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Publishers need CRM, too

Publishing companies need to take care of their customers, too. They face the same challenges as other companies, including gaining market share, achieving profitability, branding, differentiation from competitors and integrating their communications processes. Yet at Seybold Seminars in Boston, CRM seemed conspicuously absent from the lineup.

"Publishing isn't really known for being an early adopter," said Kirsten Cloninger, industry analyst, Internet commerce at Cahners In-Stat Group. The publishing industry has been slower to adopt the Web and has struggled to maximize its online presence, she said.

The lone CRM session, given by Mary LaPlante, Partner, Fastwater LLP, was part of "Managing the Web-enabled Company Day." This track was so sparsely attended in the morning, according to Sheraton Hotel personnel, that the rest of the day's events for that track were cancelled. Only eight attendees made the jaunt from the Hynes Convention Center to the Sheraton (connected by a walkway) for that morning session, hotel personnel said.

The fact that the CRM session was canceled was disheartening, according to Rachel Iannucci, marketing coordinator for Banta Integrated Media. "I was surprised that the CRM sessions weren't well attended (and) canceled," she added. "CRM should be at the top of everybody's list."

Meanwhile, out on the exhibit floor, two CRM software vendors peddled their wares. Banta and Exstream Software both had a presence, although their booths were tucked away in hard-to-find spots. Banta chose the Seybold conference to release B.media Version 2.6, a digital content management software tool that synchronizes multi-channel publishing. Exstream released Dialogue, which generates, personalizes, tracks and delivers business communications for the Internet, e-mail and mail delivery.

The vendors, while disappointed with the turnout, seemed optimistic about the future of CRM in publishing, however, and the way that their own companies fit into that vision.

"It seemed like a lot of people that came through were looking more for desktop publishing tools than corporate enterprise software," said Kelley Sloane, vice president of marketing for Exstream. "We did, however, have a few qualified leads, like Fidelity Investments Canada."

Traffic "actually got a little heavier on the second day," Iannucci said. "We got a fair amount of leads which seem to be fairly qualified," she added.

"Because our product, Dialogue, was a Seybold 'Hot Pick' in the CRM category, we benefited from some extra promotion by Seybold," Sloane said. "Overall, we were disappointed with the turnout and overall demographics of the attendees." For example, large companies didn't seem to be at the show, she said.

"CRM in general has been a huge phenomenon," Iannucci said. "It will find its way into a lot of industries."

"The turnout at Seybold Boston was not at all indicative, however, of the interest we are seeing for products that combine publishing and CRM," Sloane said. "Exstream surpassed first quarter revenue goals and has had tremendous success selling our Dialogue product suite."

In any case, this year's Seybold seemed like it would focus on the back-end of publishing, including CRM -- or so it seemed from the pre-conference information on their Web site. But the sparse attendance of the Managing the Web-enabled Business track, combined with the lack of CRM vendors on the floor -- although most attendees were more interested in digital media, e-books, color and process management and the like -- hints that the publishing industry still may have a long way to go before adopting CRM with open arms.

This may be because online content, magazines and book publishers are more interested in creating community, according to Cloninger. "It's the audience interacting with the site, as opposed to a retail shop transaction occurring," she said. "The applicability is not as clear-cut to publishers, which is why you haven't seen as much adoption in those realms."

E-mail response software has the chance to catch on in publishing, Cloninger said. It allows organizations to respond to feedback quickly, which may have appeal for publishers, she said.

As for vendors seeking out publishing companies as customers, the lack of CRM software companies may have to do with the fact that vendors want to target vertical industries where there is more sensitivity in the interaction between the customer and the company, according to Cloninger. "It's not like the financial services industry, where (customers) are making a decision based on" what they're getting from the Web site, she said.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Banta Integrated Media

Exstream

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