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Re-evaluating Reprints



By Matt Kinsman
08/30/2006

Many magazine publishers approach reprints as found money;in their minds it requires little manpower to produce, demand is either there or it isn't and it doesn't need to be fueled by marketing. Reprints are extremely profitable;but that's because publishers don't have to invest much behind them. "We offer reprints because they are easy money, they do not detract from our brand, provide additional exposure and make the companies we cover and individuals quoted happy," says Gary Rubin, chief publishing officer for the Society for Human Resource Management. "It's a very small percentage of our overall revenue but we believe that the market for reprints will remain viable for many years to come."

However, reprints may decline as a revenue source unless publishers start putting some effort behind them. In 2004, the latest year for which American Business Media has data, reprints, custom and database fell to 7.9 percent of revenue among b-to-b publishers. Part of that is due to e-publishing stealing some of the thunder from print. But much of it can be attributed to publishers ignoring the potential of reprints.

Publishers who are realizing significant returns on reprints are also investing dollars and time to make it grow. "It's a significant revenue stream," says Mike Armstrong, senior vice president of operations at U.S. News & World Report, which outsources its reprint business to Foster Reprints. "Today, any revenue stream is important. It's a solid part of our business. We're not into spending a lot of time on trivial efforts;we've paid quite a bit of attention to making it work and making it grow."

Entrepreneur sees a sliver of its revenue come from reprints, according to president Neal Perlman. "There's no manpower required and it's a faster turnaround and eliminates receivables," he says. However, he's more pessimistic about growth. "We're seeing slow volume growth each year and about the same as a percentage of sales."

Reprints currently count as less than 1 percent of revenue for b-to-b publisher BZ Media, but that's not the way to look at it, according to president Ted Bahr. "We do about $25,000 in reprint sales per year," he says. "There is no expense associated with this. If you run a 10 percent margin business, this is the equivalent of $250,000 in sales."

Reprints As Multi-Million Dollar Revenue Stream
Reprints are a multi-million dollar business for Forbes, according to reprints rights manager Daphne Ben-Ari, who helped create the service for the magazine 12 years ago. "We like to keep it in-house because of quality control," says Ben-Ari. "We get requests from customers all the time asking if we can move this or change that. It may not seem like a big deal but it changes everything."

Despite the whopping return, reprints aren't something Forbes is putting a lot of resources behind. "We definitely look at it as a money-making division but it's not something we aggressively market," Ben-Ari says. "It's more of a soft sell. When we first started, we decided that since these are unbiased articles, we weren't going to go out and actively sell reprints. If you're interviewed, you probably know when it's going to run."

However, that's not how publishers should consider reprints, according to one vendor. "Publishers give away an article or a PDF all the time," says the vendor. "You're undervaluing your editorial significantly. That seems to be happening more recently. It's a bad thing because you're saying ムOur editorial isn't worth that much, I'll just give it to you.'"

Forbes does follow up with individuals who appear in the magazine. "I'll flip through the magazine when I get it and identify stories that might be of interest and send a letter and a little package about the reprint with the magazine issue," says Ben-Ari.

Demand Increasing
Ben-Ari says that demand for reprints has been a little better than last year; with the magazine selling about half a million reprints to date in 2006. "The last few years have been pretty consistent," she adds. "We obviously have no control over editorial but the bulk of our sales tend to be list issues, such as the Best 200 Small Companies in America."

Typical order sizes are tough to gauge, according to Ben-Ari. The minimum order for Forbes reprints is 500, with 1,000 and 5,000 as the next most popular sizes. "For something like the Best 200 Small Companies, these obviously aren't large companies with huge budgets," says Ben-Ari. "A big company may order 10,000 and then six months later order 10,000 more. A lot of times, somebody orders 500, then calls back a few weeks later and needs much more."

Digital reprints account for 20 percent of total reprint orders for Forbes, despite the fact that the magazine charges slightly more for a digital reprint on its own as opposed to one packaged with the print version. "It's hard to give you easy pricing because each order is its own little pricing world," says Ben-Ari. Forbes sets prices according to quantity, the number of pages, and the photography. The minimum 500 reprint order typically costs about $3,000.

Ben-Ari says she would like to find prospects quicker. "I guess my biggest challenge, like in anything else, is growth," she adds. "Our articles are unpredictable and have a limited target audience. Meaning, only companies that have been ranked on a list, or that we have written positive articles on, are going to want to make the purchase. Let's face it, if we write a negative article, it doesn't matter how great a salesperson I am, you are just not going to want to buy the reprints."

Despite publishing 13 of the largest consumer titles, Hachette Filipacchi has a team of two devoted to reprints. The company sees demand for reprints primarily from brands featured in its automotive titles Car & Driver and Road & Track, according to Margot Fried, manager of corporate reprints and permissions. �Our biggest moneymakers are in the auto industry but a lot of the d�cor titles do well and Elle is a steady seller,� she says.

Fried does follow up with potential targets. "When we see a great review, we'll send them a packet," she adds. The company has also seen electronic reprints evolve into a legitimate revenue stream. "E-prints used to be positioned more as value added but as we're in the digital age we now sell those separately," says Fried. Order sizes can range from 250,000 20-page reprints to 1,000 four-page reprints.

"They keep this department up and running because we pull in a significant amount of revenue," says Fried.

Juggling Reprints...With Everything Else
IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) offers 17 different publications, including flagship IEEE Spectrum. Reprint orders go through Cathline Tanis, who serves as senior advertising production manager on all titles. While orders are processed by the association's printer and outsourced to a vendor, Tanis wants to narrow the three- to four-week timeframe between placing the order and having it delivered. "I would like to see a decrease in the turnaround but in order to do that, we would need to get enough reprints to substantiate a new staff member that would be completely dedicated to reprints," Tanis says. "I'm not dedicated to it. My duties are widespread, reprints tend to be second fiddle. We're trying our best to get them out in a timely manner."

Online Taking a Bite
IEEE does set a specific budget for reprint revenue but averages about $75,000 to $100,000 per year. "I'd say I've seen a slight decrease in the demand for reprints this year," says Tanis. "In years prior, we handled 100 separate orders that vary in size from 2,000 copies to 100 copies. This year, we're already past the half-way mark and we've only had about 75 orders. With electronic publishing and all the different ways to get files, the demand for print reprints is becoming less."

As a percentage of revenue, reprints are "minuscule," less than 1 percent, and have been flat in recent years, according to Jim Vick, staff director at IEEE Media and publisher of IEEE Spectrum. "As a percentage of total business center sales they used to be more around 3 percent," he says. "I think the ability for a company to reproduce off the Web or distribute by e-mail may be playing a role in the decline or there's just flat out less use of reprints. For us it's bleak but that's probably not what you'd hear from someone like Harvard Business Review. Reprints for them is an entirely different game and model. [IEEE Spectrum editor] Susan Hassler talked to the editor there and came back thinking she'd found a long lost Inca gold mine. If only it were true."

Digital reprint requests can be trickier to handle. IEEE sends digital orders through its copyright and permissions department. "There's a lot of plagiarism connected with e-files," says Tanis. "That goes through another department that's stricter than we are in print."

Pricing for IEEE runs anywhere between $140 to over $5,000 depending on color involved, number of pages, with some requiring special print runs. IEEE doesn't do any separate marketing either. "We don't do it at all because of the type of publications;the interest is there or it's not," says Tanis. "These are very specific fields, so someone may call to request an article but it's not anyone who's going to just ask for it."

In-house Vs. Outsourcing
Publishers remain divided on whether they should handle reprints in-house or outsource to a vendor. IEEE has found significant efficiencies with outsourcing. "We outsource and as far as I'm concerned they're doing a good job despite what I said;they don't create the market," says Vick. "I think they're getting all the business there is to be had. I'm outsourcing all of these peripheral activities into the hands of people who are specialists;I've given all my list sales to Statlistics, too. The assumption is the vendors are equipped to do it best and I don't have to support the overhead. They only get compensated on what they sell. I ditched three headcount this way."

However, Access Intelligence is firmly committed to handling reprints in-house and is seeing reprints slowly gaining ground as a moneymaker to about 0.5 percent of overall revenue, according to CEO Don Pazour. "We tried outsourcing and we had a full-time internal resource," he says. "We are doing as well by having it be part of our customer care department. This is a business driven much more by customers asking for it than one that is cost-effectively sold." "We have had some rather disastrous experiences with outsourcing," Pazour adds. "As it is a small part of revenue, but a high margin one, we will continue to explore options, but our view is that putting it into the customer care department;which is both an inbound and outbound phone center;has been the most effective."

Reprint sales are increasing at a double-digit clip for Ascend Media and will continue to do so next year, according to CEO Cam Bishop. "It's a great way to extend the brand, provide an ancillary service and it's pure profit," he adds, stressing that outsourcing or handling reprints in-house can both make sense depending on the corporate set-up. "If you have the staff in place and their time is also allocated to other functions, it can be cost efficient. If you don't have the staff, then reprints are just order-taking rather than a proactive sales effort and an outside vendor is a benefit."

Not Just the Same Old Reprint
Others say that the future in reprints lies in going beyond the traditional glossy print recreation, not only to produce digital products but also reference packages for clients that combine years' worth of content. "For our magazine, I have yet to be convinced that a strong market exists beyond our authors for traditional reprints," says Robert Fromberg, editor of association publication Healthcare Financial Management. "However, we are seeing an interest in value-added repackaging in electronic-only form." For example, Healthcare Financial Management now offers article collections on single topics that are sold as native files (rather than PDF), "so users can actually put them to work," adds Fromberg.

Advanstar's Medical Economics looks to reprints as a way to keep content alive long after the publication date. "I think reprint sales are a wonderful opportunity to increase revenue doing a ムjob' once and getting extra mileage out of it," says editor Marianne Dekker Mattera. "I'm especially keen on collecting material and bundling it into a new package and selling the package. It works very nicely when you run a series throughout the year, say, and then put all the installments together into a ムbook.'"

Medical Economics has also done "book" collections of articles that it has published over a period of years on a particular topic. "They're typically evergreen pieces where the advice doesn't change much" says Mattera, who adds that Advanstar handles reprints in-house but she isn't privvy to the revenue numbers. "We began doing these ムbooks' last year and have had some success with it."

BZ Media sells conventional reprints and also rights to host a PDF reprint on the client's Web site for six months (or forever). The publisher outsources to Abelson & Co., who deducts the production costs and their fees and remits the remainder to BZ Media so it's recorded as pure profit.

Unlike most publishing executives, Bahr spends 10 minutes per issue on the phone with his reprint seller going over the most likely prospects. "That keeps her focused and efficient and keeps us top-of-mind with her," he says.

While they may not be posting double-digit growth or drawing oohs and aahs from potential investors, reprints are still a contributor to a publisher's bottom line and shouldn't be left to its own devices because it's not sexy. "Reprints are probably under some pressure but companies still need something to give away at trade shows," says Bahr. "Just like with magazines overall, it's not like print just stopped working all of a sudden."

Selecting a Reprint Vendor
When selecting any vendor, perhaps the most important criteria to identify are the intangible ones;the people skills;which are often overlooked in favor of the vendor's technical expertise.

That doesn't mean that the technical side of the vendor's operation should be assumed. Following are 10 attributes;both tangible and intangible;to consider when selecting a vendor.

1. Specialist in the field
2. Culture of cooperation, both internally and externally
3. Quality products and a quick turnaround time
4. Responsive to client needs
5. Experienced and knowledgeable sales reps and CSRs
6. Innovative and aware of new opportunities
7. Competitive costs and fees
8. Pricing options, including revenue sharing
9. Periodic status reports
10. Good client references

By Matt Kinsman
08/30/2006







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