Imagine it. A publisher is launching a new B2B title. He employs an editor, salesperson and circulation manager. They pull out all the stops to produce and distribute the launch issue. The publisher then calls them together and tells them to down tools. No more work is needed because he plans to simply repeat the same editorial, ads and circ for the rest of the year.
Crazy, right? And in the case of editorial and sales, inconceivable. Circulation though can be a different story, and anyone who has worked in publishing long enough will have heard horror stories of circulations being built and then left untouched. This approach rarely ends well, and is an extreme example but illustrates the point that some publishers do not put as much effort into their circulation as they do into other parts of their publishing operation.
This, says Andy Kirk, is a big mistake, because a healthy circulation is central to publishing success. Why invest in quality editorial if no one can read it?
For publishers wanting to get their approach to circulation right, Andy has six bits of advice:
1. Precisely define your reader profile and circulation policy
This is the start point of any B2B circulation operation. Who are you writing for? Get this wrong and there will be a mismatch between your content and who you’re putting it in front of.
For this exercise, you’ll need proper input from your editorial and commercial teams.
This is not rocket science, but it does need to be articulated and widely understood. At the very least, your target reader needs to be defined by job title / function / seniority, type of company, size of company and location. You then need to be laser focused in targeting those individuals. Don’t be tempted to pad the circulation out with fringe readers; quality should trump quantity.
If it’s a controlled circulation title, then you also need to set out your re-registration parameters at the start. Will you be re-registering your readers annually or every two or three years?
2. Allocate resource & budget
Don’t fall into the trap of seeing circulation as an occasional activity. It needs constant attention to keep the lists up-to-date and to source new names. Lists degrade quickly and you’ll probably need to be sourcing up to 25% of your total circulation every year to replace gone-aways and drop-offs. A clear-headed understanding of where you should be handling the various circulation functions (customer service, data inputting, reporting, marketing etc) is needed and you will need to make a decision on whether you do everything in-house or outsource to a bureau, or as is increasingly common these days, a mixture of the two.
3. Find out as much as possible about your readers
Whilst making sure you comply with GDPR, you need to build as complete a picture as possible of your readership. This will not only verify that you’re reaching your target audience, but will also make you AI-ready and allow you properly segment your list for commercial advantage. Why send a promotional eblast to the whole mailing list, when you know that only 25% will be interested in it? It will also help inform your editorial direction, as you will be able to pick up on market trends, allowing your editorial teams to operate ahead of the curve.
You will be collecting data from a wide variety of sources, including registration forms, reader surveys, third-parties and also behavioural information from their journeys around your website. Therefore, intelligent tagging and manipulation is essential to make sense of what will be a large amount of data.
4. Integrate circulation and publishing systems
We live in a joined up world, where nothing happens in isolation. When your readers visit your website or click on a link in your newsletter, you want that information to loop back and sit on that reader’s record. Needless to say, it will only happen if systems are properly integrated.
5. Automate & streamline where possible
Workflows aren’t just for editorial teams! The productivity of your circulation teams can be greatly enhanced by offering your readers online self-service options, by automating repetitive tasks and through the intelligent use of defaults and system set ups. This not only reduces costs, but frees up time for more productive work.
6. Don’t be held back by your software
There’s an outside chance that, by now, you have thrown up your arms in despair, in the knowledge that your circulation system is simply not up to the job. If it’s a home-grown system, then it almost certainly won’t be. You need to make an honest assessment of whether your software platform is helping or hindering, and if it’s the latter, then you need to shop around. There are lots of companies, including ourselves, who would be happy to help…
We have been working within the publishing sector for over 25 years. At Perception SaS we understand the time and support that is needed to successfully manage your audience data. With our cloud based publishing services, you can take control of your publishing business from anywhere at anytime.
The Granary, Framfield Road, Buxted, Uckfield, East Sussex, TN22 4DF
Andy Kirk, Managing Partner
Tel: 01825 701 520