Drowning in Lists

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Even though we are in the highly tech-centric business of online media, we've always taken the scrappy (i.e., cheapskate) approach to our internal technology needs at NewWest.Net. Why buy an office phone switch when cell phones and a few cordless landline will do? Why invest in a file server when you have Google Docs? Why build big in-house databases when you can use outsource Web services for sales contact management, e-newsletter distribution, conference registration, and just about everything else?

Unfortunately, there is a good answer to this last rhetorical question. We have lots of good solutions for individual functions, but we do not have a proper database of all our customers or even a proper methodology for what kind of data is stored where. To put it another way, we are drowning in lists.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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