paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies


10. Microsoft

Diversified, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: #4

Digital Content Revenue

$3,928,000,000 (5% of total)

Digital Snapshot

Microsoft’s Online Services Division houses Bing (gaining on Google but still way behind), MSN (still wrestling with the role of a modern portal but boasting significant scale), adCenter and other advertiser tools. Its Entertainment & Devices Division mostly houses Xbox Live services. Microsoft recently sold its stake in, the pioneering multimedia news initiative formed with NBC in 1996.

Key Move

Microsoft has recognised Xbox is its best shot at entertainment. By encouraging more developers to sell games online through Xbox Live Arcade, it is ushering in the era of top-title game retail via console download – and helping to put bricks-and-mortar game sellers out of business. Microsoft opened Xbox up to TV and movie services, again taking a cut. Games are no longer front and center for this living room box.

Our Methodology

The Online Services Division reported 18 percent higher revenue of $2.528 billion in Microsoft’s 2011 annual report. In the Entertainment & Devices Division, we estimate Xbox Live revenue that Bloomberg estimated at $1.2 billion the previous year rose to $1.4 billion. We have added these two together.

Source: 2011 Annual report and our estimate based on 2010 Bloomberg estimate

— RA



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

Arsenal Highlights

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.

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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.


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


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.

Abdallah Al-Hakim

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).

Rick Noel

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


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.


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.


Why is eBay not in this list? They have an ad business on 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.


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

Zato Gibson

“Creating this list wasn’t easy.”

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


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.

Robert Andrews

The Microsoft profile page says: “Microsoft recently sold its stake in”
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.

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