From the Editorial Director: Thinking ‘Outside the Book’
Diversification. It's not a new concept, and in fact, it's one of the first things you might learn in business classes. In simple terms, the concept can be summarized by a well-known saying: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Far too many magazine publishers learned this the hard way, relying almost entirely on ad revenue, which plummeted in 2009 due to the recession and shifts in advertising clients' marketing plans.
Many book publishers, too, are suffering from declining book sales, and confusion over investing in digital content and what the future holds. Others, however, have been plotting a course to diversified revenue streams, relying on book sales as a primary source, but balancing out those sales with other relevant products that serve their audiences—in other words, many baskets of eggs (content).
One such publisher is Scholastic. While known by most as a book publisher, the company doesn't limit itself to serving its audiences through books alone.
For example, Scholastic Media, a division of Scholastic Inc., produces "family-oriented content for a multitude of platforms, including television, feature films, DVDs, video games and websites, and is an award-winning licensor and marketer of children's properties worldwide," according to the company's website.
This strategy for providing a wide variety of products beyond books is not a new one for Scholastic either. As early as 2006, Scholastic launched a multiplatform bilingual television network for children, called qubo, to promote literacy and positive values.
Today, Scholastic Media continues to create new content formats that adhere to Scholastic's education missive, while creating products that engage children in learning (and that bring in revenue for the company). In November 2010, Scholastic announced two new releases for Nintendo DS–"My Amusement Park" and "Digging for Dinosaurs," designed for kids 5 to 8 years old. The games ($19.99 each), of course, integrate learning benefits— "My Amusement Park," for example, includes eight logic games and puzzles, with three levels of difficulty, where players can earn money to build and expand their parks by adding rides, food venues, etc.
"Digging for Dinosaurs" offers a range of mini-games, such as simulated paleontological digs or dinosaur battles, that educate kids about different dinosaur species.
"Parents trust Scholastic to provide high-quality, safe entertainment for their kids, and this line truly delivers that … for the younger gamers …," said Deborah Forte, president of Scholastic Media and executive vice president of Scholastic Inc., in announcing the video games.
A Natural Brand Extension
While from the magazine publishing world, Ogden Publications is another great example. The company—which serves the sustainable living, rural lifestyle, farm memorabilia and classic motorcycle communities—publishes Mother Earth News, Utne Reader and Natural Home, among a number of other publications. It launched a line of Natural Home kitchenware (and also sells composters) that is sold through retailers and the company's websites. In December 2010, Ogden announced the acquisition of the company behind Ogden's Natural Home line, Cataluña Enterprises, making it an even more integral part of the company's business.
"Our publications provide readers with the knowledge they need to live inspired sustainable lifestyles. Our new Natural Home Products enterprise will allow us to explore conscientious sources for everyday products and to provide consumers with new products manufactured in ways that protect the environment and the workers who create them, around the world," said Bryan Welch, publisher and editorial director for Ogden Publications.
The company also produces energy-efficient home designs, and sells books related to its audiences' interests.
An All-American Expansion
American Girl, founded in 1986, gained increasing popularity with its launch of a line of historical characters (girls), featuring books about the characters, 18-inch dolls and accessories.
In 1992, the company, which is now a subsidiary of Mattel, launched American Girl magazine, which now has more than 500,000 subscribers.
Additional doll lines have followed, including dolls for toddlers (Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins).
Many other publishers are already embarking down this path and have been for years, with licenses for movie rights, character dolls, posters, etc. Not every publisher will have the same type of opportunities, but the idea is to think outside the box or, in this case, the book. You provide content, but you also serve an audience. What else would serve your audience? What else would build on the success of a book, a series of books or a character?
Especially at a time when many publishers are concerned about print book sales, the return on investment for e-books and other digital content, etc., it seems product extensions could be a way to serve your audience and build new revenue streams. BB