Proliferating e-mail publications are turning to auditing to prove their audience numbers and boost advertising.
Last week, e-mail publisher InfoBeat, Denver, began reselling e-mail publication auditing services to its clients through Internet Profiles Corp.'s Email I/AUDIT, part of the Nielsen I/PRO I/AUDIT services. InfoBeat's clients include Amazon.com, Forbes Digital Media, Wired Digital and Ziff-Davis' ZDnet. I/PRO is also auditing InfoBeat's own e-mail publications, which count a cumulative subscriber base of 3 million.
Email Publishing, Boulder, Colo., said recently it was also offering I/PRO services to its clients in a referral agreement. Clients include Cahners Business Information, Iconocast and U S West.
Libertyville, Ill.-based WebPromote is also using I/PRO. WebPromote uses opt-in e-mail promotions and other services to help drive traffic to clients' sites.
I/PRO's audit, which provides verification of subscription lists for closed-circulation e-mail publications, has been available since December. Yet till recently the onlye-mail newsletter using the service was Iconocast, an Internet trade newsletter published by Imagine Media, Brisbane, Calif. Why the slow adoption?
Mark Cabrales, senior product manager at I/PRO, said it just began promoting the e-mail service, working out kinks with Iconocast before taking on larger clients. "It was kind of a new area for I/PRO," he said. "We've been growing our functionality and ability to handle large customers."
Mr. Cabrales said he's seen e-mail list circulations rocket into the "tens of thousands," with its clients ranging from 20,000 subscribers to nearly 2 million.
Another issue with auditing e-mail publications is the fluctuation of addresses, said Andrew Currie, president-CEO of Email Publishing. "A lot of people have more than one e-mail address. Because e-mail addresses change much more frequently than standard addresses," Mr. Currie added, advertisers are beginning to question lists' audience numbers.
How to count users also varies. InfoBeat, for instance, has daily e-mail publications for several different categories, such as weather, finance and entertainment, followed by subcategories.
Chairman and founder John Funk said InfoBeat has decided to count subscribers at the category level. "We can really help educate each other and think through things as this space grows," he said.
ABC Interactive and BPA International are also offering e-mail publication auditing. ABC audits the delivery of InfoBeat's e-mail ads, but hasn't set up a formal service for auditing e-mail subscriptions. But, said an ABC spokeswoman, "we're certainly capable of performing that type of audit. We just haven't had anyone request it."
Peter Black, BPA's senior VP-marketing, said in September it will finish its first audit for a major publisher. BPA started looking at the field a couple of months ago, and will begin promoting this service.
"Some of the publications that we work with have expanded beyond their print magazines," Mr. Black said."E-mail newsletters are very popular, inexpensive to produce and you get additional ad revenue from [them]," he said.
It's only recently that publishers have viewed e-mail publications as a source of ad revenue.
Forrester Research estimates the business and consumer e-mail broadcast business (including e-mail publishing and promotions) is an $8 million revenue opportunity in 1998. The research group expects it to be $250 million by 2002.
"I have no doubt as e-mail becomes an advertising channel, there's a real need for this," said Kate Delhagen, analyst and director of online retail strategies, at Forrester. "Advertisers will demand accountability. They'll want to see guarantees of delivery."
Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.