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Channel Surfing for Customers

THIS TIME, it’s for real. It, in this case, being multi-channel marketing.

For years, printers have been hearing about opportunities for growth by expanding beyond ink (or toner) on paper. Computers and digital prepress were supposed to have spawned a multimedia services market for publication and catalog printers, among others. Content was to be repurposed for distribution on CD-ROM and later put online.

The Internet gave rise to the cross-media concept, which has been partly realized, yet fallen short of the predicted revolution. Printed catalogs have been found to be an effective mechanism for driving shoppers online. Conversely, retailers typically post electronic replicas of their printed sales flyers on their Websites. Publishers of all types, however, are still struggling to find a revenue model for their online offerings.

Multi-channel marketing is a slightly different animal. It involves using multiple media to market to consumers with consistent branding and messaging. Campaigns that combine print and e-mail messaging, supported by personalized URLs and landing sites, are the main opportunity for printers, but television, radio, billboards and other media can be involved. Using multiple channels reinforces the message and has been shown to boost consumer response rates.

E-mail messaging has gotten relatively little play in the industry, though, despite all of the talk of variable data and one-to-one marketing. Discussions of both the theory and practice have mainly focused on printing applications.

Maybe digital print providers still see e-mail messaging as a competitor to print, but the low cost and ease of production with this medium mean they ignore it at their own peril as marketers seek to implement integrated campaigns.

[ The Proposition ]

Gannett Co., a major media enterprise, was looking for an inexpensive, yet effective, way to centralize and automate some of its customer retention efforts. As part of its international news and information operations, the company publishes 90 daily newspapers in the United States, including USA Today. It also owns nearly 1,000 non-daily American publications and USA Weekend, a weekly newspaper magazine.

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