By Frank J. Romano The printing industry has done an abysmal job with media research. It is voluminous, scattered, disconnected, often irrelevant, and unavailable to the average printer. March 18, 2005 -- A division of Walt Disney Co. applies a database marketing program that uses a methodology for segmentation based on consumer behavior. They can track consumer household stage of life, such as single, married, parents, or empty nest, and other socioeconomic factors. At Time, Inc., Ann Moore, CEO, uses over 1,000 yearly research projects to create or improve her media properties. For instance, people only visit supermarkets 70 times a year versus 85 times as they did in 1985, choosing Wal-Mart more often. Her new magazine will only be sold at Wal-Mart, Database marketers use these types of research as tools for analyses, such as lifetime-value profile, churn risk, and campaign response. For example, you may visit Walt Disney at different stages in your life--after you've become a parent or a grandparent. Personicx, Acxiom's household-level-based system, places all U.S. households into one of 70 segments based on consumer behavior and demographic characteristics. Personicx is based on Acxiom's InfoBase, a compiled list covering about 110 million U.S. households. More than 40 percent of this customer base can be classified into three high affinity segments. The top cluster, Skyboxes and Suburbans, which includes married households aged 36-55 with a $125,000 household income, is only penetrated 0.6 percent. Harland Analytical Services provides software that enables a bank to gauge the behavior of its customers. For example, these models help financial institutions identify customers most likely to switch to a competitor, the customer's propensity to purchase a specific product, and the financial product a customer is most likely to purchase next. Supermarkets track our purchasing. About a dozen research organizations perform most of the industry research. All too often, I think the same group of printers is being surveyed repeatedly--the ones willing to participate. So where am I going with all this? I think the printing industry has done an abysmal job with media research. It is voluminous, scattered, disconnected, often irrelevant, and unavailable to the average printer. We know so much and so little. A large portion of the research is funded and directed by suppliers. They want to anticipate printer and print-buyer needs, and see trends early enough to act on them. Most of their research tends to focus on equipment and systems and technologies. In fact, about a dozen research organizations perform most of the research projects, and they often survey printers to ascertain perceptible trends. All too often, I think the same group of printers is being surveyed repeatedly--the ones willing to participate. The recent merger of PIA/GATF's GAMIS and NPES Research is a step in the right direction, but, as an industry, we do not have the most basic data to present to customers on print effectiveness. The Direct Marketing and Magazine Publishers associations have tons of data, which members use on a regular basis. The time has come to look at the portfolio of research being done for the printing industry and re-evaluate its focus and its scope. Someone said recently that the only industry that spends less on marketing than printing is the sand and gravel industry. And you cannot do marketing without market research.