The New Perfect Fit: Identifying Non-Traditional Opportunities
In the traditional scheme of things, reprints were strictly a connect-the-dots endeavor:
field a call for a reproduced article, print it up, perhaps add a
corporate logo or special message, and ship it to the customer for
handouts and promotional purposes.
However, today’s reprints are turning up in a variety of different outlets – and in one
recent case, it’s even making headlines (albeit not in the happiest of
Across the Net
The evolution of digital technology in relation to reprints seems to have
caught on in some areas of the publishing world, but not across the full
spectrum. Digital reprints (or e-prints) have been around for a number of
years, and electronically reproduced material is commonplace on web sites,
as limited-use PDFs or even in the bodies of e-mail newsletters; reprints
in the digital magazine format have also seen new visibility. But even in
this Net-driven age, the Luddites seem to hold the upper-hand at many
publications when it comes to reprint delivery methods.
"For paper versus digital reprints, its still paper," says Brian Cuthbert,
associate publisher for Consulting Magazine, about the level of interest in his
publication’s reprint format. "I’d say our reprints are 75-25 hard copy to electronic."
Why haven’t e-prints caught on with the Consulting Magazine
audience? "The problem with electronic is that we only give it out as a
locked PDF with a one year term," acknowledges Cuthbert. "We’ve been
getting involved in e-prints over the last two-to-three years. The demand
has picked up a little bit. But the majority of our business is still in
paper – the e-print is more of a complement to that."
At Zweigwhite Media, which specializes in civil engineering trade magazines, the call for
e-prints has been close to nil. "We’re mostly 100 percent paper,"
acknowledges Bob Higgins, vice president for media. Yet Higgins notes the
company itself hasn’t been the most enthusiastic cheerleader for the
digital editions. "We could do a better job with those," he adds, glumly.
But this is not to say e-prints don’t have an audience. At the
Harvard Business Review, 60 percent of the reprint requests are
digital. "I would assume the appeal of the digital access is in the
immediacy of the delivery," says Jane Heifetz, executive editor and
executive director of derivative products. "We hear ﾑMan, I really need
that article right away!’ a lot."
In the academic and scientific research sectors, e-prints have enjoyed an uncommonly high
level of attention. Many universities, government agencies and
professional associations around the world run their own open access
e-print networks to better enable research and studies.
A major example of this is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of
Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) offers The E-print Network
(http://www.osti.gov/eprints/), which launched in January 200 to provide
digital reprints of scientific journal articles relating to a wide range
of subjects including mathematics, physical sciences and biotechnology.
The number of e-prints available via this network is fairly staggering:
ten million e-prints, all free, plus links to some 2,500 international
societies ranging from the Abrasive Engineering Society to the Zoological
Society of Southern Africa. Published articles aren’t the only materials
in digital circulation: there are also pre-prints, which can be described
as e-prints of articles which have yet to receive official publication in
an established journal.
While an e-print network of that size might seem somewhat difficult to hide, OSTI has intentionally
kept its profile low except to its core audience. "We’ve never tried to
publicize this," says Thurman Watson, team leader for advance projects at
OSTI. "This is mainly a tool for peer-to-peer facilitation within the DOE
Getting Booked Into Books
Another area of the publishing world is also a ready recipient of magazine
reprints. A high number of scholastic and research-oriented journals rely
heavily on text books as a source for reprint revenues.
At Sage Publications, which offers a diverse spread of journals (covering the human experience
from criminology to Biblical studies), the academic nature of the
company’s journal articles have made them a prime source of text book
"We often get those requests," says Bob Vrooman, commercial sales director for Sage. "Either
it is for the entire article or for just a portion of the article. Those
requests come in quite regularly."
A spin-off from the academic text reprints is pursued at Zweigwhite Media: reprints from the
company’s civil engineering publications are being used to assist many of
the readers in their continuing education pursuits.
"Engineers need a certain amount of continuing education points," says Bob Higgins at
Zweigwhite Media. "We supply thousands of reprints for suppliers to use
for ﾑbrown bag’ seminars as part of the engineers’ continuing education
On the flipside of having requests for reprints to appear in books is American Lawyer Media,
which recently began marketing a new concept: a book of reprinted
articles. The company is targeting law firms who’ve been featured over the
years in its publications, with the notion of creating special custom
published books featuring all of their American Lawyer press coverage. Ellen Siegel,
vice president of licensing and business development at American Lawyer Media, notes the
company is emphasizing the reprint books as an anniversary promotion for
firms that reach significant milestones (25th anniversary, 50th
Another audience seeking book-based reprints is the magazine writers themselves.
Shock Cinema, a quarterly magazine celebrating the weird world of underground cult
movies, boasts a free-lance writing staff who would like to incorporate their
Shock Cinema articles into possible best-sellers.
"A lot of our writers are doing book proposals," says Steve Puchalski, publisher and editor.
"They’re interested in reprinting their interviews from the magazine into their books."
Puchalski does not actively seek out licensing possibilities to reprint his magazine’s
articles ("We do such a good business in back issues that we’d rather keep
it with Shock Cinema," he says), and he is eager to assist his writing team when it comes
to reprinting their magazine pieces in their future books.
"As long as they plugShock Cinema, I’m all for it!" exclaims Puchalski.
There are also some limited cases where publications will happily offer
free reprints – albeit with clearly defined parameters.
At U.S. Catholic, a magazine aimed at the nation’s Catholic clergy and church
administrators, one-time reprint permission is granted to parishes, schools, and
not-for-profit groups if less than 75 copies are requested and all copies are freely
distributed solely for educational purposes.
"This comes from being a ministry-based magazine," explains Michelle Mertin,
marketing director. "We are getting this helpful information out to people who can utilize it.
The people requesting these reprints are not turning around and making a
profit from them."
Forcing The Reprint To Fit
But in one area, a publishing industry figure has charged
that the pursuit of reprint revenue has compromised editorial integrity in
one sector. Richard Smith, the former editor of the
British Medical Journal, recently made an open accusation that some medical journals
skewer their coverage of pharmaceutical product trials in order to curry reprint profits.
In an article entitled "Medical Journals Are an Extension of the Marketing Arm of
Pharmaceutical Companies" (published in the May 2005 edition of the
Public Library of Science Medicine), Smith writes: "For a drug company, a favorable trial
is worth thousands of pages of advertising, which is why a company will sometimes spend millions
of dollars on reprints of the (drug) trial for worldwide distribution. The doctors receiving
the reprints may not read them, but they will be impressed by the name of the journal
from which they come. The quality of the journal will bless the quality of the drug."
Later in the same article, Smith spells out the reprint-driven profit motive: "Publishers
know that pharmaceutical companies will often purchase thousands of
dollars’ worth of reprints, and the profit margin on reprints is likely to
be 70 percent. Editors, too, know that publishing such studies is highly
profitable, and editors are increasingly responsible for the budgets of
their journals and for producing a profit for the owners. Many
owners;including academic societies;depend on profits from their journals.
An editor may thus face a frighteningly stark conflict of interest:
publish a trial that will bring $100,000 of profit or meet the end-of-year
budget by firing an editor."
Smith’s article did not identify specific publications involved in such practices (Smith did not
respond to requests for an interview). Bob Vrooman, commercial sales
director for Sage Publications, a publisher of medical and pharmaceutical
journals, notes that such practices are not welcomed at his company and
should not be encouraged by any responsible publisher.
"At no place where I’ve worked has there been anything in the business model where they pushed
slanted articles in the hopes that companies will purchase articles," he
says. "And it is not a pursuit here."