Internet-Based GIS Applications Provide Faster Customer Service
The change means speedier information for newspaper advertisers and salespeople.
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The Arizona Republic, with a circulation of about half a million and advertising materials distributed to 2 million residents in the Phoenix metropolitan area, needed a better way to find customers for advertisers. Advertisers use not only the newspaper's traditional inserts--delivered to subscribers every Wednesday and Sunday, but also the paper's total marketing concept product, which is delivered to everyone, whether they are a subscriber or not.
Some advertisers want the ability to target their ads to a certain segment of the population (e.g., pool owners) or to just certain areas or to certain parts of certain areas. A grocery store, for example, might have a target radius of a couple of miles. But if there's a major obstruction like an intersecting bridge or other traffic deterrent in one part of that area, people may not traverse it to get to the store. Advertisers don't want to pay for ads going to those consumers. Grocery and other merchants with multiple local stores also want to "version" their ads for different parts of the coverage territory. A chain owner may want to put one set of items on sale at one store and a different set of items on sale at another store. So advertising salespeople need to be able to produce these different advertisements complete with detailed information showing advertisers the locations (via maps) of people receiving the ads. The company had been using a collection of PC-based geographic information systems from Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) to target market subscribers and nonsubscribers with specific advertising offers. Though the newspaper company already liked the software's capability to separate customers (including subscribers and nonsubscribers), carrier route and even by zip code, the system took far too long to run new queries, says Jay Visnansky, systems analyst for the newspaper company. The salespeople would query the system to show an advertiser how many people would receive a particular ad, where they were located, and how much it would cost him. "It could take hours to run some queries," Visnansky says. That was too long for a potential advertiser to wait. Company technicians saw a thin-client architecture using a Web-based application as the solution to the lengthy query challenge. Another advantage was that the Web-based application could be accessed from any computer with Internet access. The company selected ESRI's ArcIMS (version 4.1), which handles the Web portion of the Arizona Republic's "Marketing II" application, along with the Web versions of MapObjects for configuring newspaper routes; ArcSDE version 8.3 to handle all spatial data; ArcAuthor, which manages the map service; and ArcEditor, which creates custom map layers showing subscribers, nonsubscribers, and carrier routes. With the ESRI applications the newspaper added Microsoft Visual Studio.Net, Microsoft SQL Server 2000, and Web-based applications from TeleAtlas/GDT to map out streets, zip codes, and X and Y coordinates, which are updated twice a month. The thin-client architecture means that salespeople are no longer trying to download the entire marketing database to a PC or laptop, so they can produce targeted marketing information for advertisers in just a few seconds rather than several hours, according to Visnansky. One grocery store uses as many as 78 different versions, yet the information can be called up in as little as 15 minutes. Ads must still be placed at least two weeks before publication date. Advertisers can schedule ads up to 54 weeks in advance. By providing this information more quickly to advertisers, the newspaper company has been able to increase both the number of advertisers and the revenue from legacy advertisers, according to Visnansky. The company has looked at allowing the advertisers to input the information themselves, but Arizona Republic officials are reluctant to give up that control. The Payoff By deploying Internet-based versions of ESRI ArcSDE, ArcIMS, and MapObjects, the Arizona Republic has been able to
  • decrease query time for salespeople from hours to seconds;
  • increase the number of advertisers;
  • increase the amount of advertising from legacy accounts.
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