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Circ execs voice recording fears

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For many months, audience marketers have been building up for a fast-approaching rule change in the BPA Worldwide telemarketing regulations. In January, all telemarketing calls—both incoming and outgoing—must be recorded so auditors can listen to how subscriptions were requested.

For many circulators—particularly large ones that are already recording calls—this news brought about no quickening of the pulse. Francis Heid, VP-media operations at Advanstar Communications, has continually reiterated that this rule change should have no impact on publishing companies.

"All BPA is trying to do is to keep the high-quality standard for the personal request status," he said. "We believe in that high-quality standard and have always emphasized that to our telemarketing vendors. If you did that, then all that changes is the fact that it has to be recorded." Some of Advanstar's telemarketing agents have been recording for years.

However, there are other audience marketers that are worried about the imminent rule modification. For example, there has been a growing concern at companies that publish titles targeted to government employees that these workers will not allow themselves to be recorded, thereby shutting down a very important source of new subscriptions and requalifying efforts.

Christine Oldenbrook, director of marketing and e-media at Bobit Business Media, which publishes 19 titles, including Government Fleet, is one of the concerned. "Every discussion I have with colleagues, it always comes up that the new rule is going to hit government segments," she said. The fear is that prompting the call with "your call will be recorded" will quickly end the call, creating significant falloff in resubscriptions.

"It's not like we have thousands of names to replace those who refuse to be recorded," Oldenbrook said. The problem, she said, will be "training" subscribers to start responding through other channels. She has added text to the telemarketing script that if the government employee doesn't want to be recorded then he or she should go to the Web site to requalify. "I'm using the call as a reminder," she said. "Hope it works."

Oldenbrook and a number of other circulators have taken these concerns to BPA in hopes of finding a way to treat government magazines in a different fashion because of the peculiarities of this subscriber segment. Many audience marketers said that BPA has given a great response to the concerns, which is considering several options.

"We're very pleased that BPA is considering the feedback and results of several member publications in the government market, with regard to the impact of the recording rule. We look forward to hearing their final decision," said Carmel McDonagh, group circulation director for 1105 Media, which publishes such titles as Federal Computer Week, Government Health IT and Washington Technology.

At BPA Worldwide the more than 10 committees are working to have a solution by year's end, said Glenn Hansen, president-CEO of the organization.

At press time, the committees had met with its American and European factions, and was about to discuss the issue with its Middle East and Canadian factions. The BPA board will vote on the issue at its Dec. 13 meeting.

"So far the conversations have ranged from `no exceptions for only one market category' to reverting to the Personal Identifier Question (PIQ) when a refusal to record is received regardless of the market," Hansen said.

So until Dec. 14, American b-to-b publishers of government publications are forced to sit and wait to see what rules will be enacted, rules that will then only have a few weeks to be implemented.

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