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New methods for tracking audience development demands new skill sets

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Debbie Winders has spent more than 19 years working in the circulation department at IDG and now is VP-circulation of the company's Enterprise Services Group, which includes Computerworld, CIO, CSO and Network World. MB: What are the big challenges for 2008? Winders: The biggest trend that I see going on is that it's not just about numbers on a BPA statement. There's a lot more emphasis now on database and online audience development, and so our traditional circulation role is constantly changing for all of us. MB: How do you continue to make that transition? Winders: Change is never easy for anybody. Slightly different skill sets are needed. You still need spreadsheet and database management skills, and marketing skills and those types of things. But you have to add into that mix the fact that analytics are much more important and the insight into the metrics of your interactive media are more important. So you have to stay in tune with what's going on. And if you need some training, you've got to raise your hand and say “I'm willing to change, too.” And publishing companies are much more willing to give that training than in days gone by as well. We've got to be strategic thinkers; we've got to envision what our future holds. Targeting your audience is so important. We have to be good at this because it's critical for our future. MB: What should circulators pay special attention to in the electronic environment? Winders: Database and online audience development. You have to find an audience that's willing to not only read your print publication but also to visit your Web site on a regular basis, download white papers, attend your conferences, subscribe to you e-newsletters. All of those things have become more and more important. And they'll keep getting more important in the future. I've sat in so many budget meetings and seen the decline in print advertising [revenue] and the tremendous increase in online advertising revenue and conference attendee revenue. So there are shifts in the revenue that we bring in, and companies that rely just on print can't be doing too well. MB: Do you tend to gather a lot of information at the front end electronically or gather small bits along the way to feed your database? Winders: Both. We've found over the last few years that it's increasingly difficult to get people to fill out these forms. So we do a lot more e-mail outreach for specific information and a lot more online surveys where you can gather small bits of information to feed into the big database. The qualification form is still very important, but we have other ways of getting information about our subscribers. That's the beauty of electronic media. You can reach out to people and get answers in a very quick way. You put up an online survey and ask for specific information or put up a poll. All of those online surveys are incentivized. M
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