Privacy big issue for circulation execs

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New York--Among several business issues plaguing circulation executives, privacy issues loom large, according to panelists who spoke Wednesday at The Circulation Management Conference & Expo.

Given the convergence in many b-to-b business media companies of print publications, online properties and trade shows, defining business relationships with customers is crucial, agreed participants in the session on "Key B-to-B Issues and Opportunities." Primedia Inc. produced the conference.

VNU Business Media Inc. has a policy governing internal use of customers' phone, fax and e-mail information to guard against one group using another's customer information without permission, said Toni Nevitt, exec VP-eMedia & Information marketing.

Without such a policy, she warned, "it's viral marketing with no control. If you have a relationship with someone and they opt-out, and their e-mail is in six places within the company, it becomes impossible to control." The result can be damaged customer relationships, she said.

Eric Rutter, VP-controlled circulation at Reed Business Information, agreed. "Your company has to have a defined, clearly communicated privacy policy."

The panelists advised using opt-out e-mail policies rather than the more conservative opt-in. "It's risk vs. reward," said Francis Heid, VP-publishing operations at Advanstar Communications. "For every three [e-mail addresses] I get, every two say 'don't rent,'" he said.

Gloria Adams, director-corporate audience development at PennWell Publishing, joked, "If we went to double opt-in, which is now being pushed, we'd have five e-mail addresses to use."

--Carol Krol

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