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Janet Roberts

Interview: Topica CEO Anna Zornosa on Newsletter Publishing
By Janet Roberts

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If you want to see where the newsletter-publishing industry is headed, ask someone on the mountaintop. Anna Zornosa has a clear view from her position as the president and CEO of list-hosting heavyweight Topica.

On Monday, we announced Topica's introduction of the do-it-yourself version of its paid Email PublisherPro service, which offers a host of email-marketing and newsletter services to small- to medium-size businesses.

After discussing the new service, Zornosa discussed some topics of interest to newsletter publishers:

Janet Roberts: We've had free services and high-functionality paid publishing services. What's the prospect for a self-service system like yours?

Anna Zornosa: It's absolutely the next phase. The question is not just how big is this market, but that this self-service paradigm will be a paradigm for all types of companies. It's more efficient to rent your piece of another company's investment than to do it all yourself. What people are finding is that with experience, they simply don't need as much hand-holding and customization. Over time, anyone who starts with a service provider is happy with all this help, but as they become more sophisticated, other things become more important. The ASP (application service provider) model works for e-publishers.

JR: Some industry observers are predicting that all free services, from discussion groups to email to newsletter publishing, will go away in a few years. What do you see happening?

AZ: It does take a lot of discipline to find a business model that works for free. "Free" is being offered under more conscious structures: How will I support providing a free service? Topica has become more clear about this: If you'll do this for us, we'll do this for you. It has become more of a consensual relationship. We remain absolutely committed to Topica Exchange, but we do require more. With opt-in, for example, we require double opt-in. We have to do this, for antispam reasons, because it cuts our costs with administration. Participating with our promotions is how (free publishers) pay for these services.

JR: How have your publishers responded to the changes, such as requiring all double opt-in and ads?

AZ: We are very pleased. We really have gone through 2001 with confidence that we can create a database and co-registration to support our free community. Our members have responded with support and maturity.

JR: I see many conflicting predictions for advertising revenue. What do you see?

AZ: Within newsletters, advertising is successful to the extent that the newsletter itself has an interesting targeting and a demonstrable relationship with its community. ... I do think that the principles basically are how deeply is it targeted and how deep is the relationship. There are other ways to monetize newsletters, with affiliate links, if their readers really trust their advice.

JR: How about email marketing and communication?

AZ: The last thing holding back on email was the business' unspoken concern about hurting their brand with email. What came out was that customers are ready to hear from their business partners through email. They appreciate the convenience, speed and relative certainty. To be successful, you have to be very, very clear about core objectives - six months from now, how do you say it has been successful? - and what measurement you use. If you don't keep track of the main thing you're doing, it will get away from you and get watered down. You might be satisfied but you have no clear measurement.

Ezine-Tips for December 18, 2001

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