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

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21. Amazon

Books, United States (Public)

Last year’s rank: N/A

Digital Content Revenue

$1,850,000,000 (3% of total)


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Digital Snapshot

Amazon is strengthening its place as the best-situated retailer in a growing markets, e-books, by owning both the platform (Kindle) and the distribution (store). But it is also trying to become a provider of all kinds of content, through MP3, Video and more.

Key Move

Amazon released the Kindle Fire tablet and continues to expand digital content offerings for Prime members, including Prime Instant Video and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Our Methodology

Amazon’s global physical and digital “media” (i.e., content) sales in 2011 were $17.78 billion, according to Amazon. The company doesn’t break out digital content sales, and analyst Ben Schacter at Macquarie calls this kind of estimate “impossible.” Nevertheless, Barclays took a stab, estimating that Amazon’s 2011 digital content revenue (defined as content sold on Kindle e-readers, Kindle Fire and non-Amazon devices, not including apps, video, etc) was between 7.5% and 11% of total global media sales. Using 10%, that would be $1.78 billion.

Here’s another way to look at it: We know that Barnes & Noble, which has roughly a 25% share of the U.S. e-book market, sold $463 million worth of digital content (apps, e-books, digital newsstand) for the year ending April 28, 2012. Amazon has roughly 60 percent of the U.S. e-book market and, unlike Barnes & Noble, also sells videos and music and operates internationally. S,o using B&N’s figure as a gauge, we could estimate that Amazon’s digital content was between three and five times higher than Barnes & Noble’s. Three times higher is $1.39 billion; four times higher is $1.85 billion; five times higher is $2.3 billion. We used the middle estimate ($1.85 billion.)

This estimate doesn’t include any revenue from Amazon Prime, which includes some free content for members who pay $79 a year for expedited shipping.

Source: Our estimate, Barclays estimate.

— Laura Owen

21 Responses to “paidContent 50: The world’s most successful digital media companies”

  1. 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

  2. ciaranj

    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.

  3. 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).

  4. Mindbendingpuzzles

    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.

  5. 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.

  6. Brendan

    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.

  7. 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.