PC Fulfillment Software: What's Available

By Beardsley, James | Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, March 1985 | Go to article overview

PC Fulfillment Software: What's Available


Beardsley, James, Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management


Walk into your local retail microcomputer store, browse around, punch a few keys, look intrigued by the equipment--and sure enough, a salesperson will appear.

"What business are you in?" he'll ask you.

"Magazine publishing."

"Let me show you this great mailing list package! It will handle your subscription lists, I'll bet."

Well, maybe the sell won't begin just like that, or just that quickly, but you can be sure that begin it will and that you will be subjected to a marketing campaign. So you must ask yourself, "Do I know what I want?" "Do I have enough background to ask the right questions?" "Am I going to get what my company really needs?"

Microcomputers (which are coming to be known as personal computers since IBM introduced its microcomputer named the Personal Compter) have been around since the mid seventies. As you probably know, all this equipment, which is referred to as hardware in data processing, needs software programs before it can do anything at all. At about the same time word processing machines came on the scene, and as microcomputers and their attendant software became more prevalent, an interesting phenomenon happened: It had to do with mailing lists.

And mailing lists and the answers to the questions posed above are essentially what this article is going to be about.

Word processing and mailing lists

Because word processing allows form letters to be mass produced and to appear as personal letters, it has become very valuable to business. Word processing also makes it easy to revise any written letter or report before it is printed for delivery. Because of its value, word processing software was an early software package available for personal computers.

And as word processing application software programs were written for microcomputers, a necessary adjunct became the maintenance of a mailing list. Then programs were written to merge a mailing list with the word-processing-produced letter. Mailing list maintenance packaged software appeared everywhere. The novice to microcomputers examined them, and at first assumed these packages could be used for subscription fulfillment. The following will explain why they cannot.

Mailing list software features

In general, it can be said that about all that mailing list maintenance programs can do is put a file of names and addresses on a microcomputer. It is possible that the package may give you some routines on how to sort the list ino Zip Code sequence. But do not expect that it is going to bring any duplicate names or addresses to your attention. And if you think that you can code the names for the source from which the names were generated, think again. The package has no such sophistication. If you hoped you might use the program to emulate subscription fulfillment requirements for audit bureau reporting requirements--well, too bad. You will discover that they hopelessly lack such features.

Some basic requirements

There are a number of questions you should ask about any subscription fulfillment system or software package that you are examining. Most publications will have some unique requirements, but all will need many of the same features. When you examine a system or software package, ask the following questions:

1. How does it locate a name and address? Can it find a name and address with only part of the address (for example, last name, part of the name, Zip Code and street name)? Will it show all the names on file in the same address area? In other words, will the system assist in the elimination of duplicate names?

2. Does it generate a "match code" as an identification (ID) number? This can be used in dupe elimination.

3. Does it have a basic management reporting package? For example, does it produce all the reports necessary for an ABC or BPA audit?

4. …

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