Why is this page text-only?

What Does Audience Development Mean to You?

8 audience development executives share how their companies are growing and managing audience in a cross-platform business.

Engagement, online audience development, cross-platform, unified databases. These days, everyone is being asked to take on new responsibilities—circulators included. However, publishing companies approach audience development in different ways. Some take a corporate-wide approach, reorganizing their groups accordingly. Others bolt on strategies and tactics piecemeal.

To get a broad view of what’s happening across our industry, from b-to-b to consumer and in between, we’ve asked eight publishing executives and top audience developers to explain in their own words how their audiences have changed and the new ways they’re tasking their consumer marketing, circulation and audience development groups to grow revenue and their consumer base.

Peter Westerman
Senior VP of audience marketing
Ziff Davis Enterprise

To understand audience development at Ziff Davis Enterprise, it’s important to note that the company has gone through a transformation over the past few years and has emerged as a marketing solutions company that, while continuing to publish magazines, drives most of its business from non-publishing platforms and services.

When you look at our portfolio, the vast majority of audience development and marketing supports the non-print businesses. The amount of resource and attention that goes into marketing e-seminars, and sales lead generation for example, would surprise a lot of people outside the company. We are constantly feeding our central customer database with new contacts, and richer data supporting these businesses.

The tempo of the business today is totally different than in the early nineties when I worked in circulation. We have daily audience delivery targets, as opposed to the bi-annual rate base and composition targets for magazine Publisher’s Statements.

It’s pretty common for us to be simultaneously managing over 100 programs that have campaign segmentation ranging in size from a few individuals to hundreds of thousands of prospects each with different job functional, industry, brand participation or other screening criteria. You can imagine the time that goes into the data modeling, creative and operations to support that volume of business.

This is a totally different world than screening qualification form respondents against a publication’s composition criteria twice a year.

To support this business our team is organized structurally around media platforms they support: eSeminars, events, publications, content syndication, etc., and virtually in areas where specific expertise is required—email, postal direct mail, telemarketing, etc. This allows us to be flexible in sharing resources across channels among staff with domain expertise.

For example, if a sales lead generation campaign comes in that has a tight geographic focus, people on the live events marketing team will get involved because they have domain expertise in driving demand in specific geographies.

It’s the same with e-seminars: If we have occasion to use outside lists, our circulation people will get involved because they have the closest relationships with the broker community. Over time everybody gets cross-trained though they’re dedicated to specific lines of business.

One of the things that’s unique about Ziff Davis Enterprise is we’re all aligned around the same financial goals, so despite how matrixed our organization can seem, we’re all held to the same KPIs. We’re all responsible for delivering the numbers.

That underscores one of the most important aspects of the business today: We’re focused on outcomes-oriented marketing. For example, in some weeks we may be promoting 30 different e-seminars and doing more than 150 different list and creative splits to support them. That’s a phenomenal amount of outbound marketing that has to be tested and measured. Our predictive modeling and segmentation revolves as much around KPIs we’ve developed for sales lead generation as building relationships with our editorial brands.

We focus a lot on segmenting based on people’s media consumption habits to identify people loyal to our editorial brands that are also likely to respond to eSeminars, content syndication, events, and other media platforms we are promoting. Testing for that is very fast-paced. Our testing now is mostly online driven, and what works or doesn’t work changes constantly. As an organization, you have to be much more nimble. Looking back, it almost seems crazy how slow the pace of change was in traditional circulation. 

Michael Bennett
Vice President, Audience Development
Incisive Media

Formed in May of 2008, the goal of Incisive Media’s Audience Development Division is to maintain and grow Incisive’s current subscriber base by understanding our customers’ preferences; strengthening our customer relationships; and using knowledge of our products to add value to these customer relationships by offering them relevant products and services.

In order to achieve that mission, the Audience Development Division incorporates the company’s marketing database, email marketing and new business acquisition departments, as well as the Customer Service Center.

Five years ago, none of these groups existed at our company and there was no clear-cut goal within circulation to foster and develop customer relationships. Today, the Audience Development division and its underlying departments are committed to that objective.

As customers scrutinize their spending more and more closely, the need to present them with relevant offers has become critical. As we develop a more robust marketing database, we will be able to create a “360 degree view” of our customers and present relevant and valuable offers to them through “life cycle” emails and cross-selling.

Five years ago, circulation management was chiefly concerned with print subscription sales through “traditional” methodss. Over the past several years, more and more of our readers have been going online for news and information. As a result, we now have focused a significant amount of our programs on the online arena.

We expect the biggest changes to audience development in the next five years will come in how we market and sell our content. With the continuing decline in direct mail response rates, selling single subscriptions one customer at a time is no longer effective.

We are looking towards site license sales as a main driver of revenue and audience growth in the future. Site licenses, through the use of IP authentication, allow every individual at a law firm, for example, to access our content via the Web. No individual login or registration is necessary. 

This type of sale also allows us to package publications together and to include print copies in the package. It presents the law firm with a complete solution for their information needs and breaks down the registration/login barrier to our content. Once a firm is subscribed to a site license, we can create a 24/7 desktop presence with the use of RSS feeds, widgets and Internet Explorer Web slices.

The landscape of audience development is changing at our company, and I suspect, in the industry as a whole. Fostering a close relationship with our customers through lifecycle campaigns and relevant offers is paramount and of utmost importance.  And new tools, like site licenses, allow us to leverage technology to serve our customers more effectively.

Vicki Hennin
VP, Strategic Marketing & Business Intelligence
Diversified Business Communications

At Diversified, the circulation function has been centralized since the mid nineties, with a dotted line to publishers, but reporting up through a centralized marketing role. In 2003, we repositioned the circulation department into audience Development. In addition to traditional circulation responsibilities, this group provided audience development expertise to our trade show marketing teams. At the time, we were developing several enewsletters and this team had involvement in developing these audiences. In practice, it was initially challenging to help the organization see the circulators contributing more broadly than to the audience of print products. It required staff turnover to help people understand that developing audience was a skill set that could be platform agnostic.

In 2004, we outsourced our paid circulation function to an independent consultant. She works directly with the publishers on strategy and consults with our audience development leadership. In 2008, we outsourced our b-to-b controlled circulation function to another independent consultant. The initial move to outsourcing was due to staff turnover, but this allowed us to focus more strategically. We have always known that one of our most important assets we have is the information we have about our customers, and outsourcing the specific function of circulation has allowed us the time and resources to focus on leveraging this information.

The result of being more strategic in our approach to our audience is the development of a Customer Insights and Analytics team. This centralized group provides strategic insights and analysis to support building and retaining audiences for our print, emedia and tradeshow audiences. The marketing messages to these audiences are managed by decentralized teams and our circulation consultants. The development of a true integrated audience database with best of breed analytic and campaign management tools has been instrumental in this strategy.

Diversified is still developing its emedia portfolio and has emedia products in different levels of maturity. We see a future of investing online, enhancing and transforming our face-to-face model, and keeping print efficient.

For us, the future is in truly leveraging our audience data and providing content and business solutions to our audience at the right time, in the right way. We are currently deep into the analysis of our audiences and understanding the overlap and engagement. The overlap between print, emedia and face-to-face is less than we had expected. This means that we have a fairly broad reach in our industries and the opportunity to better leverage our products.


Andy Cohn

At FADER Media our view on audience development is one of true organic content-based growth, not artificial methods of inflation that are employed by many other publishing companies in both the print and digital space. The use of heavily discounted subscriptions, agents, bulk distribution in dentist and doctor’s offices, premium incentives, and mass direct mailings are all tactics that are not only costly, but don’t deliver a quality and engaged reader that we look to target with our focused properties within our network.

The same can be said on the digital side of audience development in that some sites utilize tactics that mirror those on the publishing side in purchasing traffic via a number of ways—another thing that we don’t believe in and feel delivers a less than quality reader. Our approach with print, digital and experiential is that everything starts with great content, and the right audience will find you.

However, we do utilize social media and digital marketing to spread our content in appropriate venues, targeting environments and properties with audiences that are pre-disposed to having an interest in the subject matter of The FADER or one of our other media vehicles. The use of events and experiential/offline marketing is also a great way to develop a following or audience in bringing the pages of The FADER or TheFADER.com to life, exposing the brand and the artists we are presenting to new audiences around the country and world. This allows people to “experience” your brand in a real-world setting and adds another dimension.

Our biggest goal over the past 11 years, has been to build The FADER into a multi-faceted brand, not just as a magazine, or a Web site, or an events company, but all of those and any other spaces that The FADER brand would make sense to “live in,” thus surrounding our targeted readership, and from a business standpoint, create multiple revenue streams so we’re not overleveraged in any one area. This is why The FADER is healthy and growing in a time where many other traditional publishing companies have been too reliant on an antiquated model of building circulation at all costs to charge more for advertising. That bubble has burst.

Abraham Langer
VP Digital Media
1105 Media, Inc.

Audience Development is fundamentally a direct marketing pursuit. The core of extracting and maximizing revenue from an information consumer is still rooted in effective, disciplined direct marketing that leverages cycles of planning, testing, and tracking to collect registrants, subscribers, and attendees. To achieve these goals, you need teams that are dedicated to specific media consumption channels that can effectively reach their targets by utilizing all marketing channels. For example, at 1105 Media we organize our Audience Development teams into distinct print, Web, and event groups with each group leveraging all direct marketing channels (for example, SEM, banner, direct mail, email, telemarketing, etc.) to achieve their campaign goals.

However, audience development should not be confused with audience engagement. The old print media model allowed publishers to build audience almost before the creation of their editorial products. Circulation brought in the names and editorial created content to keep the audience engaged. With audiences today looking to consume information across multiple channels, this model is not sustainable. The Web has forced editors to attract and engage their audience before any direct marketer has implemented a promotion plan. Editors must create and optimize their content to engage with their community in real time. They must understand their audiences’ interests and information consumption patterns—effectively making them front-line marketers that open the door for an audience to be monetized by the direct marketing teams.

Jim Wessel
Audience Development Director

WOW! The business model has changed. No need to cover the past, just jump in and buckle up as we tour audience development in the b-to-b sector of the future.

As we continue to build and strengthen our audience, we are only at the mercy of the hundreds of thousands that complete subscription forms each year that were built decades ago. We still have those that think their job title is Mr. or Mrs., the maintenance man sweeping the floor is “Corporate Management” and the ones that check the top categories just to get a free magazine. It’s time to lay to rest all those wrap covers and paper sub forms. All subscribers need to subscribe or renew online. Telemarketing still survives but at a much lower cost level. The only paper your operation should handle is paid subscriptions. I see traditional fulfillment as a thing of the past.

Our audience is our life. We need to have our hand on our subscribers and feel the pulse. I personally try to respond to every single subscriber request that crosses my computer including cancels. I acknowledge that I have received their request and the action I took. Everyone that subscribes or renews online gets a confirmation email from me (automated of course) and not a generic “customer service” message. All our circulation is 100 percent requested on all our titles, yours should be the same.

Our Content Group does an excellent job providing great content in the format our audience wants. Print or digital is only a delivery method and both are delivered to mailboxes!
One very critical area for survival: Spend as much time as you can providing support for your sales teams. They have the toughest jobs in the industry today. Listen to their advertisers’ needs. Many custom projects are developed to fulfill them. Be creative to make sure each and every one is successful. I’ve only covered a very small portion of our audience development here. We all work very hard to succeed, don’t forget to play just as hard.

Mike Serino
Director of Circulation
Scranton Gillette Communications

Audience Development is still a process of direct marketing and a function of money. Base the budget on the numbers the publisher wants in Paragraph 3b or estimate the numbers in 3b based on how much money is in the budget. The Publisher’s Statement is usually somewhere in between.

Our corporate policy (and my personal opinion) is to deliver the best audience for our advertisers, which includes the highest percentage of 1-year and Personal Direct Request names possible.

The tactics to achieve our goals have changed slightly over the past few years. What has not changed is obtaining our audiences at the lowest cost per order. Accomplishing the CPO object requires adhering to sound direct marketing principals: Use of multiple channels, continually testing and accurately tracking costs and results. As with all direct marketing, the key word is testing.

The one fact that we as a company find interesting is the small percentage of our audiences that are choosing a digital version over print. When looking at the job functions of the markets we cover, many of these people are not tied to a computer their entire work day. They’re running their companies, out in the field or dealing with customers. The three-dimensional aspect, which includes physically turning a page, of a printed product cannot be replaced—even by e-paper. There will be a portion of our audiences that want to receive their subscription in an electronic version and we will deliver that format. However, the overwhelming majority that is continuing to choose print indicates to us the printed word is still very much alive and the tried and true tactics to obtain and keep these readers still work.

Until our costs of obtaining the best possible audience for our advertisers change dramatically we will continue down our existing path of audience development.

Tricia Syed
Director of Audience Engagement and Marketing
Everything Channel

How Everything Channel approaches its audience—the methods, technologies, goals we’re establishing and the teams we’re building to support audience growth and development—is a critical and timely question. In 2008 and 2009, we’ve made a serious commitment to audience acquisition and engagement by revamping our teams to include experts from b-to-b online marketing backgrounds, a new CIO and a re-architecture project that includes developing a more holistic, company-wide understanding of and commitment to the audience (or database)—a database that encompasses IT channel members, corporate clients, IT end-users and retail buyers. How we integrate these new roles, which have come with new processes, solutions and ideas is a company-wide effort.

There has been a significant shift across media companies over the last five years and the present and future is about building holistic databases, having total audience transparency, delivering contextually relevant user experiences and creating active communities. At Everything Channel we are growing an audience development department focused on those core initiatives. Though Aud Dev had always been a centralized service, the focus was primarily on driving magazine subscriptions. Today, Aud Dev is a service for any or all projects that involve site traffic goals, online sub-scriptions, print subscriptions, generating members or driving product leads. With each initiative, Aud Dev works closely with the business owners and marketers to develop a strategy that includes diversified channels to reach that qualified audience.

By participating in the process, Aud Dev can also provide trends and data around the efforts. For example, if we test and try push email that performs well, we have that knowledge to pass along to another group with a like-minded effort. Cross promotions are extremely cost effective, but most groups do not have the time to find out what their peers across the hall are working on. Aud Dev becomes that liaison, passing along ideas and thinking of creative ways to turn one effort into a win for multiple groups when relevant. Historical data, audience trends and test results enable us to market smarter—optimize our efforts, as well as to uncover new opportunities. Aud Dev today is not just about growing the audience, but providing in-depth analysis about that audience.

As we work with various groups to promote, we also project and pre-qualify to help set realistic and reachable goals. This creates new opportunities with the sales teams and product managers—together we can help position campaigns and uncover new product ideas based on analysis and levels of audience interest. At Everything Channel, the Audience Development team is focused on the audience of members, their interests, trends, behaviors and with that data we are ultimately supporting our products by providing quality leads and impacting client ROI. 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Career Center

Latest Featured Jobs

More Featured Jobs

FOLIO: Prime Sponsors

Advantage CDS Ipacesetters NXTbook Publishers Press Texterity