Twice Told Tales: Magazine Reprints Drive Revenue and Goodwill
Everyone acknowledges that a great story deserves to be repeated, and if the story is told in the pages of a magazine there is a more-than-likely chance it will be repeated via reprints.
For publishers, a commercial reprint program offers a distinctive mix of goodwill and good revenue (not to mention a great way to keep a lock on copyright and intellectual property). Whether working with an outside reprint service or handling the work in-house, publishers enjoy a win-win situation when providing commercial reprints of their articles.
A Full-time Job
Six years ago, when Jim Roddy was promoted from managing editor to operations manager at Corry Publishing, he was given a piece of reprint-related advice framed in a rather fatalistic manner.
"When I came on board," says Roddy, "the owner of the company told me that if he was hit by a car and was left lying in the road, his last words would be: keep outsourcing reprints.’"
Hypothetical vehicular manslaughter notwithstanding, Roddy got the message and has maintained the need to keep the reprint responsibilities for Corry Publishing’s three magazines with an outside company devoted solely to reprint management and coordination.
"Our core competency is publishing magazines and selling advertisements for magazines, not selling reprints," says Roddy. "We’re not geared to selling reprints. Our strategy is to outsource to a third party with similar goals as us: satisfying customers and helping to market our products."
The depth and scope of reprints is also expanding into a highly aggressive revenue driver. "It’s an ancillary business that we rely on," confides Paul Calento, vice president of marketing forInfoWorld. "Over the past few years, reprints seem to be more and more popular with our vendors."
For Calento andInfoWorld, the push towards reprints has become proactive. InfoWorld’s CTO 25 Awards, for example, is being used as a major event to sell reprints to the companies receiving special honors. The push for a higher quantity of reprints precludes the possibility for Calento to supervise the work in-house, thus requiring the services of a third party vendor.
"We’d be challenged to do the type of volume they do for us," he says. "It’s not insignificant."
Indeed, reprints don’t sell themselves. Michael Lamb, publisher of the start-up Echelon Magazine, noted his previous work at another business magazine saw very little in the way of reprint requests. According to Lamb, the reason for the lack of interest was fairly obvious in retrospect. "It wasn’t promoted that much," he says.
Brave New Digital World
The reprint business, which traditionally has been based in paper, is increasingly moving into a digital domain. "This is becoming more prevalent because people are doing more e-mail campaigns and less direct mail," says Roddy.
Digital reprints (called "e-prints" by some) have proven to be a blessing for publishers seeking to strengthen their web presence – many digital reprints feature active links to the original articles.
"We encourage people to link back to our site," says Susannah Hagey, editorial development coordinator for CNET.com. "Bringing traffic back to our site is something we never discourage."
Furthermore, digital reprints offer new technological possibilities which never existed in print. For CNET.com, even online video segments and webcasts are open to reprint consideration. Video segments are embedded in the reprint of a CNET review, explains Hagey, while entire webcasts can be acquired through video copies.
Even the traditional print outlets who’ve concentrated in paper reprints recognize the potential of digital reprints. "InfoWorld is publishing the bulk of its content to the Web, and that represents a whole new revenue opportunity," says Calento, who adds that his weekly publication is currently exploring further digital reprint projects.
Gracious and Gratis
For some publications, reprints are not viewed as a source of revenue. But a low volume of reprint request does not necessarily mean they are without some value. In the case of one financial trade magazine, the reprint program is literally a giveaway tied to the notion of fostering excellent relations with its contributing writers.
"Ours is fairly informal," says Laura Wilson about the reprint program for Hoosier Banker, the monthly magazine of the Indiana Bankers Association. For Wilson, editor and business manager at the magazine, the only people seeking out reprints are those who’ve written for the magazine and would enjoy having a formal reprint of their work.
"People contribute articles and sometimes they want a reprint, as we say: ‘Sure, we’re fine with it.’ And we send over a PDF of the article from the magazine," she adds. "I’m happy to do it for free, and I’m grateful to do that for our authors."