

Cavnar said that it can be difficult to get companies to add to circ departments' head counts, but that investments tend to come a little more easily in the digital side of the business. "They know they have to grow that part of the business," he said.

Cavnar also said that now is a good time for traditional circulators to expand their skills and for department heads to leverage some of that investment companies are making in the electronic side to build resources for the department. He suggested hiring a support person to handle some of the clerical duties of the existing audience marketing staff so those with circulation experience can spend more time on delving into the digital side of the business.

Shannon Aronson, audience development director at CMP Technology, said she likes to hire staff that can readily go out on sales calls.

"The successful audience marketer has to be involved in all aspects of the publishing company or you're not going to survive," she said. "You need to be involved strategically on the sales end." This way, Aronson said, clients can find customized solutions to getting their product in front of the right audience.

Persiani also likes his team to be able to present ideas to others. "It often takes having a conversation to really fully explain why it is important to have these things and what exactly they will do for you so you have to be ready to educate," he said.

Often upper-level executives are cautious about getting audience marketers involved strategically. "You need an audience development group that is strong enough to say we're here to help, we're here to be strategic," said Aronson. "If we don't work on these things together, we'll never be able to create programs that talk about and balance all of our different assets across the company."

Aronson sends her staff to copywriting classes, and CMP hosts reader panels to dissect why subscribers responded to certain things while disregarding others. "You need a staff that is driven to understand this, and driven to understand the product and find all the different ways to strategically market it," Aronson said.

Aronson notes that being an audience marketer today is a real juggling act. "That's the cool thing about it, though," she said. "You're involved with all sorts of stuff. If you're not excited about that, if you don't have a passion to be involved with everything, this is not the right career path for you right now."

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