Using FastStats to bring together disparate data sources

Company overview

Established in 1843 to campaign against the protectionist Corn Laws, The Economist newspaper is a weekly publication offering analysis and opinion covering the main business and political events of the week. The Economist Group retains its commitment to the classical 19th-century Liberal ideas of its Scottish founder, but is now a major international brand printing the newspaper simultaneously in six countries for over 830,000 subscribers and offering a wide range of conferences, business reports, electronic services etc.


Applying marketing intelligence to The Economist's range of magazines, newspapers, conferences, electronic services and business reports at the numerous locations the group operates in around the world was not an option. Employees were using a wide range of contact managers and fulfilment systems to support their work with no central reference system. Because of this, no-one knew which customers bought which products and it was difficult, if not impossible, for one business unit to target products and services to the customers of another. In order to realise the potential value of the company's customer base, the data had to be brought together in a Group Customer Database "GCD".

The FastStats WebLink system was customised, branded and integrated with the GCD system to present users with a single solution.


The Economist turned to The Gallery Partnership and Intellidata (formerly Printronic) to build a bespoke solution. The architects of the GCD rapidly decided on a web based solution to allow for worldwide use across relatively low bandwidth connections, and identified the need for a web based selection, segmentation and analysis module.

FastStats WebLink was chosen as an intrinsic part of the solution to provide complex selections and queries. By using the specialisation of the FastStats WebLink system in this area, the main GCD system could be designed and optimised for the accurate storage and retrieval of customer and campaign management information. By providing marketers with a specialist selection and segmentation system, work was offloaded from the main database server. The net effect was to improve response times for both analysis and data retrieval.


The FastStats WebLink system was customised, branded and integrated with the GCD system to present users with a single solution. Selections performed in the FastStats WebLink part of the system were seamlessly used in the GCD campaign management part of the system for response tracking and analysis.

Bespoke data extracts have been developed for the FastStats system. As experience with the system has grown, data volumes have increased and new FastStats facilities developed, the data load process has been refined. Highly sparse data is now loaded into the FastStats system as an update rather than through a join at the time of the data load. These changes reduce the time to extract the data by 95% and reduce the time to load the data by 75%. The entire monthly FastStats update can now be completed within 12 hours.


During the second year of operation, the FastStats engine at the heart of the GCD selection and segmentation module was upgraded to the new FastStats Server. This upgrade increased the performance and stability of the system, which has over 200 users worldwide. The database size has also increased to now include over 20 million rows.

Future Plans

The GCD system is constantly extending with new varied data sources from around the world. The FastStats WebLink system continues to develop to provide better user feedback and progress reporting, new marketing analysis functionality and a better interface.

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