E-print explosion

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Digital reprints are on a roll.

Sure, hard-copy reprints, which remain a crucial marketing tool for face-to-face meetings and trade shows, are not going away anytime soon. But the growing sophistication of digital reprints, including the use of rich media such as online video and audio feeds, is giving publishers an opportunity to enhance their relationships with customers in ways that go beyond traditional reprints.

To be sure, reprints are just a blip on business publishers' revenue radar.

According to American Business Media statistics compiled in March 2006, the last period for which such figures are available, reprints represented just 0.4% of ABM member revenues. However, that may be changing, as new technologies lead business publishers to re-evaluate the link between electronic reuse of editorial content and the bottom line.

"We think there's tremendous opportunity for reprints in the digital realm," said Syndia Torres, director of reprints and permission at ALM, where e-prints now represent 25% of reprint revenue. "We definitely want that to become a larger percentage and add significantly to our overall growth."

The growing demand for digital reprints has prompted a new sales approach at ALM, which focuses on legal and other professional markets. "We're taking on more of a consultative type of approach versus `How many copies do you want?' " Torres said. "We need to ask our clients: What are your marketing goals, and how does our content play a role in them?' "

Reprint vendors amplified comments by their clients that demand for e-prints is starting to soar. "We're seeing a huge shift in hard copy taking a backseat to e-prints," said Brian Kolb, VP-licensing and global branding at Wright's Reprints. "In early 2005, it was about 70/30 traditional to digital, now it's more like 60/40 digital to traditional."

Kolb said e-prints are more valuable as marketing collateral than hard-copy reprints. "A client can order 10,000 hard copies of something, and 30% may get into the right hands," he said. "But with digital the reach is broadened—through e-mail blasts, e-newsletters—to possibly millions of people."

Bill Holliday, president of Red Rover Reprint Services, said, "We're seeing about a 20% to 25% increase for e-prints, and I expect that to grow as people become more comfortable using PDFs of reprints." In perhaps a sign of things to come for reprint sales, Holliday said, Red Rover is receiving more and more requests for "shorter runs," or fewer than 500 hard copies.

Emerging technologies are helping spur the rush into e-prints.

Take NXTprint, a proprietary technology offered by Reprint Management Services. The format is similar to a digitized magazine, but the information presented is from a particular article or collection of articles, said Dan Fineberg, marketing director at RMS, who anticipates a 75% boost in demand this year for NXTprint reprints. RMS' hard-copy sales are holding steady, he said.

"We're seeing a lot more multimedia content added to NXTprint," Fineberg said. "[Marketers] are adding video, product spec sheets, audio interviews and any other content that would bring more value from a marketing perspective."

Reed Business Information has been using NXTprint to punch up its e-prints. "Marketers can tailor their message to coincide with, and build around, the advertisement," said Andrea Nolan, reprints manager at Reed Business Information. She added that she has seen a surge in demand among customers asking to use NXTprint.

"[NXTprint] brings a lot more value than traditional or stand-alone reprints," Nolan said. "It's so interactive. Marketers can monitor click-through rates and track how long someone has stayed on the site. With marketing dollars being so tight, [NXTprint] gives our customer more of an ROI [than traditional reprints]."

Business publishers are pursuing their own online initiatives to fuel e-print sales.

Reed plugs e-prints via "content tagging," or a link posted on the publisher's individual Web sites that gives users the ability to get sales assistance if they want to repurpose any editorial content. Content-tagging icons are now posted atop 40% of Reed's 51 Web sites. The remaining sites are due to add the icons later this year.

Nolan said Reed is also offering a growing number of "compilation reprints" online. These consist of information about a specific subject, such as green construction, gathered from several Reed publications and combined into an electronic document that can be marketed to groups of advertisers.

ALM's Torres pointed to the AMLAW 100 as a way for the publisher to generate more reprint revenue. The AMLAW 100 consists of icons, or "buttons," that are placed on those Web sites The American Lawyer has identified as belonging to the 100 top-grossing law firms in the U.S. The icons can act as links to reprinted articles profiling the specific law firm or as a stand-alone for recognition from a third party.

"You have to ask yourself: What's the brand equity of the magazine?" Torres said. "Part of the e-print opportunity has to do with research capabilities and taking a pro-active approach with sales reps on which content would be appropriate to repurpose."

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