While traditional reprints still generate the bulk of reprint business for b-to-b media companies, industry observers say e-prints hold great potential. Overall, reprints remain just a blip on b-to-b publishers' revenue screens. According to American Business Media figures compiled in March, lists, licensing and other noncore businesses, including reprints, represented slightly more than 5% of member revenues, with reprints generating 0.4% of the total.
Still, with the rapid proliferation of digital technologies, such as Webinars and podcasts-plus the growing acceptance among b-to-b marketers of online video and audio clips-opportunities abound for b-to-b publishers to repurpose their content electronically. But even as e-prints grow, industry players insist they still work best as a supplement to traditional, ink-on-paper reprints rather than a substitute.
"Digital content can be flexible and meet a growing need," said Tim Hurd, business development manager for Sheridan Reprints. "Online content doesn't have to be static. [E-prints] can run in e-mail inclusions or wrapped into packages that publishers can understand."
Hurd said he sees rising demand from b-to-b publishers for what he calls "topical anthologies," or b-to-b articles and/or advertisements assembled online to convey to end users a message about a particular subject. "B-to-b publishers understand that you can now combine articles to get a bigger bang for the buck," he said.
About 80% of Sheridan's revenue is generated from traditional reprints. Last year, Sheridan's e-print business grew about 8%, and Hurd expects a higher rate of growth this year.
"If you think about the commercial viability of reprints, portability is what makes it key by giving salespeople the ability to take printed matter with them so customers can see how effective the [particular] brand is," Hurd said. He added that he expects e-prints will "come into their own" and that the two formats will likely co-exist.
Beth Brinton, group operations manager at Penton Media, who works in the company's reprints department, said demand from Penton's customers for e-prints has been "moderate." She would not disclose the breakdown between revenue generated from e-prints and traditional reprints.
Traditional reprints versus e-prints shouldn't be an either/or proposition, said John Miller, exec VP-sales and marketing at reprint vendor Cadmus Communications Corp.
Traditional reprints are "something to hand out at a trade show and promote in person. You can't do that with e-prints," Miller said. "But what you can do is follow up with an e-mail that may contain a PDF of the reprint."
Regardless of how fast e-prints penetrate the market, he added, "I don't know if we'll ever see the end of ink-on-paper from a reprint standpoint."
At FosteReprints, e-prints now account for approximately 34% of total revenue, according to Michelle Wolfe, VP-sales.
Wolfe said the notion of traditional reprints versus e-prints misses the point. "It's not so much about reprints, but reusing content," she said. "People are being much more guarded about budget, so you have to become a solution provider" when it comes to reprints.
"We're trying to be more creative, whether it's folding [reprinted] articles onto the client's Web site or encrypting sales leads into a reprint," Wolfe said. "You need to make it eye-catching. No one is going to read six pages of edit online without it grabbing the eye."
Yet despite the rate of Internet growth, most business executives are still conditioned to reading long-form articles on a printed page.
"People who look at stories online are doing advance research, and people who go into a showroom [and see a reprint displayed] are doing point-of-sale research," said Steve Mussman, a principal at reprint company PARS International Corp.
Ink-on-paper reprints are more tangible, Mussman added. "The average person is not going to spend two hours online reading an article, but, over the course of dinner or a train ride, that person can take that reprint and read at his leisure," he said. He declined to give PARS' revenue breakdown between traditional reprints and e-prints.
Andy Speter, VP-business development at PARS, stressed that print reprints and e-prints serve two distinct purposes.
"A printed piece is terrifically useful when publishers are trying to reach people they don't know," he said. "Digital is much more informational, and you're dealing with a much more finite audience."