Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Post-Press Progress in Memphis

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Post-Press Progress in Memphis

Article excerpt

TWICE THE NUMBER of inserts in half the time, with more accountability and finer zoning possible. It's already happened in Memphis, thanks to control and management software linked to advertising and circulation systems.

On the last morning of Nexpo '98 in Orlando this past week, Commercial Appeal operations director Jimmy V. Hamilton outlined how new inserters and software changed the packaging process at the 205,000-circulation paper.

In over 25 years in various management positions at the paper, said Hamilton, "one of the things I heard regularly was that advertising didn't have enough flexibility in selling and distributing inserts" Among the complaints: advertisers could not get exactly the distribution patterns they wanted; the number of inserts that could be sold was limited; and no acceptable means existed to compete with direct mail.

The solution began five years ago when the paper bought a half dozen SLS-1000 inserters from Bethlehem, Pa.-based GMA -- three have 22 heads and another three have 30 heads with ink-jet labelers. It equipped the inserting systems with software from Burt Technologies, Evergreen, Colo.

Hamilton relayed vice president and general manager Richard Remmert's remarks that before the new equipment went into the mailroom, the ad department (which he then managed) noted not only advertisers' greater use of preprints, but also their "heightened interest in more specific targeting of those inserts." A major goal was to ensure that no competitor gained a targeting advantage over the paper.


That targeting ability now reaches to specific addresses. Though not now utilized to that degree for carrier-delivered newspapers, the portion of a nonsubscriber product that is distributed by mail is sent to specific addresses using the newspaper's database and mailroom software.

"We believe our mailroom operation is one of our strengths as we look to the future competitive environment for advertising market share," said Hamilton.

The software consists of three major sections: ad order entry, packaging and management reporting.

With full-run inserts all but gone, he said, "Our growth has been and will continue to be more tightly focused distribution schemes from our advertisers." For now, the Commercial Appeal handles home delivery and single copy distribution by ZIP code. The system can even split ZIP codes -- something Hamilton said will become more the rule than the exception it is now.

"We have the flexibility to grow... even to the level of address-specific in the not too distant future," he said, without adversely affecting on-time delivery. Advertisers can place inserts in any edition, any day of the week, and can put them into the nonsubscriber publication, delivered on Tuesdays.

Ad staffers enter orders using updated circulation draw from the mainframe circulation customer service system. Closer to the publication date, the publication is synchronized with the updated draw from the circulation system.

Emphasizing the importance of accurate circulation data, Hamilton said that when the data was first downloaded to the Burt system, many papers on fictitious routes and papers not on the correct delivery truck were among the problems found.

Mailers were aware of what was wrong on the manifests, and papers "always got to the right drops," said Hamilton. But with a computer telling inserters to produce a certain number of papers and directing them "to a specific drop on a specific truck," the data must be right. "We spent a lot of time cleaning up our database," he added.

Alternate zoning allows geographic or demographic carrier-route clustering and easy targeting of routes with a common element other than ZIP code. It can also exclude areas of distribution and can set up advertiser profiles for those who always use the same patterns, which can be easily changed when needed, according to Hamilton. …

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