List rentals and reprints provide valuable revenue streams for business media companies at a time when every hard-earned dollar counts, but ultimately they move in rhythm with the rest of the economy.
It's been hard to hold margins for list rentals, said Andrew Sambrook, general manager of IDG List Services. “There's more pressure on CPMs. People are expecting us to come off rate card,” he said. “Companies are fine-tuning their marketing to get more bang for the buck, but that's a good thing in the long run.”
The list rental business at 1105 Media “is shaping up to be challenging,” said Abraham Langer, who oversees lists in his role as VP-digital media. “List rental is relatively soft, and we've seen erosion in pricing.”
To find innovative ways to drive revenue, 1105 is working with list managers Merit Direct and Edith Roman, while also leveraging its own people, Langer said. One internal invention is a lower-priced list rental package with preset parameters, such as the number of names, designed to bring in customers that previously couldn't afford 1105's lists.
Creativity is also the name of the game at PennWell Corp. Due to the recession, list sales were down 15% to 20% in the first two months of this year compared with the year-earlier period, said Gloria Adams, corporate director of audience development. She has high hopes, though, for a new list of 100,000 names in renewable energy that PennWell is about to offer.
Adams isn't afraid to apply a little muscle to customers that are scaling back their advertising. “ If they're not going to run as many ad pages, we've got to get some list rental money from them,” she said. “Marketers are looking for ROI, and direct mail gives them that.”
To cut costs, Watt trimmed its print circulation last year by 9% companywide, while its list rental revenue was only off 7%, said Jim Wessel, circulation director. Rental revenue of Watt's mailing lists was up 30%, he said, adding, “I would say most of it is repeat business because it's getting results.”
On the downside, Watt's e-mail list volume last year was only half what it was in 2007. “E-mail lists typically are three or four times the cost of a mailing list, so maybe customers are thinking the results don't justify the cost,” Wessel said.
At IDG Lists, “e-mail still resonates very well with all of our clients,” Sambrook said. “We're working more closely with clients to make sure they've got the right offer, the right content, the right subject line. We even work with them on formatting their HTML, if necessary.”
The reprint business is experiencing many of the same struggles as list rental, said Howard Gilbert, senior director of e-licensing and reprint services for SourceMedia Inc. Gilbert's company serves financial services markets, including the distressed banking and mortgage industries. “Discounting is a last resort, but we have to work with clients right now and take a little less than we usually do,” he said.
Thinner magazines, due to diminished advertising, have fewer editorial pages and fewer articles to reprint, Gilbert noted. The fact that there isn't much positive news in the financial markets also cuts into reprint demand. On the positive side, clients seem to be more interested in e-prints than ever before, he said.
At Incisive Media, which focuses on the financial and professional services industries, reprint revenues are down about 5% so far this year, said Jack Berkowitz, senior VP. “Over the next couple of months, I think the business will be down because law firms, like everybody else, are taking a wait-and-see attitude with the economy,” he said.
While Incisive has an in-house team to handle reprints, “we made a change over the past year to put more of our smaller and one-off business with Copyright Clearance Center,” Berkowitz said.
This frees up the reprint team to sell more higher-ticket projects. “Within the past year, we've gotten access to our own digital archival content,” Berkowitz said, explaining that technological and licensing-related circumstances previously prevented that. “We're now selling packages out of the archive. If a law firm has an anniversary, for example, we can find lots of articles and develop marketing pieces for them.” M