The hunt for new revenue and products, particularly those originating from database merging and analysis, may bring more jobs into the circulation profession, say a number of observers. But they warn these positions may be filled by people from outside the traditional ranks.
Malcolm Netburn, co-founder and president of Netburn McGill, a consulting firm, said media companies looking for circulators are seeking people with higher-level, strategic skills. "Companies are finding it difficult to fill that need, because circulators weren't trained that way," he said. "They were brought up to be numbers-crunchers and to get the highest level of circ at the lowest cost."
Management, he said, may doubt their current circulators can become strategic contributors.
Shannon Aronson, corporate director of audience development at CMP Media, doesn't look for the traditional circulation background much when she hires these days. "Some experience is good, but I really want someone fresh who can add a different perspective to the old-fashioned way circulation used to be handled," she said.
Generally, that means people with a strong marketing and database background. For instance, Aronson's last new hire had a business management undergraduate degree and an MBA in MIS and marketing. This individual has already been promoted, she said.
The desire to retool and burnish the role of circulators is evidenced by a recent change at American Business Media, which renamed its Circulation Committee the Circulation/Audience Marketing Committee.
At PostNewsweek Tech Media, COO Maxine Minar is hiring people with good basic circulation skills "and turning them into good Web marketing and attendee marketing managers," she said. Minar said she looks to hire employees who understand the importance of good fulfillment systems and data, as well as "good marketing people who know how to create promotions that work and then judge how they did."
In addition, PostNewsweek has begun using its circulation people in other parts of the company to meet the goals for its Web and event products. One former circulation person is now responsible for all trade show marketing; another is responsible for all Web sites and e-mail newsletters.
Hearst Business Media VP-Circulation Barry Green predicted there will be more circulation hires that don't come through the traditional circulation ranks. "My thinking is that as marketing/promotional employees enter the market, they may be able to lend their aptitudes into the `audience development' sector of what used to automatically be called `circulation,' " he said.
Green also said the profession increasingly requires employees who are intuitive, have marketing and promotional savvy, are computer literate and can juggle multiple projects while planning for the future. He is among those who believe today's current circulators can make the transition.
But Netburn isn't so sure. He predicted that only about 25% will successfully make the change. The rest will be replaced by people with backgrounds in other areas, he said.
Donna Sickles, corporate circulation director for Quadrant Media, likewise said there has been some encroachment on circulation jobs from people in other fields.
"Circulators are used to working with their database, developing their database for maximum advantage," she said. "Management really should be looking to them, but I think it really is a challenge right now for circulators to get their management to recognize that they're the right people for the job."
"A lot of management doesn't listen to their circulation departments as much as they should," Netburn said. His advice is simple: "If you can suggest new revenue streams for the company that work out, you've created a good spot for circulators within your company."