21 Comments

Summary:

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

faces2

Methodology: How we created the list

The paidContent 50 aims to rank companies’ success by the amount of revenue they earn from digital content.

To us, the “digital content” business includes news, information and entertainment distributed over IP and consumed digitally by end users, be they consumers or businesses. For some companies, that may mean direct sale of that content to users; for others, it means the sale of advertising against that content (our list also includes the advertising companies that supply the ads that fund digital content).

We did not include either revenue from the hardware on which content can live nor the infrastructure pipes or spectrum through which it is transmitted. Although devices like iPad and Xbox and bandwidth like broadband and 3G are fuelling the digital content boom, they are beyond the scope of this list, which is to to examine the size of the content industry that is underpinned by hardware and bandwidth. (As Rupert Murdoch said, without content, they would merely be “empty vessels”). So we do not consider Kindle or iPhone sales in our Amazon or Apple profiles, for example.

Similarly, we do not factor in technology-services companies that host or distribute content. Social networking per se also does not constitute digital content – so our list does not consider paid networking sites, but it does account for advertising or paid content services on networking services.

We counted the revenue earned by companies in the last full year. For many companies, their respective fiscal year dates differ – but, broadly, the periods in question are either the 2011 calendar year or the 2011/12 fiscal year.

This year’s paidContent 50 is expanded to look at companies around the world, not just the U.S., and to include all their digital content revenue, wherever it is earned. It also includes some industry sectors  that we have not previously included, like business publishing. That means some U.S. companies on last year’s list have fallen off this year.

Getting  precise numbers for “digital content revenue” can be challenging. While some companies clearly disclosed their sales matching that description, others are diverse operators with several divisions, each executing digital products but none of them breaking out what we might have liked to identify.

We looked at both public and private companies. For public companies, we relied in part on financial filings  — but, even so, we often needed to go farther. We had to decide, for example, which revenue matched our definition and sometimes we had to find figures that weren’t included/broken out in those financial disclosures.

For private companies, we examined research and news reports, spoke with contacts (some in the companies concerned, others outside) and analysts, and mined other sources.

For many companies, we have what we know to be accurate figures. For others, we freely acknowledge that the digital revenue figures are estimates, albeit educated ones. In each case, on company profile pages, we have provided sources and our rationale so that you how we arrived at our figures, be they estimates or actuals. And in each case where there were questions about a company’s digital revenue figure, we gave the company a chance to provide that number.

In our research, with companies that disclosed in foreign currencies, we used the company’s home-country currency, converting to U.S. dollar at the end of July 2012.

A couple of additional notes about our final rankings:

* In our table, WPP and Thomson Reuters appear tied with the same revenue, $4.71 billion. But these figures were rounded up for brevity. We put WPP ahead because, as our profiles show, WPP made $4,715,457,336, compared with Thomson Reuters’ $4,709,070,000.

* In our table, Comcast, Time Warner and Hearst appear tied for digital revenue, with $1.5 billion each. We used the companies’ total revenue to break the tie, and so the final rankings are ordered based on that figure.

* In our table, Cox and CBS are tied with the same revenue, $1.2 billion. We put Cox ahead because, due to fast digital expansion last year, we believe our best researched estimate may slightly under-estimate the true number.

* In our table, Disney and Viacom appear tied with the same revenue, $1 billion. We put Disney ahead because CEO Bob Iger said Disney was earning “more than” $1 billion but could not be more specific.

We think the paidContent 50 represents one of the best efforts out there to quantify revenue success in digital media. But no such list can ever be perfect. This year’s list, like last year’s and next year’s to come, is a work-in-progress. We hope you will continue the conversation started by the list. If you have different revenue numbers than you see here for companies on the list, or think that there are companies that aren’t here but should be — and can tell us why — please add your voice to the discussion in the comment fields, or email us.

You’re subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

firstpage of 52

You're subscribed! If you like, you can update your settings

  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. Katie Fehrenbacher Zato Gibson Tuesday, July 31, 2012

      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.
        Thanks.

  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. Robert Andrews Thursday, August 2, 2012

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

  10. kenhasselblad Monday, August 6, 2012

    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. Advertising Baloons Tuesday, August 14, 2012

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

  14. Hey i just find out the Way to Keep Safe our Wallet

    [I found a great app called walletguard that keeps my child from making in-app purchases on my droid! It was less than a buck, and has saved me hundreds! No more surprise credit card bills from those "free" games....]

    You can download it by clicking below Link
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=gray.walletguard.topactivity

  15. Arsenal Highlights Thursday, September 6, 2012

    Good Job Mr. Robert

    I am a freelancing SEO and SMM professional. The recent update of google penguin and panda has changed the SEO pattern radically.

    And google has done this algorithm change to spread their digital ads business nothing than this.

    I really hate this because, making loss to others for their own profit is a Digital Crime and Weak Business policy from my view. Check my site Arsenal Highlights

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

Comments have been disabled for this post