Innovators: circulation

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Over his 30-year career in circulation, Jim Wessel has learned, he said, that "you've got to keep changing because your audience keeps changing." Wessel cut his circulation teeth in newspapers, moving from his native Wisconsin to Kansas, Illinois and Iowa. Watt Publishing, where Wessel has overseen circulation for eight years, is his ninth employer.

Wessel defines innovation as "being able to recognize change and react to it quickly with a variety of different methods and techniques."

In addition to learning from his own experiences, Wessel said he is not shy about "stealing ideas from everyone else."

"Let's face it, there are a lot of good people throughout the industry as well as within our own organizations," he said. "So we try to take the good points from others and keep track of their failures so we don't repeat them."

Tapping that deep base of knowledge, Wessel has been able to stay on the leading edge.

With 60% of Watt's circulation coming from outside the U.S., Wessel has learned to use different marketing methods for international subscribers. While half of Watt's international subscribers respond via e-mail, "in the U.S., e-mail doesn't work very well," he said. "We only get 15% to 20% returns." He attributed the difference to spam and the sheer volume of e-mail people in the U.S. receive.

Watt gets 55% to 60% of its U.S. renewals and subscribers through telemarketing. "With the National Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers who used to do consumer work have had to move to b-to-b, and there's an overabundance of callers," he said. "It's become really cost-effective." -M. G.

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