Searching the complete archive of African Business

Exact Editions is busily exploiting a market that magazine publishers need to be aware of: searchable archives. Selling institutional access to large scale magazine archives is a viable and profitable market. Annual subscriptions for an institution should be pitched at between 5 and 50 times the price of an individual subscription, i.e. from the low hundreds to the low thousands as an annual price; and digital access to a complete magazine archive is a highly attractive proposition for universities or research bodies that need the information in the magazine. Libraries are increasingly focussing on digital resources that can be accessed over the site-wide network, researchers and students need to access stuff across the network. They are not necessarily walking into the library any more, so librarians who might have collected printed issues are now pushing for digital access. Experience suggests that digital subscriptions to magazine archives will be more valuable, and will be more fully exploited if the archives are: (a) searchable (b) reproduced exactly as they were printed (c) complete (d) delivered to institutional networks across all platforms (e) available at a higher price for permanent access.

Exact Editions has been in this market for some years — and one of the most successful institutional titles no longer has regular print issues, but the institutional sale continues and is still increasing. This success has encouraged Exact Editions to give institutional markets a major focus and is encouraging publishers to build a complete archive which can then be sold to universities and corporations. As well as working with the publishers for whom Exact Editions already develops apps (for the web, iOS and Android) they are also able to work with publishers that wish to ‘roll their own’ apps or who even may not choose to sell digital subscriptions to individuals. An important step and a big investment for Exact Editions has been to develop a fast and cloud-based process for enhancing and converting PDF files to the database format. Over the last year they have improved the systems so that a partially hand-crafted process has become a primarily automated and ‘over night’ solution. There are still costs in the conversion process and it is rarely possible to convert a large collection of files for free, but a process that used to cost $20/30 per item, can now come in around the $4/5 mark.

Magazine publishers are instinctively aware of the value of their archives, and some of the biggest and best brands have independently produced complete archives of their backfile. The New Yorker has for some years had an excellent and complete archive of their back issues, Vogue (USA) have produced a complete archive and recently Esquire released a complete archive, over 1000 issues, which individuals can subscribe to at $4.99 a month or $45 for an annual subscription. Exact Editions is delighted to see these major and iconic publications offering individual subscriptions to the consumer audience for whom the magazines were primarily produced, but they are none of them selling institutional subscriptions. And at this stage of the market, the institutional and corporate sector may be the biggest opportunity for complete archives, as Daryl Rayner, founder and Managing Director of Exact Editions says: “Selling subscriptions to institutions is a completely different business than selling to individuals. We have found that institutions expect some standardisation in delivery, cross-platform access and reliable support and searchability. There is no point hoping that institutions will subscribe to your website if its not meeting their expectations. Libraries don’t want to have a new interface for each publication that they take on board. At Exact Editions we are steering a middle course so that the magazine brand can retain and control its audience and at the same time take advantage of the systems that universities and corporate networks will require.There are other players who reach the university market with aggregated solutions, but for the biggest and best brands, we say that a magazine needs to be presented as a resource in its own right, not lumped in with 25 other politics and literary titles from the middle of the 20th century”.

Exact Editions now has the capacity to process and build large archives, quickly and efficiently and they have just released or are in the process of finishing complete archives for:


Exact Editions will advise any publisher on the potential value of their archive, and will only commit database resources to titles for which they are confident that there is a genuine market. Ms. Rayner puts it this way: “The best consumer magazines will have an institutional market if they are genuinely at the top of their class, and we would rather work for the very best skate-boarding magazine that has a 30 year archive than for a fashion or car magazine that is me-too. There are plenty of consumer titles that capture tons of social and cultural history. Those are the titles that will do best from selling a complete archive.”

Most of the titles that are using the Exact Editions platform are sold to institutions for an annual subscription, based on their ‘enrolment’. This is a statistic that every college library tracks reliably and it means that large universities pay a lot more than small colleges. Exact Editions is in this market for the long-term and for some of the titles they are encouraging the publishers to offer a license for Perpetual Access, at a higher ‘one-off’ price. As Daryl says “This means that we have to shoulder additional costs and responsibilities for the future, but for truly important works of record preserved access is essential”.


The World of Fine Wine complete archive

Magazines with a complete and rich archive often have considerable interest for individual subscribers and Exact Editions is keen to provide services to associations which have information-rich magazines for a large membership. Exact Editions has a strong advantage in this area as it is the only app/web platform that can deliver magazines equally well through browsers and apps for devices. This is a somewhat technical issue, but it also follows that Exact Editions can provide a service to institutions and corporates but simultaneously with the same database to individuals and enthusiasts. For some consumer titles this is a key opportunity. One of the archives that is just about to be released is a complete record of The Numismatist stretching back to the 1880s, for the American Numismatists Association and its 50,000 members. This is one title where there is undeniably  a lot of gold in the back issues.