Benn’s Media still prefers pages to pixels

Paper directories are easy to use, and the venerable Benn’s is sticking with them. By Steve Hemsley

Benn’s Media was first published in 1846 and is likely to remain a print-only directory, having resisted thus far the temptation to move online or switch to a CD-ROM format.

The three volumes of the guide’s 151st edition come out in February and will have a total of about 69,000 entries, an increase of about 20,000 on last year, providing a comprehensive list of media that accept either advertising or press releases.

The production schedule has eased considerably since the operation moved to an automated computerised system in the mid-Nineties, while for the 2003 edition publisher CMP Information has formed a partnership with sister United Business Media company PR Newswire to improve the accuracy of its data.

The agreement means information such as a magazine’s frequency, circulation, distribution, price and details of editorial contacts have been supplied by PR Newswire and fed into the production system just weeks before the directory is due to be published. CMP has added additional data relating to media organisations and readership profiles.

Production is handled by Polestar Whitefriars, based in Tunbridge Wells. The three volumes are produced simultaneously. The UK guide contains 8,719 entries, the Europe guide 19,188 and the rest of the world version 40,293. There are details of more than 50,000 publications, 465 publishing houses and 231,000 individual contact names within the 3,000 pages.

For the first time, the 2003 directory includes a separate section on online publications, listing details of the Web-based versions of established paper brands as well as standalone media websites.

Marketing manager Katharine Jordan says: “This is something we felt was needed and would add value to the guide. We used to only list entrants’ URLs, but we had to reflect the feedback we were getting and the growing number of entrants who only have online products.”

Once the new guide is published, work will begin almost immediately on the production schedule for the 2004 book. At the end of February, a number of internal meetings will be arranged between the Benn’s Guide’s production, marketing and IT teams at CMP Information’s offices in Tonbridge to discuss how the latest book was handled and to put a new strategy in place. Discussions will focus on whether improvements can be made to the data content, layout or pricing.

Jordan says: “I am always looking at how the content could be improved and I would research any ideas to see if the extra cost could be justified. For instance, for the latest guide we suggested using different coloured paper for the indexing. This meant an obvious additional printing cost but the marketing team was able to demonstrate that this would add value and provide a positive return on investment.”

After the initial meeting, an action plan will be drawn up for each department. Much of the early part of the production schedule will be spent updating the existing content. Information is collated via telephone, fax and mail as well as increasingly by e-mail, which speeds up the time it takes to key the information into the database.

By the summer, Jordan’s team is putting a marketing strategy in place, which includes selling advertising space in the new directory.

The main aim of the marketing initiative is to encourage more subscribers to buy volumes every year, rather than every two or three years, by emphasising in the promotional literature the improvements made and the new sections that have been added. As an incentive, previous customers are given a ten-per-cent discount on the 179 per volume purchase price, or a 15-per-cent saving if they agree to buy the guide each year. CMP estimates that 51.5 per cent of orders for the 2002 edition came from people who had bought the guide at least once in the past three years.

Advertising and PR agencies account for 22 per cent of the guide’s 4,000-plus circulation, followed by other communication industry clients and charities (19 per cent), national and local government (15 per cent), publishers (13 per cent), trade associations (nine per cent), booksellers (eight per cent), educational establishments (seven per cent) and other groups, such as manufacturers (seven per cent).

Some 87 per cent of the Benn’s Guides sold go to UK clients, with 8 per cent distributed elsewhere in the EU, 4 per cent in North America and 1 per cent in Africa and the Middle East.

Despite the guide’s success, Jordan says the company has no plans to move the content onto an electronic format. She says research carried out by CMP Information has revealed that the majority of users still prefer the printed directory.

She adds: “The study also told us that users are frequently deterred from buying directories produced on CD-ROM or available online because of the high cost of these products. The guide will continue to follow the strategy it has since its inception, which is to produce accurate information the target market wants in a format that they find easy to use – and that is paper.”

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