What are the key ingredients for a successful reprint? It would seem the basic elements
include knowing what sells, knowing who would buy it, and even knowing
that sometimes the unlikeliest articles can register a reprint jackpot.
The Sure Bet
For Bob Higgins, vice president of media at Zweigwhite Media, reprint
success is rooted in the relevancy of the article and its sales and
marketing value to the readers purchasing it.
"A great reprint is something useful," says Higgins, whose company publishes
civil engineering trade journals. "Most of our reprints are sold to suppliers, and a great
reprint is something they can use to sell their products and services."
For Higgins’ readers, a reprint from a Zweigwhite Media journal is tantamount
to an industry endorsement of a job very-well-done. "You can call it a third party view
of what they can offer," he says.
Obviously, not every publication is a reprint mother lode. Some magazines, due
to their focus, lend themselves to reprint opportunities better than others.
"For pursuing reprints, we are proactive for a select list of journals," says Bob Vrooman,
commercial sales director at Sage Publications. "Most of our reprint
requests come from our medical journals. But there’s not much demand among
our social science journals."
But for the publishers who possess a wealth of reprint-worthy opportunities,
predicting the high volume reprint requests is a fait accompli.
"We know what the best reprint opportunities are," says Brian Cuthbert, associate publisher for
Consulting Magazine. "A profile of a firm or a Q&A with an industry leader gets a lot of
reprint requests. Our annual features are reprint hogs: the Best Firms to Work For, the Top
25 Consultants, the Seven Small Jewels (companies with 150 employees or
less) – these are all tremendous opportunities."
Indeed, high reprint requests come from articles which provide generous
coverage to a specific business leader, company, product or service.
"The best reprints make someone look like an expert," says Dena Kaplan,
associate publisher at Insurance Journal. "It gives the readers information on
how they conduct their business successfully. For the subject of the reprint, it is a great
tool to give to their customers – it says: ﾑWe were published and this is
our expertise and our involvement in the industry!’"
One doesn’t have to be the center of the story’s attention to warrant an interest in reprints. A
favorable mention, even in passing, is enough for some companies to place
"Some of our unlikeliest reprint buyers have been tech vendors who were quoted in passing during
the course of a story," says Cuthbert.
The Surprise Hit
Of course, there are occasions when even the savviest publishing veteran
strikes reprint gold by accident. For Michelle Mertin, the marketing
director for U.S. Catholic, spotting a potential candidate for a
high-volume reprint is not that difficult. "There are articles that, when
they are commissioned, we know will sell well as a reprint," she says. "We
make plans to have them ready upfront for reprinting."
But on occasion, Mertin’s reprint radar misses the approach of a low-flying object. A
memorable case occurred in 2002 when the magazine published an article on
the history of African-Americans in the Catholic Church. While the
sociological significance of the article was obvious, its commercial value
as a reprint seemed very limited due to a key demographic consideration.
"We don’t have a lot of African-American readers," acknowledges Mertin. "We did
the article, but we didn’t expect anything to come from it."
But once the article was published, the unexpected happened. Mertin and her
U.S. Catholic colleagues were caught totally (and happily) off-guard by the response
from the nation’s Catholic clergy and church administrators, who are the main readers of the
magazine. The magazine’s clerical subscribers came out in droves with
massive reprint requests – they wanted to distribute the article in their
parishes as a way of showing the significance of the church as a haven for
all races. And for the longest time, reprint demand for the article did
"Maybe it was good old-fashioned liberal guilt, but the pastors bought a lot of reprints,"
says Mertin, who estimated that 100,000 copies were produced of the
article. "We had to keep going back to press with that."
That wasn’t the first time Mertin was hit by a surprise wave of reprint requests. In the
mid-1990s, an article with the somewhat titillating headline "Why Sex is
So Good for Your Marriage" set off a storm of phone calls from parishes
requesting reprints for distribution to their congregations. While Mertin
recognized the significance of the article ("The Catholic Church has a lot
of mixed messages, even about married sexuality," she says), the vigorous
demand for reprints was totally unexpected.
"We would never have predicted that," says Mertin, retrospectively, of the 100,000-plus
reprints made from that single article.
Nicked on the Net
In a weird way, the ultimate clue on an article’s reprint worthiness is
when it reappears in another media outlet without permission of the
publisher. This seems to be more prevalent in the online environment,
where obscure web sites cut-and-paste copyright-protected materials
without detection (let alone permission).
For Michelle Mertin, there have been more than a few occasions when online sites
have reprinted U.S. Catholic articles without bothering to clear the reprint rights.
"A lot of times we don’t know about it," she says. "Our editors are doing research for
article and they find their earlier articles online. And if the article appears on a
for-pay site, we have issues with that – if you’re going to earn money
from a web site, you have to pay us to reprint our articles."
Bob Vrooman at Sage Publications fights the same problem. "Of course, we can’t control when
our works are reproduced without seeking proper permission from us," he
says. "If we are made aware that our content is appearing online or in
print without proper permission, then we contact the responsible party and
have them remove it from the online vehicle or cancel any further
printings, unless they seek proper permission from us. Every case is
different, so we have to handle them on a case-by-case basis."