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The ACE Circulation Development Programme

The ACE CDP was launched earlier this year. Here, Chris Collins explains the thinking behind it and looks ahead to 2010.

By Christopher Collins

It is said that SEX sells. But in marketing, perhaps the most powerful word, particularly in today’s economic climate is FREE.

And yet in our cynical media based world, the word, or at least the connotations attached, often leave us uninspired. “There are bound to be strings attached”, we think, or, “if it’s free it can’t be worth anything”, or perhaps more damning still, “yes, but it doesn’t have any long-term use or value”. All of these thoughts often leave us cold and unmoved.

Unmoved that is, until something comes along that is free, doesn’t have any strings attached (well, only a small one), does have real value and is of long-term benefit to all.

The Association of Circulation Executives (ACE) came up with such a thing this year and the good news is that we are going to do it again, only even better, in 2010!

The Circulation Development Programme (CDP) was a concept which developed into a practical tool to benefit our industry. ACE is well known for its social and business events (Christmas Lunch, International Awards, Press Awards and so on). It is less well known that one of its founding principles (after fellowship and friendship, of course) is the encouragement and advancement of the ‘open exchange of ideas’ within the publishing and distribution arena. Meaning discussion, debate, learning and education.

This goal, combined with the recognition of the impact the recession was having upon our industry’s education and training budgets, led ACE to decide that something should be done to not only meet the needs of the industry but also to help fulfil one of the association’s long-term objectives. And so the ACE CDP was born.

The programme in 2009 was based upon eight half-day sessions held at various locations throughout central London (all kindly donated free of charge by various helpful companies and friends of ACE). Each session covered a specific aspect of our industry and involved a presentation or talk by a well-known, senior executive who would cover a particular relevant topic or theme. Each presentation (there were usually three or four per half-day module) would be followed by a Q&A session.

The sessions we ran included; building a media brand; selling overseas; supply chain management; using interactive media; the role of the circulation director; working with distributors; working with retail; subscriptions marketing, amongst many others.

The aim being that over a period of five months (the eight sessions were spread over a period running from June to October), the attendees would gain an insight into all aspects of the business they were involved in, to allow them to get a clearer picture of how their role and their part fits into the overall scene. Part of the reasoning for this was that it had become clear that, for a variety of reasons, young executives in the publishing and distribution fields were moving around less than had been the case in the past and indeed ‘getting-out’ less. This had led to ‘silos’ or pockets of knowledge being held by many individuals but limited overall knowledge or experience of the business as a whole. This was a shame and a missed opportunity for the individuals, their employers and our industry. ACE decided it was time to do something about this and developed the CDP.

The programme was organised by NatMag’s Sharon Douglas (currently Deputy-Chair of ACE and Chair in 2010), and by the late spring of this year, no fewer than 34 keynote presenters had agreed to give their time and knowledge free of charge. In addition to this, six locations had been offered free of charge (as well as the Institute of Directors, which was used as the launch venue) and eight dates fixed.

The concept had developed into a reality within a matter of weeks.

The only thing then was to find the audience. We decided that a hands-on, interactive approach would be more effective and valuable and so limited numbers to 25 individuals only. There was no age restriction (although we gauged that the programme would probably be more suited to those in the ‘first-half’ of their careers) and attendees could come from any sector. The only proviso was that they either had to be ACE members or were prepared to become ACE members.

We were overrun! Within days of announcing the programme, we were full and indeed oversubscribed to the point where we broke our self-imposed 25-only rule and ended up accepting 30 attendees.

ACE knew immediately that it was onto something and that this was much more than just because the programme was free. There was, and is, a huge thirst for knowledge amongst young people making their way in our industry. As the industry changes, and changes fast, those carving out their careers need a greater depth and understanding of what is happening outside their ‘box’ than perhaps ever before. Without the experience that comes with years within the business, which of course cannot be bought only earned, ambitious and able people want access to those with the experience and the knowledge. They want to hear it from the experts. This was the gap that the CDP filled in 2009.

This year’s programme ended with the final sessions and the presentation of certificates on 28th October. And so we move to 2010.

Plans are already in place to develop the programme for next year. ACE’s intention is to expand the learning to include practical site visits and project work, so that the theory picked up in the lecture can be seen in action.

It is hoped that many of this year’s intake will go on to attend the enhanced programme next year, but that we will also have places for others to join us in 2010.

If you are interested in learning more about the 2010 programme – either as a delegate or a potential speaker – then please contact me at For more information on ACE, please visit