No greed in sight

According to a number of list firms, consumer list prices should remain relatively stable this year. On the other hand, many pros also say list spending overall should rise as the demand for and number of selects steadily increase.

During 1998, there were either no increases or only slight boosts in the base prices for consumer lists, sources say. “Prices have stabilized,” asserts Fran Golub, vice president of list management for New York-based list firm Walter Karl. “Competition is high, and brokers have become more aggressive, so no one is really raising prices.”

Others agree. “Our consumer base costs haven’t jumped much because we still want to be competitive,” says David Todd Waldman, director of list management for New York-based list company 21st Century Marketing.

As for this year and the impact of the postal rate hike, “anything can happen, but I don’t think the January rate increase, which was small, will have any effect on prices,” says Andy Ostroy, managing partner at list firm ALC of New York.

Those list firms admitting to any price increases in the past year say they have been slight-around 2%. Worldata, for instance, hiked its consumer list base prices an average of 2%, says Al Diblasi, group vice president of the Boca Raton, FL-based list company. Danbury, CT-based list firm Statlistics also increased its base consumer list prices an average of 2% last year, says executive vice president John Papalia. Statlistics then also made “moderate” price increases this year to cover the cost of the postal rate hike and any possible decline in business should mailers cut back on mailings as a result of higher postal expenses.

More selects, higher costs None of the list pros would provide numbers proving their assertion that catalogers are ordering more selects when placing their list orders. But the reasoning behind their claim of heightened interest in selects rings true. “Catalogers are mailing smarter,” says 21st Century’s Waldman. “They want a better response rate, so they are requesting more selects.”

Indeed, renters’ demands for these additional selects is in turn helping increase the supply, according to list sources. List owners, anxious to improve their list rental revenue, are increasingly more willing to spend on technology to slice and dice their customer information into more marketable segments. Moreover, the greater accessibility (and enhanced capability) of database software has also enabled more catalogers to further segment their files.

In addition, Waldman points to the increased availability of buyer information from the Internet as a reason for the rise in selects. “Customers more readily and completely respond to user-friendly questionnaires on the Internet,” he claims, as opposed to mail-in reply cards.

Waldman cites presence of children and PC users as two of the hotter selects currently on the market. And among renters of Statlistic’s consumer lists, recency and e-mail addresses are popular selects, Papalia says.

The scandals surrounding the Clinton administration have not only provided late-night talk show hosts with comedic fodder, but they’ve also given Conrad Direct a new list. The Cresskill, NJ-based list firm describes the 21,774 12-month buyers on its Vince Foster/Ron Brown Investigation Buyers file as “citizens concerned about government abuses and media bias who have purchased information relating to scandals surrounding Bill Clinton.” Such information includes books and videos about “possible cover-ups” regarding the deaths of White House aide Vincent Foster and Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown, and about “allegations of drug trafficking during Bill Clinton’s term as governor of Arkansas.”

The Democratic National Committee will likely not be renting this file.

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