Databases Empower News/ad Departments; Commercial Information Agencies Provide Alternatives

Article excerpt

Commercial information agencies provide alternatives

MEDIA COMPANIES ARE frequently learning that using in-house staff to gather much-needed information for their editorial, advertising sales, and competitive needs is becoming prohibitively expensive. Businesses and individuals are spending an estimated $97 billion annually gathering information from all types of open sources, including more than 3,800 databases on worldwide data banks containing over 150,000 sources and 200 million electronic' records. The number of database searches alone has increased 1,100% since 1979 and more than doubled in the last three years with an estimated $500 million spent on on-line searching.

High cost, low yield

However, if an editor or advertising director asks a reporter or sales representative to gather information for an upcoming feature story or sales presentation, chances are that the data search will be less comprehensive and timely than it could have been. Perhaps even worse the time and expense allocated to the search has taken the reporter or salesperson away from important duties that could have had even greater impact on the quality or profitability of their newspaper.

This has been confirmed by numerous studies among sales executives across multiple industries since the late '80s which indicate that in aggregate nearly half their time is spent on data acquisition (26%) and data management (20%) -- rather than actively selling goods and services. Significantly more time is spent inefficiently acquiring information in smaller companies which have less ability to hire or properly train computer literate database searchers.

More promising returns

For example, one of the nation's leading business publishers had always set aside at least three months to complete its annual special supplement on New England-based advertisers. That changed four years ago. In 1989, they cut editorial research and development time up to85% and produced a vastly improved product in days rather than months. Their editors were able to rank the leading 104,000 New England companies by state, select which companies by state, select which to include in their annual industry report, sort the top tier into six industry groups and then, from worldwide database sources, acquire management, sales, competitive, marketing, financial and industry trend companies overnight with one phone call to a professional, commercial information agency specializing in computer assisted reporting.

On the commercial side of the slate, newspapers advertising departments can obtain substantial amounts of information on potential accounts and industries almost overnight. Access to commercial databases provides the intelligence to make a knowledgeable, targeted presentation. A sales representative can go into a meeting with a retailer really knowing the retailer's competition or trends in his business, providing real "value added" to the relationship..

Jim Blinn, former associate publisher, the Boston Herald, as early as 1986, sought to attract upscale Brooks Brothers as a new advertiser to the newspaper. …