Gregg Robins, managing director of of circulation consultancy Netburn McGill, recently surveyed 30 publishing organizations to find out about industry perceptions of fulfillment services.
MB: What did your survey reveal to be the top need, request or problem of publishers when it comes to working with circulation vendors?
Robins: Performance and reliability are the top two most important issues for publishers. With subscriber acquisition costs so high and retention and renewal rates decreasing, it is critical for the supplier to deliver quality, efficient and timely service. Developing subscriber loyalty is key. A lost subscriber due to late delivery or poor customer service is expensive to replace.
MB: What should circulators demand today from their circ fulfillment vendors?
Robins: Circulators must demand that fulfillment suppliers create a true database, and then make that database available to the circulator and then have that database easily accessible to the publisher without a cost or time penalty. We are no longer just in the magazine business. Circulators are involved in audience development-creating and building audiences for a variety of print and online products and services. The circulator must have dominion over this data; they cannot be held captive by the fulfillment vendor.
The fulfillment vendor must be an enabler, not an obstacle. They must be a partner with the circulator, giving them the data and the tools to create, build, maintain and manage information.
MB: What do you think will be the differentiating services that circulation fulfillment vendors will bring forward this year?
Robins: [They] will be upgrading their systems so they can be the host database, not just for subscriber information but for other data important to the circulation team of the publisher. They will be providing more tools that can be used at the desktop to allow circulators to understand and mine the data. The fulfillment vendors will also be differentiating themselves by having Web-based information be a seamless part of their service, not just an add-on. Online integration will be a critical differentiator between future-oriented providers and those that will be left behind.
MB: What else will be important this year?
Robins: Brand extensions are becoming increasingly important. One magazine title may spawn four or five products or services. It may be an electronic paid newsletter, an on-demand information alert, an informational database, a search capability of archived information, a directory of suppliers or any number of other possibilities. All take advantage of the current value of brand equity while realizing that future profit and growth will come from diversification.
The fulfillment service provider becomes a true partner in this trend. As the repository of the audience database they need to work with the circulator in managing all the data across the various products.