No Magic Bullets
By Jim Tarbox, editor, History Channel Magazine, and Rebecca Sterner, publishing consultant
Maybe it’s time for a do-over.
That’s the challenge presented to a group of circulation report managers by Cindy Hewett, reporting solutions product manager at CDS Global in Des Moines, Iowa, at the Sept. 20 MMPA education event. She noted audience development staffers need to deal with a landscape that has changed over the past six to 10 years—a change that shifted reporting from a print-products focus to a spectrum that includes print and digital editions, websites, and other businesses within the publishing arena.
Finding an metaphor in cable TV’s “What Not to Wear” fashion make-over program, Hewett said reporting needs to be “made over” so it will be easier to manipulate and understand. Most in the reporting audience, she noted, have long histories of dealing with analysis that is time-consuming and difficult to assemble. But despite the turn to digital analysis of results, she says, reports still need to be designed so they can be used to make decisions and take action.
However, she cautioned, reports are not a magic bullet. While
they can help point out problems with circulation maintenance and growth,
managers cannot report their ways out of those problems. “You still have to do
the work of making decisions and revising the execution of your circulation
activities,” she said.
Turning data into useful information is tricky, she said, and it constitutes a continuing challenge for fulfillment/database systems. The data needs to have integrity, and the data needs to be refreshed and secure.
It is clear that audience development analysis will continue to rely on standard and basic reports, but these are becoming more flexible and offer graphing and drill-down capabilities, Hewett reported. More and more, circulation managers are also using flexible reports to get quick answers for things of interest—and these flexible reports need to be easy to share with other non-circulation staffers. One of the biggest challenges remaining is to integrate information from many sources, such as email metrics and fulfillment reports.