Reprints! Reprints! Reprints!
ROI for Editorial Content: A thriving reprints market offers additional revenue
potential to magazine publishers.
There is no denying that a publisher can financially benefit from selling reprints of its editorial content. However, to establish a lucrative, systematic business plan for reprints requires a great deal of commitment. A number of factors contribute to the success of your publication's reprint program, including how sales are transacted and how the reprints are actually manufactured. But first, we should establish why reprints are so important to the publication market.
Reprints come in a variety of shapes, sizes and formats. In the traditional scenario, the subject of an editorial piece—be it a person, business or product—can gain additional exposure or "mileage" by using the article for promotion. That's where the reprint comes into play, whereby an article is pulled from its original vehicle, usually a magazine, repurposed, reformatted and reintroduced in a new way, as part of a promotional kit, a framed piece of artwork or as Web site content.
Who benefits from reprints? Everyone does. The publisher is able to assess some return on investment related to the original creation of editorial content. The buyer gains additional exposure and is able to promote itself with a neutral, third-party endorsement. And, in all cases, the reprint's manufacturer also receives its fair share of the take.
"For a magazine to publish an article, there is an expense," explains Steve Mussman, principal, PARS International, New York City. "By selling reprints, you're basically able to recoup a lot of that cost." Depending on the size of the reprint order and the original expense associated with an article's preparation, publishers may ultimately break even or, ideally, turn a profit on its editorial content, explains Mussman.
Profit potential is, indeed, high, according to Michael Biggerstaff, president of Reprint Management Services (RMS), Lancaster, PA: "We've taken on some large publications that have either had their own internal program or they've been using another service, and we've been able to increase the reprint revenue by about 50 to 75 percent. That's a lot of dollars!"
Collateral reprint materials, such as those offered through St. Paul, MN-based Reprint Services' Reprint Additions program, extend revenue potential for publishers, as well. "We don't think of ourselves as simply reprint specialists," explains Corey Johnson, Reprint Services' vice president and general manager, "we offer marketing solutions."
Reprint Services' Reprint Additions program offers personalized items, such as coffee mugs and tote bags, each carrying the third-party endorsement inherent in traditional magazine reprints. Scoop! Media Services, Irvine, CA, also offers ancillary services, such as custom framing of its black-and-white and four-color reprints.
To outsource or not? That is the question
For the publisher, the first step to take down the path of reprint revenue is to determine whether or not the sales and marketing of its reprints will be handled in house or outsourced to one of the organizations that offer these services.
In many cases (yes, it's true), size matters. Larger publishers are more apt to invest in establishing an internal reprints program, because they are more often able to afford dedicated staff to handle reprints exclusively. According to PARS' Mussman, the sale of reprints requires not only a dedicated staff, but also a certain level of expertise.
Reprinting often becomes a back-burner issue for many publishers, Mussman asserts, and many make the fatal mistake of designating the sales program to an individual who lacks sales training, perhaps someone from editorial or production.
By allowing a re-prints organization to take over the management of a publication's program, the burden is lifted from the publisher's shoulders. A full-service reprint company (offering marketing programs and manufacturing) steps in and works with the publisher initially to develop a systematic approach as to how its reprints will be sold and produced. After the relationship and the parameters are established, the publisher is able to step out of the picture completely and simply collect dividend checks.
On the flip side of the coin, "there are a lot of internal programs that make sense," offers Cynthia Osborne-McKean, Mussman's co-principal at PARS International. If a publisher is committed to assigning a dedicated staff to selling reprints, having an in-house program may be a more cost-effective solution. However, Mussman adds, be forewarned that having a commercial printer handle the manufacturing of reprints can be cost prohibitive. Be sure to shop around, and take into consideration not only price but quality, service and turnaround time, as well.
Partnering to make it work
When outsourcing to a reprint management company, it is critical not to diminish the importance of the relationship between that firm and the publisher. Like in marriage, trust must be fostered and rules established to ensure a fruitful, long-standing relationship.
At PARS International, developing a relationship with a publisher is sometimes a cautious yet deliberate process. Mussman explains, "Our goal is not to go out and get every single magazine out there (as a client). … Any (reprint) company can go out there and get 1,000 magazines. … We want to represent a few choice ones."
Before PARS takes in a new client, Mussman and Osborne-McKean analyze a publication's reprint revenue potential. Collectively, they study six to eight issues and ask the following questions: What kinds of clients would buy a reprint from this publication? Are there a lot of prospects? How many reprint inquiries is the publisher currently receiving? How salable is the brand name of the magazine?
If a publication is "qualified" as a potential reprint vehicle, Osborne-McKean and Mussman approach the publisher to begin the courtship phase. During this time, which could feasibly last three to six months, PARS and the publisher begin to negotiate the terms of the relationship, including whether the publisher will grant permission to include the buyer's logo on a reprint; whether portions of the editorial may be excerpted; and whether covers may be used.
"In the process of setting up a program …," notes RMS' Biggerstaff, "we start building into our computer system (data) about what publishers will and will not allow. We have some publications that will allow no changes at all, other than reflowing of text when ads are removed. … We have some that won't allow highlighting; some won't allow excerpts. … So, we keep track of that in our system." If an unusual reprint request comes in, RMS' staff peruses the database information specific to the publication. If there is no precedent established, the publisher is always contacted for approval.
Getting the printer involved
In conjunction with custom services, many reprint providers offer additional value-added courtesies. Working with manufacturing facilities in Winnipeg, MB, and Ontario, Canada, Reprint Services is able to establish relationships with domestic and Canadian clientele, allowing jobs to ship across borders without customs or exchange rate hassles.
Relationships between the reprint marketing company and its manufacturing suppliers must also be tried and true.
"We outsource our printing to different printing companies located at various (geographic) points throughout the country," explains Biggerstaff, who himself hails from a commercial printing background.
"Each of our plants has varying degrees of expertise. … Some (printers) handle four-color, but we also have some that handle exclusively black-and-white reprints. We have some that also specialize in runs of 100,000 and above. … We've designed our company to use the printers' strengths in order to provide the best product for our clients and the quickest turnaround," Biggerstaff concludes.
As a not-so-distant relative of the printing and publishing industries, the reprint market is equally subject to technological innovation.
Following the trend in commercial and publication printing, computer-to-plate manufacturing is creeping into the reprint market segment—slowly perhaps, but surely.
"Music is digital; … movies are now digital; … everything is going digital," notes Lance Luehrmann, vice president, ASAP Reprints, Houston.
Reprints manufacturer and outsourcing agent Publishers Custom Reprints, The Woodlands, TX, is jumping on the CTP bandwagon now, "because the magazine industry is heading that way," explains Dick Wright, manager.
In anticipation of dealing with more and more publishers that have adopted digital workflows, Publishers Custom Reprints is in the process of bringing in CTP equipment and has recently signed on with WAM!NET, Minneapolis, to provide file transfer services.
According to Wright, CTP will allow his company to provide faster turnaround times, but the jury is still out as to whether cost breaks can be offered.
Publishers Press, Shepherdsville, KY, will offer CTP services to its reprint customers within the next two months.
As David Blair, general manager, commercial division, explains, the printer has eased its way into digital manufacturing by conducting extensive tests on non-live jobs and reader service cards. Blair also states that an increasing number of Publishers Press clients are requiring quick turnaround times and, thus, are willing to provide the manufacturer with digital files to facilitate CTP.
Blair warns, however, that determining what file formats to accept will be the next bridge to cross.
Making the transition to CTP for Sheridan Reprints, Hanover, PA, will be fairly painless, according to Sales Representative Diane Goff Yupatoff, who adds that her firm is currently "testing and costing out" CTP.
Confident that first-generation digital files will provide better quality for Sheridan's black-and-white (the company's speciality, although it does manufacturer four-color work, as well), Goff Yupatoff notes that the company is gearing up for CTP by training its staff to handle more graphically complicated files, as well as evaluating a PDF production workflow.
ASAP Reprints' Luehrmann agrees that digital is the way to proceed. As a reprints manufacturer, ASAP is in the final installation stages with its new platesetter, a Creo Trendsetter. While ASAP will continue to offer analog services, Luehrmann hopes to encourage customers to adopt CTP. In the long run, it will benefit the customer, he explains: "It's going to be less expensive than using film. … The registration should be perfect. … Laser-imaged plates will offer better quality."
Again, turnaround time is a strong motivator. A digital file that comes in on a Monday (either via ASAP's FTP site or on diskette) will be processed the same day; bluelines will be complete by Wednesday morning, and the job will be printed by the end of the week.
Quicker turnaround time will also have a trickle-down effect on other costs and procedures. If a job is completed faster, ASAP can employ less-expensive means for shipping the job to the buyer. Instead of overnighting the product, ground shipping offers a more economical option.
Slightly ahead of the game, FosteReprints, Michigan City, IN, has already implemented CTP with the initial installation of a Creo Trendsetter (a second Trendsetter is forthcoming). Since establishing CTP, Carm Henderson, FosteReprints' customer service manager, states that 60 percent of the company's jobs are now run computer to plate.
"Anytime you bring in new equipment, you have a learning curve on both how to operate the system as well as how to manage the system. We feel that we've made it through the learning curve now, and our system is fully operational," concludes Henderson. To accommodate client requests for digital proofs, FosteReprints has also installed a Creo Spectrum proofer, and will be signing up with WAM!NET within the month.
Bringing in CTP equipment is the easy part, cautions Henderson. Encouraging die-hard analog publishers to convert is a bit more difficult. Therefore, FosteReprints will continue to offer both analog and digital manufacturing. "I don't think we'll ever get completely away from film," Henderson predicts. "But at least we have the capability of providing both services, and we feel that's really important."
Other reprints companies are treading more lightly around CTP. While Mussman and Osborne-McKean of PARS International are very aware of the CTP perks and will accept jobs in digital form, they prefer to remain cautious. From their perspective, many publishers have not yet adopted CTP.
Publishers that are CTP still have a lot of issues to resolve before they become completely comfortable with the technology, explains Mussman. Establishing format standards continues to be a high hurdle, and Mussman predicts that the magazine industry, including the reprint segment, remains at least a year away from being completely CTP operational. However, Osborne McKean points out, "We're still using whatever the magazines are using—disks or film—because it's the most economical (solution)."
When digital complements print
Throughout the past year, the classic magazine reprint has evolved in order to survive the electronic age. Commonly called "e-prints," these digital adaptations are more frequently offered by reprint providers. Publishers Custom Reprints, PARS International, Scoop! Media Services and Reprint Management Services are just a few that currently offer reprints in electronic form.
E-prints may be presented in HTML, or other Web standard, to a buyer who can then post the article, as is, on its own Web site, but the nature of this scenario often causes publishers some uneasiness. Who is to say that its editorial integrity will be maintained by the buyer's webmaster? How long should the buyer be able to post the article on its site? These are questions that should be answered in advance. However, there may be another solution.
Several providers are now posting reprints on their own servers, thereby limiting access, alleviating the possibility of copy bastardization and controlling the length of time the reprint will be made available to the public. With these controls in place, the reprint vendor is able to sell the "link" (URL address) to the buyer who may then position it on its own Web site.
"Our e-prints are doing well," Biggerstaff claims. "(Sales) have increased by about 25 percent over what we did last year in e-prints. In the next couple of years, we're going to see a dramatic climb (in e-print sales), but they're not going to replace the printed product. … Eventually, especially in the computer industry, we're going to probably see a 50-50 share in e-prints versus reprints. I don't know that all industries will be that high, but I would imagine that all the rest of the industries will be somewhere slightly lower than that, but not by much."
Growing the business
There is good news for magazine publishers that are considering reprints as a new or revitalized revenue stream. New players in the reprint industry are indicative that the industry is economically thriving—for publishers and vendors.
"We're doing about 550 publications, and we see ourselves being at about 750 by the end of the year," notes RMS' Biggerstaff.
New suppliers are also stepping up to the plate. With its founders' roots embedded in commercial printing, Rapid Reprint, White Bear Lake, MN, opened for business in 1998 and has since been seen exhibiting at several industry trade shows. Right off the bat, the company is positioning itse
f as a digitally proactive, high-quality and customer-concerned reprint manufacturer, according to vice president Christopher Ceynowa. Rapid Transit, the company's FTP digital delivery service is already being used as an FTP depository for its clients' digital jobs. Providing full design, production, printing and bindery services, Rapid Reprint may be added to the growing list of reprint suppliers that are establishing a unique place in the market.
The emergence of new providers, such as Rapid Reprint, is promoting healthy competition in the reprint arena. This is good news for publications that will undoubtedly benefit from competitive pricing and specialty vendors.
-Gretchen A. Kirby