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Fax publishing: fast facts.

Each time the postal service does something to infuriate the general public, which is faily often, it encourages business to reevaluate, to look for a more dependable less expensive, and faster type of communication.

A fax publication isn't handsome enough to replace the glossy magazine, and it may not survive after most people are wired to the World Wide Web, but enhanced fax communication is probably here, at least, for an extended visit.

The enhanced part refers to computerized applications that automate processes such as: Sending text and/or graphics to a database of thousands of fax numbers (known as fax broadcasting), or fulfilling a request for information chosen from a menu of documents stored electronically (known as fax on demand). Market forecasters and those in the industry say fax publishing is on the rise in the U.S. and Europe, with Asia a few years behind.

"Everyone is going to have fax mailboxes, just like we have voice mailboxes," says Maury Kauffman, managing partner of the Kauffman Group, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based consulting firm on fax technology. "Then a publisher can fax broadcast newsletters to a virtual mailbox, where it will stay until the person calls in to print it on the fax machine where they are. Fax mail is cheaper to install than voice mail."

Austin, (Texas)-based Marketfinders, a market research company, expects publishing applications to contribute more than one quarter of fax broadcasting revenues to fax service bureaus in the U.S. in 1995. The firm put total publishing revenues accruing to fax service bureaus at U.S. $96 million in 1994, including fax on demand retrieval services by companies that provide such things as news clippings, tax forms, software documentation, etc.

The entire broadcast fax and fax on demand industry is projected to grow more than 40 percent annually over the next five years, according to Market-finders. The firm puts the U.S. broadcast fax industry at U.S. $450 million currently, and continual increases in mailing and paper costs, and decreases in telephone rates, are creating rapid industry growth.

"Each time the postal service does something to infuriate the general public, which is fairly often, it encourages business to reevaluate, to look for a more dependable, less expensive, and faster type of communication," says Steve Bonneau, president of Denver-based Infaxamation, an enhanced fax/data service bureau. His clients include AlloyFax, "bringing the world of metals information to your fax machine," by Alloy Tech, Inc.; Cable Fax Daily, by Phillips Business Information, Inc., for cable industry executives; Variety Flash Fax; and Career Track Training Alert, an advertising flyer for career seminarS sent to millions of participants.

Fax publishing is still a developing trend, but there are 86 million fax machines installed worldwide and thousands of fax modems sold monthly with computers, says Kauffman. In contrast, he adds, there are only about 20 million Internet users, mostly in the U.S. Operating on a global standard, fax machines can all talk to each other.

Fax newsletters

Much of the fax publishing market is created by traditional publishers of newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. However, organizational communicators also are publishing fax newsletters. Broadcast fax newsletters are the "dominant application" for SprintFAX, which quadrupled in size last year, and should do the same this year (AT&T and MCI have comparable services). "Companies use us for everything from intra-company communication to putting out a drug recall to every doctor and pharmacist in the country, says Mike Perry, group manager of product management for SprintFax.

His customers include the Sprint Corp.'s employee newsletter, SprintFAX Daily; a survey the American Heart Association uses to gather information for its wellness program; and the Taos Valle, Resort Association bulletin, which provides up-to-the-minute ski conditions to resorts and travel agencies.

The amount of fax publishing being done in-house is very difficult to estimate, although some experts guess there are about 1,000 to 1,500 newsletters.

Why publish a newsletter via fax?

Some people will read an electronic screen, but it can get tiring, you can't see the whole page, and many people won't print it out, says Sarah Stambler, New York City, an authority who presents seminars on the subject. Stambler says she's seen a shift to more industrial manufacturing companies and associations attending her presentations. "The channels are already set up, so when they get it together, everybody in the communication channel can convert to a fax person." She points out a 53 percent saving in sending a single page by fax rather than by mail. The cost saving decreases, however, as the number of pages increases.

"What's excellent about fax publishing is that a lot of corporations are learning to imitate from professional publishers so they can control the delivery time of the document," Stambler says.

Apple news bytes

Apple Computer's public relations department publishes in-house a fax newsletter, 4 1/2 Weeks, which is about how often it comes out. The newsletter consists of a few pages of news release summaries. The company uses the service bureau PR Newswire to broadcast fax to the news media, industry analysts and consultants. With an assigned I.D. number, an individual can call an 800 telephone number and get the full text of a fax press release on any item in the newsletter, free. A supplement, The eWorld Report, provides news about Apple's on-line service by fax.

McKesson Corporation

The fax version of This Week McKesson, an employee newsletter, reaches company staff from coast to coast who do not have access to E-mail. It includes the company's stock market quote at closing time, and is sent by fax and E-mail Thursday evening so that everyone at McKesson gets it Friday morning. Clara Degen, publications manager at the San Francisco headquarters, says it takes about four hours to modem-send the newsletter to 65 fax machines. Managers distribute it to all workers. Degen says immediacy a n d parity were the main reasons for developing a fax newsletter.

"It didn't make sense that people with E-mail had access to information that people not on E-mail didn't have," she adds. It's also much cheaper to produce an electronic version than to print it on paper. It saves time and labor in printing, stuffing envelopes and stamping, she says, and she can write and get it out in two days. If she needs to get breaking news to employees, she sends out a short fax bulletin.

Ontario Management Board Secretariat

INSTANT topical, a two-page fax bulletin, was born in June 1993, when management needed to communicate fast with 85,000 Ontario Public Service employees about a new Canadian federal cost-cutting initiative. The software used, WinFax Pro by Delrina, was designed to send to a few hundred fax numbers at a time, but the province's technology staff was able to reconfigure it to handle 3,000 sites, cutting down transmission time from an original 36 hours to eight.

TRIM International

TRIM International, the French affiliate of U.S.-based Business Wire, publishes Media Relations WorldLetter. It's a promotional tool with a soft sell, clothed in four pages of news briefs on movers and shakers in international media and communication. It's free to its newswire subscribers. TRIM also broadcast-faxes other subscriber newsletters to Europe and Asia.

Lambert Mayer, WorldLetter editor and publisher, says many more people have fax machines than are online outside the U.S. He says faxes communicate urgency and are read before anything else. "If you had an automatic program that would download the thing on Internet and print it out, then it would replace fax -- but who has that? Fax has a big edge because of its passive aspect. It's just there."

Fax on demand

Trade associations and nonprofit organizations are successfully implementing fax on demand services too, says Kauffman, because the software has fewer bugs than broadcast-fax software. The benefit? It's fast, it's easy and it's cost-effective compared to printing and mailing, especially at the one- or two-page level. Cost-wise, it helps if one is not faxing internationally.

Corporate investor relations and public relations departments are heavy users of fax on demand too. Many use the fax service bureaus of PR Newswire and Business Wire. They make available corporate news releases, quarterly and annual earnings statements, stock quotes and other data to journalists, analysts and shareholders via a toll-free 800 telephone number 24 hours a day.

Much of the IR cost savings companies see is because few shareholders request documents. Companies say fewer than two percent of investors request the reports.

Sun Microsystems & Lotus Corp.

Sun Microsystems saves nearly U.S. $200,000 a year in printing and distribution costs for its information, Sherrie Osborne, investor relations, says. Lotus Corp. uses fax on demand to provide customers access to more than 12,000 technical support and product bulletins in 25 countries.

Interactive fax

Companies such as Elburn, Ill.-based Fax Innovation help associations survey membership via fax with a patented scanner. It handles the automatic tabulation for the popular Manpower Co. employer outlook surveys of 15,000 companies. Glen McKittrick, executive VP, says he can provide results within a few days. Participation rates are higher than with a mailed survey, he says, probably because respondents like to get competitive intelligence while it's relevant.

Fax junk mail under fire

Fax broadcasting of unsolicited advertising is illegal in the U.S. Until lately, this prohibition has been largely ignored; but apparently enough people received enough detritus to get fed up and sue. Recently, a group of Texas business people filed what the Wall Street Journal termed "one of the first major lawsuits" brought under the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act. The Texans sued 35 companies that broadcast faxes to thousands of numbers, alleging that they violated the law by faxing commercial advertising without prior permission. Some consumer groups also are urging people who get unwanted junk faxes to sue the advertiser in small claims court. Some of the fax service bureaus surveyed for this article report a decidedly chilling effect on their business. In Canada, the law is less strict, allowing unsolicited fax broadcasting as long as the advertiser removes a recipient's name from its database upon request.

Outlook

As the fax machine further penetrates the home, it is likely more publishers will jump into fax delivery systems. Although the forecast varies depending upon the part of the technological elephant in which the prognosticator has a vested interest (fax, E-mail, wireless communication, etc.), it looks like communicators will use multiple modes. They want consumers to have it any way, any time and anywhere they want it.

RELATED ARTICLE: TIPS FOR PROMOTING FAX BROADCASTING

An interview with Don McGrath at National Fax List, the largest database provider of fax numbers in the U.S., yielded the following tips garnered from the results of many of its clients' campaigns:

1. Target the market. Fax to companies that meet specific profiles.

2. Broadcast on Tuesday or Wednesday nights. This produces 25 percent higher positive responses vs. the other five days.

3. When broadcasting to whitecollar offices -- banks, doctors, engineers, etc. -- use basic letter, heads and no graphics. Faxes to those businesses that contain graphics that might be perceived as advertisements and are treated as such.

4. Generate the fax document to be broadcast electronically -- whether a basic letter or a graphic page. Don't scan in or fax from a pre-printed page. It smacks of amateurism.

5. If a graphic is used, have it composed professionally.

6. Always provide a statement to inform the recipient how to get removed from the fax list.

7. Try to avoid going beyond one page and don't cram every. thing about the product/service into a single fax.

For fax lists or more information, National Fax List can be reached at (609) 684-0047.

RELATED ARTICLE: FAX ON DEMAND (FOD) APPLICATION TIPS

What can you offer by FOD? Seven questions you can answer that will help you define your fax on demand application:

* What have customers/the press/investors been requesting most frequently?

* What information do you have in your archives that would have value for your customers?

* What additional product information do you have that would keep customers/the press/investors fully up-to-date?

* What short special reports could your staff prepare that you can offer only by fax?

* Do you want to make available any newspaper or magazine write-ups on your company?

* Is there a library of hard-to-obtain forms that customers/ employees need -- that are hard to obtain -- on a moment's notice that you could make available by fax?

* Are there special resource lists you could compile that customers would value?
COPYRIGHT 1995 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:includes related articles
Author:Martin, Nita L.
Publication:Communication World
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Words:2101
Previous Article:Survival of the fittest: printing industry adapts to changing times.
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