money_in_handSaving money on circulation means taking control of your most valuable asset — your data. Once you do, you’ll find circulation costs dropping. Not to mention revealing golden revenue opportunities you didn’t have before (without adding costs).

There are three steps to dropping your circulation costs:

1) Consolidate Your Data

Most publishers have their data scattered across multiple systems (e.g. inventory, fulfillment/distribution, email, advertising sales, accounting, web analytics, etc.) that don’t talk to each other. Continuing to fragment your data this way can kill your business outright or reduce it to a lumbering elephant on the road to extinction if you don’t act quickly.

Unify all your online and offline data of subscribers, leads, prospects, advertisers, and contacts into one responsive contact database and de-dupe them.

The result: no more irrelevant, redundant, or poorly timed communications that irritate and trigger unsubscribes or spammer flags. You’ll also stop wasting money printing more issues than you need and mailing multiple print issues to the same subscriber, or worse — inactive ones.

Doing this can be challenging if you’ve outsourced services — distribution / fulfillment / circulation, subscriptions, advertising sales, email, accounting, etc. While these specialists may have left you free to focus on where you add the greatest value — creating editorial content — that very specialization can work against you today.

Many of those firms may lack the infrastructure and talent to provide the multiple specialty services under one roof that you need to succeed. Which makes consolidating all that data with any one of these traditional service providers highly unlikely.

Yet your data is your gold mine. You must be able to access it whenever you need it. Being able to slice, dice, and analyze at the drop of a hat is vital to helping you make critical decisions and plan for the future. Your data is at the heart of reducing your circulation costs and improving your revenue.

Today, databases are relatively inexpensive. Database technologies have made huge leaps forward. No longer do you need to speak “geek” to extract a custom report from a modern database. Most modern databases, when set up correctly, can have powerful front-end dashboards with drop-down menus and real-time reporting. So you can send out emails, create subscriber lists, and even generate custom reports complete with graphs — with minimal training.

2) Drop Renewal Costs with a Responsive Contacts Database

To manage any business today requires using a responsive contacts database to consolidate all your data. This type of database is active, dynamic, and relational. If you had a unified database such as this, each contact could have a timeline record with their behavior captured: 

  • Website: pages visited, how long per page, content downloaded, ads clicked, videos watched, surveys answered, calls-to-action clicked, forms submitted
  • Events registered and attended online and offline (e.g. webinars, trade shows, workshops, etc.)
  • Emails – opened, clicked on, forwarded, unsubscribed, flagged as spam
  • Social media – their accounts, information they share / like / favorite, who they follow, lists they make, etc.
  • Time of day and length they engage in various activities (e.g., on your website, on social media, using email, watching videos, where they stop/start/rewind videos, etc.)
  • What devices they use for different tasks, which devices they use at different times of the day, etc.

As well as demographic information: e.g. name, address, email, subscriber type, payment information, company, title, etc.

These demographic and behavioral transactions give you deeper insight into their interests, attitudes, values, and beliefs (psychographics). So you can analyze how congruent what they say matches what they do.

With the power of a responsive contact database in your hands, fulfillment is no longer isolated. Instead, it’s integrated into your website, as is ecommerce. Subscribers can sign up, renew, and even auto-renew — all on your website, updating their record in real-time. This negates the need to pay fulfillment houses for calling subscribers to get their renewal information and manually entering the data into their data processing systems.

Best of all, because you’re also tracking all this behavior in real-time — on your site and in your communications — you can send them more timely and relevant emails. You can create workflows to automatically send a personalized email with links to articles and resources on the topics Susan cares about, but hasn’t read yet. This makes your publication more relevant and valuable to her. It shows you’re paying attention to what matters to her. And every time she clicks on one of those links, she’s reaffirming her relationship to your publication.

That’s building brand loyalty. That’s creating a brand advocate. Do it well and it’s a foregone conclusion that she’ll renew and keep renewing. All because you have a unified responsive contacts database that lets you set up workflows based on actual behaviors, not just time.

3) Sophisticated Segmentation

Because it’s a relational database, you can segment your database according to circulation criteria. You can create multiple lists for specific fulfillment criteria and suppress inactive users. This way you aren't wasting money delivering to people who no longer meet qualified reader criteria or who haven’t renewed their paid subscription.

These responsive contact databases let you manipulate your data any way you want. Sophisticated segmentation is at your fingertips. Imagine being able to build a list of contacts who are subscribers that also visited specific web pages in the last 5 days, are of a certain age, work in a targeted industry, have a targeted job title, downloaded a particular white paper, attended the related webinar and watched a related video, shared the webinar on Facebook, tweeted the video twice to their friends / followers, and open every email you send them within 48 hours. 

How valuable would such a list be to you? Do you think you can tell what topics they’re interested in? What content captures their attention? What they get excited about?

Do you see how you can keep fine-tuning your editorial to keep your subscribers happy? So that renewing their subscription is a quick “yes”?

This is the power of a responsive contacts database. With it, you’re in control. You can market to your subscribers more effectively. You can create brand extensions more easily — assured that you’re headed in the right direction. 


Using a responsive contacts database to consolidate your data gives you back control of your most valuable asset – your data. With this database unifying all the different data sources and integrated with your website, you are back in the driver’s seat. Creating rich experiences for your readers, reducing fulfillment costs by bringing data management in-house, and increasing revenue because you can segment your audience in ways that valued by advertisers.

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Originally published Nov 12, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 19 2023