In Dollars and Sense: The Economics of a Reprint Program
In creating and running a successful reprint program, efficiency and profitability are crucial to
maintain. At the Harvard Business Review and American Lawyer Media, the schematics of their
respective reprint programs have little in the way of common ground – the former publication
is more reactive to reader requests while the latter has taken a vigorously proactive approach.
Yet both publications share a common goal: providing their customers with the most
efficient and imaginative reprint programs available while maintaining a healthy revenue flow.
Harvard Business Review: The Need for Speed
As one of the nation’s most prestigious and influential publications, the
Harvard Business Review had long been sought out for reprints of its cogent and salient
articles. The Internet clearly helped to make the publication more accessible to wider
audiences – and, in turn, resulted in even more reprint requests. To keep
up with demands without taxing its staff, theHBR invented a proprietary program dubbed
"Harvard Business Review OnPoint."
"We launched OnPoint about five years ago," recalls Jane Heifetz, executive editor and
executive director for derivate products. Heifetz notes OnPoint was custom
designed to meet the need-it-now demands of today’s high-octane business
environment while addressing a unique problem which arose across the
Internet: many people came to the publication via a search engine hunt for
a particular topic and were not able to either access the full article
online or find a paper edition locally (or, for that matter, pay to
subscribe to the HBR). The solution turned out to be a digital version of an old
marketing reliable: the preview.
"OnPoint is basically an enhanced edition of the full text version," explains Heifetz. "What you
get is a 500-word distillation that teases out the article. We felt there was a huge number
of managers who are familiar with the HBR content but are not predisposed to read it."
The OnPoint summary is designed to sell both single articles and a collection of pieces covering
a similar topic. For example, someone seeking out articles on spurring corporate growth
can either locate individual articles or do a bulk purchase of three articles in one package.
The OnPoint presentation of these articles includes a "Collection Overview" of the subject matter and
summaries of the individual articles’ respective missions. The entire reprint purchase process
is handled directly from the HBR Web site: the reader can either download a single PDF containing
three articles for $16.95 per copy or purchase hard copies (the same price applies in the range of
one-to-nine copies, decreasing slightly as the reader requests higher quantities). For those who
wish to reprint the article on their own without requiring a reprint, there is also the option of obtaining
copyright permission at $15.25 per copy. (For individual articles, the reprint cost is $6.50 per
article in the digital and paper editions and $6.00 per article for copyright permissions.) There
is no need for anyone to wait for an HBR article: as soon as the edition is released, the
article is ready for reprint purchasing.
The summaries that accompany each reprint preview has been a blessing to the potential
purchaser. "Eighty percent of our reprints are not for individuals, but for other uses within
a company," says Heifetz. "More often than not, the person purchasing the reprint needs to make
an elevator speech to the ultimate recipients of the contents. This provides them with the tools to
explain the article in a very compelling way."
The online environment carries back into the reprint vehicles of choice: 60 percent of the
reprint requests are for digital editions versus paper copies. "I assume the greatest appeal of
digital access is the immediacy," continues Heifetz. "If you’re in the midst of some snarly problem in your company and the article answers your questions, you don’t want to wait to get it. This is clearly a much faster way to get what you need."
HBR also, in a way, discourages paper products by promoting OnPoint exclusively through digital means. "All of the direct mail for HBR is by e-mail marketing," says Heifetz. "There are no physical mailings."
Heifetz is happy with the efficiency of the one-stop-shopping process of the online reprint
program, although the absence of human contact has taken some getting used to. "We’re happy to talk to you!" she says with a hearty laugh. "But there is no need to call us because you can do all of this over the Net."
American Lawyer Media: Islands in the Revenue Stream
While HBR has used its reprint program to streamline efficiencies and keep costs down,
another business publisher has approached the reprint process from a different concept:
using reprints to build out the business into directions and opportunities which were previously
American Lawyer Media (ALM) only began its centralized internal reprint program in 1999; before that, reprint requests were seen as a reactive goodwill vehicle to the readership rather than a proactive
revenue-building tool. Indeed, the first year of the centralized reprint program turned in a fairly modest revenue trickle: $280,000.
But nowadays, ALM’s revenue trickle has grown into a full stream: for 2004, the company saw
roughly $2 million in reprint revenues. Where did such a dramatic financial ascent come from?
For starters, ALM has taken an aggressive approach to identifying reprint opportunities – even
to the point of inventing new opportunities. One very unusual strategy involves tapping into
American Lawyer’s archives to create a new reprint vehicle for law firms.
"We’ve been trying to go into more compilations," explains Ellen Siegel, vice president of
licensing and business development. "We go to firms and offer them a book of all of their
coverage in American Lawyer. We say to the firms: you’ve been covered in American Lawyer
for many years, and here’s the representative coverage from the past. We can put this together into a
book for you, which can be used as a 25th or 50th anniversary celebration of the firm."
ALM has also blurred the lines between services. The company is using its reprint program to
leverage new business in custom publishing. "We are trying to expand the idea of reprint into
a broader type of product," explains Siegel, who notes ALM markets itself
for creating customized newsletters for smaller and mid-sized law firms that lack in-house
marketing departments. "We can publish their newsletters and integrate our reprint contents,
which is supportive of their marketing goals."
The support goes beyond mere article reproduction. ALM’s reprint-into-custom publishing work also
involves mailing and distribution services. Furthermore, reprint requests are being fed into a
growing product line, in which law firms can utilize items such as t-shirts and coffee mugs (complete
with the ALM logo) as part of their associate recruiting campaigns.
In pursuing the higher-ticket reprint potentials, ALM initiated a bifurcated approach to its reprint
program. Reprint requests that bring in lower revenues; such as individual article requests,
discounted reprints from law schools and non-profit groups, and photocopy and online permission
requests;are outsourced to a third party provider. This left the reprint group to focus exclusively
on the more financially lucrative projects. Yet the wave of newer high-ticket projects has
repeatedly proved overwhelming. What was originally a two-person department (a reprint manager/sales representative and a production coordinator) expanded over the years with three new positions: two salespeople and an administrative assistant.
Needless to say, Siegel has been more than satisfied with the evolution of the reprint program.
"It’s been a pleasure to watch this group grow," she says.