Miami Herald Delivers on Data Quality


If you're handling more than a half million direct-mail pieces a week, you've got to be sure you're working with clean address data and accurate geocodes -- in other words, quality data. Errors mean pennies, and pennies can add up quick with such sizable loads.

This is the reality with which Alfred Hampton, database/systems administrator with The Miami Herald Media Company, must constantly grapple. As he told me in a recent interview, "All it takes is a few cents higher. Multiply that by 448,000 pieces per week, and you can come up with a big difference in cost."

The 448,000 pieces per week Hampton mentions refers to the portion of Miami Herald's weekly total market coverage (TMC) mailer delivered for clients via the US Postal Service. The TMC, which accounts for about 70 percent of the company's direct-mail campaign volume, also comprises an additional 210,000 pieces delivered by its newspaper carriers. The TMC gets distributed to people who don't subscribe to the Miami Herald; subscribers receive their ad flyers tucked inside their papers.

"Data quality is extremely important for us so we can get the best possible rate from the postal service," Hampton reiterated.

For the TMC mailing, Hampton must be sure that all subscriber addresses get scrubbed from the "everyone" address list and then, using a data management tool, make sure the remaining addresses match accurately to the the postal data "so there's no duplication and we're not erroring on the number of pieces we're delivering." In a second step of the process, the tool provides the geocoding for custom client mailings. If the address is improperly coded, "you can't get an accurate coding on the geocode, either."

The company, which delivered 31 million pieces last year, places "very, very high importance on the accuracy of our list. Our clients literally demand it," said Hampton, noting that the service's accuracy rate hoovers between 99 percent and 100 percent. "We fine tune our process every week, and we double and triple check to make sure we're performing the mailings correctly."

Even as Miami Herald works to offload direct-mail delivery from the US Postal Service and onto its own carriers, data quality remains paramount, Hampton said. The newspaper carriers still need to be sure they're delivering the flyers to the right addresses. "The mailers need to be at the right spot, at the right time."

Hampton credits the accuracy of client mailings and the ability to contain costs in part to the quality of the data management tool itself, SAS DataFlux Data Management. For example, for address coding, the tool uses an extra line of travel key for sorting, which is really important because the Miami Herald buys data directly from the Postal Service. "With the tool we can score and sequence the list to obtain the best possible postage."

How does your organization maintain the quality of its mailing lists? Share below.

Beth Schultz, Editor in Chief

Beth Schultz has more than two decades of experience as an IT writer and editor.  Most recently, she brought her expertise to bear writing thought-provoking editorial and marketing materials on a variety of technology topics for leading IT publications and industry players.  Previously, she oversaw multimedia content development, writing and editing for special feature packages at Network World. In particular, she focused on advanced IT technology and its impact on business users and in so doing became a thought leader on the revolutionary changes remaking the corporate datacenter and enterprise IT architecture. Beth has a keen ability to identify business and technology trends, developing expertise through in-depth analysis and early adopter case studies. Over the years, she has earned more than a dozen national and regional editorial excellence awards for special issues from American Business Media, American Society of Business Press Editors, Folio.net, and others.

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Re: daunting
  • 5/9/2013 2:44:20 PM
NO RATINGS

@SRS1, that's good to hear. There's not much worse that dirty data to bog down an analytics project.

Re: daunting
  • 5/9/2013 1:51:42 PM
NO RATINGS

We used Melissa Data to scrub and update a few mailing lists at an organization where I worked. The  data, overall was very clean.

Re: daunting
  • 5/8/2013 7:55:32 AM
NO RATINGS

@SRS1 -- so you've used Melissa Data list services? Care to share any examples of what you've used them for?

Re: daunting
  • 5/7/2013 11:32:12 PM
NO RATINGS

Melissa Data has very good mailing information - often better than the government databases

Re: daunting
  • 5/7/2013 11:10:39 PM
NO RATINGS

I am often amazed at the accuracy of some of the services now available. Take Melissa Data - generally very reliable lists.

Re: daunting
  • 5/7/2013 3:56:47 PM
NO RATINGS

Sounds tortuous!

Re: Nothing New In Data Quality
  • 5/7/2013 3:50:08 PM
NO RATINGS

I don't think we can dismiss the significance of having strong data quality and data management programs in place, especially when dealing with high volume (31M mailed pieces annually).

Re: daunting
  • 5/7/2013 1:33:47 PM
NO RATINGS

I agree. At least the cost of a bounced e-mail is much lower than a wrong physical address for a mailing.

Re: daunting
  • 5/7/2013 12:36:51 PM
NO RATINGS

I wish there was a tool like this to sort out addresses when I was doing direct mailings for the company I worked for. We had access databases at the time and most of the addresses were wrong. Everything had to be double checked manually. I can tell you that it is not an easy job when you are dealing with hundreds of addresses.

Nothing New In Data Quality
  • 5/7/2013 10:27:51 AM
NO RATINGS

I suspect the Miami Herald is putting out this bit of "news" just to gain a bit of PR for it's advertising section. There's really nothing new in keeping mailing lists clean. This has been going on for many decades. And handling just a few hundred thousands of names and addresses is not much of a challenge compared to companies that handle millions of mailing pieces. But the Herald at least keeps their name out there!

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