Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Syndicates: 'Sister' Companies Do 'Relatively' Well

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Syndicates: 'Sister' Companies Do 'Relatively' Well

Article excerpt

During the past few months, this section of E&P has focused on how the recession is affecting syndicates and the creators they represent. But what about the non-newspaper-oriented sister companies/divisions of syndicates? How is the recession affecting them? Entities such as United Media Licensing (UML) and Andrews McMeel Publishing (AMP) are operating in

the same faltering U.S. economy as syndicates are, but at least they don't have to deal directly with a customer base of cost-cutting newspapers.

United Media Senior Vice President for Domestic Licensing Joshua Kislevitz says business is "very solid" at UML -- a sister division to United Feature Syndicate (UFS) and the Newspaper Enterprise Association syndicate.

Meanwhile, AMP Vice President of Sales Lynne McAdoo says business is "holding steady" for the huge book-and-calendar-publishing sibling of Universal Press Syndicate, despite the ailing economy.

Why is AMP doing OK? "In general, people see books as a cheap form of entertainment," says McAdoo, meaning recession-wracked consumers aren't cutting back much on their paperback purchases.

She adds that people are "looking to smile" during tough times, and many AMP offerings allow them to do that. About 30% of AMP's 150-200 annual titles are comic collections, and they account for nearly 40% of the firm's book sales. (AMP also has columnist-written titles -- such as Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2009 -- and books by non-newspaper authors.)

Among the AMP comic collections selling best are compilations of "Pearls Before Swine" (Stephan Pastis/UFS), "Get Fuzzy" (Darby Conley/UFS), "Dilbert" (Scott Adams/UFS), and "Zits" (Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman/King Features Syndicate).

McAdoo adds that "Doonesbury" books by Garry Trudeau of Universal have "an intensely loyal" following, and that collections of now-defunct Universal comics "The Far Side" (Gary Larson) and "Calvin and Hobbes" (Bill Watterson) still sell well.

Popular cartoonists have multiple comic collections published over the years, which helps AMP weather recessionary times. For instance, readers who bought nine previous "Dilbert" collections are likely to buy a 10th.

McAdoo adds that since AMP has a reputation for publishing books by top cartoonists, readers may figure that collections of lesser-known strips are worth buying if AMP felt they were worth publishing. She notes, by way of example, that the new "Cul de Sac" comic collection by Richard Thompson of Universal is selling well (it doesn't hurt that the reclusive Watterson wrote the foreword).

One reason UML is faring OK is it its geographically diverse sales. "United Media does more than half of its business outside the U.S.," Kislevitz says. "Market trends vary by region, so we may be strong in one market at one time but not in another."

Another reason? "Most of our licensed products are sold through mass merchants such as Walgreens and Target," reports the United executive. "These retailers continue to do well in a price-sensitive economy, so our products do nicely."

Kislevitz, who declined to give revenue numbers for this story, does add that "we're concerned about the economy like everyone else." And McAdoo says AMP is always on the lookout for cost savings, such as finding less expensive printing deals for its books. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.