Building Your List Rental Business
Public or private, consumer or business-to-business, publishing companies of all shapes and sizes are searching for ways to offset shrinking print ad revenues, and rising postal and operational expenses. Sometimes this search opens doors to previously undiscovered riches—as, for example, many publishers are gambling will be the case with their intensified e-media efforts. But a key factor in the profitable publishing model remains the ability to leverage one’s own assets and, these days, building list rental revenue is at the top of many publishers’, well, lists.
Few publishers manage their lists in-house anymore, and Hachette Filipacchi Media (HFM) was among the last holdouts to outsource its list management. The publisher of enthusiast magazines like Woman’s Day and Elle, New York-based HFM reaches 50 million readers monthly. RMI Direct Marketing assumed control of HFM’s list management operations on Jan. 1.
Alan Zamchick, who served as HFM’s list director for 25 years, says, “Consumer publishing in-house list management, with one or two exceptions, is really past the dinosaur era.”
Publishing Executive spoke to Zamchick and other list industry veterans about the state of today’s list rental business for publishers, and what publishers and their circulation staffs can do to build the bottom line of this important part of their business.
Today’s List Business Is Tough
If there was a recurring tenet present in most of the conversations leading up to this story, it was that the list business is more challenging today than it has ever been.
Compiled lists, technological advancements and a number of others factors mean that information is available cheaper—and in some cases freer—than ever.
“Every order is negotiated. No matter what the quantity is, it’s negotiated—either on price or waving of selections,” Zamchick says.
The main reason? Data that is much easier to access, says Dave Hendricks, senior vice president of sales and marketing for ARGI, a Montvale, N.J.-based subscription fulfillment, database marketing and Web services provider, which also offers list services to a number of its clients. “If you go back 10 years ago, the technologies for clearing a database and pulling files just did not exist. It was tough because data didn’t move around as much as it does now. So the freer the data is, the lower the prices become,” he says. “The lower the prices become, the more people can get into the business and the more choice there is. So what makes it more difficult is not the actual execution of pulling a list—or even pulling good data—what’s difficult is for list managers who used to have total control over a file, that data is now much more available.”