You want to know which media companies are making the most money in the digital economy? Welcome to the second-annual paidContent 50 list


31. Universal Music Group

Music, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #17

Digital Content Revenue

$1,385,228,400 (26% of total)

Digital Snapshot

A familiar story: digital music sales growth of 9.6 percent couldn’t offset a 15.9 percent dip in physical sales last year. Digital tracks, cheaper than plastic, made up just a third of UMG’s recorded music sales – but, spurred by ongoing physical decline and the emergence of new subscription digital music income, the label and its peers are now on the cusp of the tipping point. UMG label acts include Maroon 5, Rihanna and The Killers.

Key Move

All change and a big shake-up in the music business. Universal owner Vivendi successfully bid £1.2 billion for EMI Music, condensing four majors in to just three. But the buy-up must clear regulatory hurdles, and the corporation had to shed €500 million in “non-core assets” (notably, three percent of its Activision-Blizzard stake) to finance the deal. That’s a significant makeover – is EMI, whose biggest acts include Coldplay and Kylie Minogue, worth it?

Our Methodology

Vivendi’s 2011 annual report disclosed this figure in digital music sales.

Source: Vivendi 2011 annual report, p 148

– RA

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  1. “Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

    I can imagine. Manipulating the numbers to get Microsoft into the top 10 must have been really tough.

    1. lol. but seriously, they didn’t manipulate anything. this info is from public data on revenues and their entire methodology is described here: http://paidcontent.org/2012/07/31/pc50/52/

      1. Yes, but they still should have had time to comment on the fact that MSN is no longer part of Microsoft and hasn’t been for several weeks. Sure that means they get to claim the revenue for this year but at least point out that they won’t have it next year.

      2. AlanL:
        The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in MSNBC.com.”
        And the research period for all companies here predates that sale.
        Any revenue change as a result will be reflected in next year’s pC50.

  2. Does this list distinguish between companies that charge users for access and those that do not, or was that weighted in the rankings?

  3. Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on eBay.com and their classified sites, and the seller fees they collect are essentially paid ads since the platform doesn’t handle the items. This list is also missing Alibaba Group from China (including Taobao), and Gree from Japan.

  4. Groupon and Monster are’t really media companies. I’m not even sure that ad agencies should qualify in the same category as Viacom or Time Warner. Totally different business model.

  5. Mindbendingpuzzles Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    What about Valve and their digital games platform: Steam. I know they are a private company and figures are hard to come by but in 2011 Forbes reckoned they have more than 50% of the 4 billion dollar PC games download market. That is huge.

    I would really love to see Paid Content do some investigation on Valve because they are an incredibly innovative company who really push digital retailing to its limits.

  6. +1 on looking into Valve

  7. Google+ is a big strategy shift for Google and could, if executed well, become another digital revenue stream ti augment the search cash cow.

  8. Abdallah Al-Hakim Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    I think this is a terrific list despite any reservations some people have about the methodology. It really demonstrates the huge growth potential of digital media companies in some of the emerging markets. Also, as a scientist – I note Elsevier being top 5 in revenue (Elsevier is publisher behind many of the top scientific journals).

  9. Thanks for the pointer on Valve.
    Groupon/Monster/eBay – yes, all interestingly debatable.

  10. What makes me wonder ist, taht there under th etzop 50 is not a single company from Germany. Germany is the biggest market in EUropa, but no German Hundefutter among the big player. I don’t buy that.

    1. kenhasselblad – Axel Springer is at #33.

      1. You might want to add Hubert Burda Media (Germany). Digital Revenue 2011: 937.2 Euro (see http://www.hubert-burda-media.de/chameleon/outbox/public/86cee9e5-720f-fba9-3dc2-33982b8b5069/Media_in_Transition_2012.pdf , page 131)

        Best, Sebastian (Hubert Burda Media)

  11. Thomson Reuters?! After Eikon failure & loss of half staff..? Are you mad.

  12. If you want to rank things on revenue, fine. But then don’t call it the ‘Most Succesful List': Microsoft might ‘make’ $3.9b on digital content, but it also loses around $3b every year too.

  13. i know a thing that advertising is the best method to rank your own thing in front of the people

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  16. Tripadvisor is all digital media and is around $750 M in yearly revenue and should likely be included on this list.


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