Only a few short years ago, when audience developers were still known as circulators, the folks in sales departments didn't bother much with them. Salespeople merely took the BPA statements they were given and used the numbers accordingly.
Things have dramatically changed since then. With the immense growth of audience data, particularly through Internet use, audience developers have access to much more data on how and why people behave in different ways. And ad departments are cluing in to that, if they hadn't already, and finding a variety of ways to use that information.
At Reed Business Information, which will soon close its doors in the U.S., customers have shown a great interest in lead generation, according to Eric Rutter, VP-audience marketing. “We've done a lot of work harnessing the power of our subscription efforts by incorporating questions that collect data that can be resold to advertisers,” he said. “Companies are realizing that controlled-circulation qualification cards—or any subscriber touch points—offer a great opportunity to collect all different kinds of data that can be directly monetized.”
For example, RBI asked subscribers about their primary supplier of various products, then advertisers use that information to identify prospects who were buying from their competitors.
John Rockwell, VP-marketing and e-media at Access Intelligence, said audience development and the ad sales team are working more closely together there as well. “This is mainly because the ad sales team is getting requests for, and wants to understand, a much broader set of metrics,” he said. Those metrics, he added, still relate back to the traditional ways of quantified subscriber interests, demographics and firmographics. “I find myself working directly with the ad team on very specific, narrow metrics and numbers,” he said. “We've been having almost daily brainstorming sessions on everything from metrics like "return on engagement' to old-fashioned ideas of "how many C-suite executives read us today?' ”
The audience-development team at FMA Communications, publisher of Practical Welding Today and The Tube & Pipe Journal, among others, spends a lot more time these days doing research and special projects. “Requests come from all areas within the company,” said Kim Clothier, director of audience development at FMA. “People realize how much data we have and what we can do for them,” she said. “Through the sales reps, we get requests from advertisers as well.”
Jeffrey Keeten, circulation manager at High Plains Journal, has definitely seen growth in circulation's relationship with advertising and marketing. “I didn't use to worry too much about what editorial, advertising and marketing were doing; but, in recent years because of the evolution away from print that has been occurring, I've become more conscious about taking advantage of advertising programs that normally I wouldn't have bothered with,” he said.
Keeten is in the middle of changing HPJ's subscription program to a membership program. He said he wants to enhance subscriptions by creating more advertising discounts for long-term subscribers. He will add other agricultural partners that will offer incentives to the subscribers/members. So when companies advertise with the magazine, there will be incentives to subscribe and vice versa, he said.
“Really what I am doing is creating more leverage with our customer base by tying classified advertising and circulation closer together,” he said. “I want [him], when a subscriber is making a decision about renewing, to understand that he will lose a lot more than just a subscription to HPJ if he doesn't renew.”
Other audience developers said that meetings don't happen on a daily basis, as they do at Access Intelligence, but are more driven by specific needs from the advertising department. Rutter said that when RBI was fully functioning with all of its titles, he didn't attend weekly meetings to discuss the issue but his team regularly interacted with publishers in order to “understand their needs and how we can create new revenue streams,” he said. The metric could be driven by a custom request from an advertiser or was sometimes purely speculative on RBI's part.
Clothier also said that since each request is unique, FMA hasn't formalized a process between the two departments. “Typically it will come about from a conversation between the sales rep and the advertiser,” she said. “The advertiser may ask if the sales rep knows X or where they could find X or "I wish I could ...,' ” she said. The rep then offers a suggestion of what the company can do. Clothier said that advertisers will come to the rep with a specific project only once in a while.
All the changes have the behavior of audience-development teams changing as well. “Internally, we're pulling together a lot more data for analysis as we look at new markets, niches, strategies,” Clothier said. M