Reaping Additional Revenue with Reprints
One can only speculate when and what the Eureka! moment was for the publisher who first discovered additional revenue could be made by selling article reprints to those individuals and companies featured positively within the column walls. As for when a potential conflict of interest was realized, this too is a source of speculation. But as a result of the overarching conflict between editorial integrity and the opportunity to generate ancillary revenue, an industry of third party magazine reprint specialists was spawned. Among larger firms such as PARS, FosteReprints and Reprint Management Services (RMS), are myriad independent contractors intent upon encouraging publishers to outsource reprint sales (big and small).
See a specialist
When asked how publishers can best maximize reprint sales, one such independent contractor, Marnie Wrenn of Superior Reprints, recommends, "Go to a reprint specialist." Wrenn realizes that this may sound self-serving, but she maintains, "The problem with keeping reprint sales in-house is that they're usually foisted off on someone who doesn't want to do the job and does not specialize in reprint sales. A publisher is never going to see a lot of sales revenue when he or she hands the programs to a busy art director or editorial assistant who hates to sell and resents being forced to. You need the programs in the hands of someone who knows, and preferably likes, what he or she is doing. When ad sales were booming, reprints were not considered to be a priority. In this market, there is a renewed interest in ancillary sales products such as reprints. Picture a printed magazine as a grapefruit. Selling ancillary products and services is like squeezing all of the juice possible out of that grapefruit. The more money that can be made from that issue once it is printed, the more the expenditures are recouped. No one can afford to leave any money on the table in a market like this."
According to Cynthia Osborne-McKean, principal of PARS International (www.magreprints.com), "There are two reasons why magazines outsource reprints: to protect the editorial integrity of their product and frankly, to turn it into a revenue center. A third party can best do that. And [magazine publishers] would like [its reprint services] to be run professionally and a lot of times they can't absorb the overhead." Obviously, outsourcing reprint sales alleviates the pressure upon journalists when they are penning articles about large, potentially lucrative clients. But, of course, a glowing mention of a big company often nets the most revenue in reprint sales. According to Osborne-McKean, articles about hotels tend to be big sellers due to the size and scope of the travel industry.
With a never ending variety of potential clients to sell reprints to, even smaller publishers are finding financial success with reprints. Lionheart Publishing (www.lionhrtpub.com), a contract publisher who produces a number of association publications, is well aware of the money a well-targeted reprint program can bring. "In the early 1990s, we launched a new title. Initially, we focused solely on advertising sales," recalls John Llewellyn, president. "In the first few years, we had a few inquiries about reprints. Then, the numbers increased and we hired [Superior Reprints] to handle reprint sales full time. Immediately, revenues increased significantly, say by a factor of two, overnight. Reprints became a sizeable portion of our revenue—not equal to that of advertising—but definitely worthwhile. With more articles to sell and more possible revenue, we were able to grow the publication. Having someone dedicated strictly to reprints allowed other employees to focus on what they needed to do."
The power of positive writing
Understanding the publisher's rationale of outsourcing reprint sales, PARS establishes guidelines with its clients upfront to alleviate the client from the enormous attention to detail required to manage an internal reprint program. "As an outsource, we establish guidelines and use precedents based on our experience. Our staff brings ideas to the magazines regularly seeking their approval, but the least amount of interaction the better because they're outsourcing and they want to get it off their plate," explains Osborne-McKean. "We are fully self-sufficient. Representatives go through magazines cover to cover, proactively prospecting companies that have been portrayed positively."
"The use of 'third party' endorsements of products and services is a major marketing opportunity for any company," concurs Elliot Thostesen, vice president of sales and marketing for FosteReprints (www.fostereprints.com). "Content with positive mentions or reviews, ranking lists and or content with strong educational elements are great opportunities for reprint sales." In addition to being a full-service firm, FosteReprints also provides printing services to publishers who retain stewardship of reprint sales in-house. Thostesen explains Foster's capabilities: "We run software applications from QuarkXPress, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator to Microsoft Word and Publisher. We can support press runs of one to 1,000,000. We average between 60 and 80 jobs per day through prepress, print and distribution."
In an effort to enhance the experience of its clients, Reprint Management Services launched reprintbuyer.com a little over one year ago. "The Web site has increased customer sales considerably; it is geared towards regular reprint buyers," says company president Michael Biggerstaff. The Web site includes information for first-time clients, an overview of services and strategies to best utilize reprints as marketing tools. Biggerstaff explains to potential clients that reprints are powerful sales tools in that they:
• present objective, third party endorsements that customers
remember and act upon.
• fully engage the audience. The brand is seen, recognized
and packaged with compelling words and dynamic color.
• extend brands and add credibility to products, companies
Biggerstaff notes that an increase in subscription sales is also an indirect benefit to publishers. "A lot of times, people may not know a magazine exists. After seeing a reprint, subscriptions can increase because they become aware of a title through its reprint distribution," he says.
The nature of the reprint business embodies the notion that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery. That is, after one firm devises a creative idea to boost a client's reprint sales, the idea does not remain unique to them for very long. (As one can imagine, reprint firms were none to excited to share many ideas with the author of this article). Osborne-McKean allows that there is a lot of similarity among product offerings and "90 percent of our reprints are custom jobs—putting banners on covers, reflowing, creating ads to incorporate into reprints, highlighting, excerpting (if allowed) and developing custom covers." But at the same time, PARS saw success in the first quarter of this year when it started translating into different languages. "This hasn't come by requests but by us offering. And clients have been responding," she reports.
E-prints, digital files of print content published via the Web, e-mail or CD-Rom, have added a new wrinkle to the reprints industry, as well. Wrenn believes that "e-prints are definitely the wave of the future. They are a way for companies to spend a little money and get an online presence." Biggerstaff estimates that "depending on the individual client, [e-prints] account for approximately 25 percent of publishers' revenues from reprints." A few months ago, RMS began offering a streaming media service to its clients. "I think there's a lot of pressure to provide consistent revenue to publishers," explains Biggerstaff. "I think the reprint industry will continue to evolve and develop and sell other products beyond traditional reprints; there's a lot of ways to slice media these days."
As publishers look more to reprints as an additional revenue stream, perhaps the best third party firms will be those who can figure out a way to sell the less-than-glowing articles.