Digging into rich databases

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American Business Media defines rich data as "proprietary information gathered and linked in order to create valuable business intelligence which can be sold to customers for analytical, business development and operational purposes." Because publishers have strong relationships with both the reader and the advertiser, they can blend information from both sides to achieve new and more desirable databases for rental or purchase, said Hal Clark, exec VP at rich-data consultant IQ Resources, and one of the field's pioneers.

Clark began working with what came to be known as rich data in the early '70s at Trade Dimensions, now owned by VNU. The media company's Progressive Grocer resurveyed all the stores on its lists and added volumetric data beyond the standard circulation questions. In addition, the controlled-circulation list of its C-Store Business was used to develop a database of all chain convenience stores. In 1985, the controlled circulation of National Mall Monitor was turned into a database. Various printed directories and their data about company headquarters were integrated; and other databases required by the consumer package good companies, which were major licensees, were developed.

"Database building became a totally separate entity, with the controlled circulation files simply one of the byproducts of building highly accurate and current databases about the players in multiple industries," Clark said.

Hanley Wood likewise has found some success monetizing rich data. But Nick Cavnar, director-circulation and database development for the company, said a problem with rich data is that traditional circulation databases are focused on an individual recipient, not necessarily the information advertisers want.

Bill Pollak, president-CEO of ALM and chairman of American Business Media's Rich Data Council, which first met in September, said companies with the No. 1 or No. 2 title in a field have an opportunity here that shouldn't be missed. There's a huge market for [business information providers], especially for titles that know their information."

Cavnar's advice to circulators is to start thinking about their databases and the different ways they can be structured. "We have to break out of thinking about circulation as strictly [a way to pass] the BPA audit," he said. "Go to your sales staff and find out what questions advertisers are asking, what kind of requests are they making."

Pollak suggested pulling subscribers together by company. For instance, he's linked many of his subscribers to a list of the top 400 builder companies in the country, allowing him to slice and dice those lists in a number of ways for advertisers.

Deb Walsh, director of audience development at IDG's Bio-IT World, warned that rich data can prove to be a hungry monster. "It's a huge expense," she said. "And once you build the fundamental machinery for it, the monster needs to be fed, and fed and fed." Nonetheless, IDG is also talking about getting involved with some rich data efforts. M

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