"Bring out your dead"

.00's picture
Té Rowan's picture

So how much of the (US) font market do they control now?

George Thomas's picture

Probably 95%, very much a monopoly. Time for our Justice Department to step in.

JamesM's picture

Monopolies aren't necessarily illegal, it's only if they engage in improper conduct that violates antitrust law.

hrant's picture

Don't hate the player, hate the game.

hhp

charles ellertson's picture

Monopolies aren't necessarily illegal, it's only if they engage in improper conduct that violates antitrust law.

It's been almost 60 years, but if I remember High School history, the presumption was that a Monopoly would engage in such activities. That's why deals get reviewed. So far, no one significant cares about type. It isn't like you need type to make you car go... Oh, wait. Signage... Guys, you need type to make anything go, unless we all start using only hand-signals and the spoken word...

Bert Vanderveen's picture

Another way to see this: Monotype owns something like 10% of all commercially available fonts — not really a monopoly. (Amongst the last twenty or so fonts I bought none were by MT, although I did purchase thru them a couple of those.)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Yes, the picture is very different when one looks at number of available fonts vs revenue (or popularity of fonts).

I think both are relevant and useful metrics. In revenue, I am sure Monotype has a majority of Latin font revenue. But not 95%, George.

DrDoc's picture

I don't think this is a totally terrible development. The ideal way this shakes out is that the innovation happens in independent foundries, while Monotype exists as a sort of "preservationist society," keeping their extensive library updated and available for use with contemporary technologies. Of course, that assumes that Monotype is able to get their act together enough to do that.

I'm assuming that most Monotype sales in the future (and maybe currently) will happen in bundles, like the Linotype originals library. That still leaves room for the independent foundries to create high-quality faces that fill roles that Monotype's faces don't. The tricky part is just ensuring that independent foundries can get their faces seen and purchased.

Birdseeding's picture

I'm certain Monotype doesn't control 90% of the foundry market, but what about the font retail market? Besides individual foundries, are there any serious competitors to Myfonts, Fonts.com and Fontshop.com, now all owned by Monotype?

Mark Simonson's picture

There's still Fontspring, which is second in sales for me not far behind MyFonts, and way ahead of all others, including Fontshop and Fonts.com.

Nick Shinn's picture

I have been harping on my distributors for years to accomodate a standard size of foundry-generated banner ads, but FontSpring is the only one who “gets” it (without prompting). And guess what, I can use my MyFonts banners there.

That is one reason MyFonts is ahead of the game, and FontSpring doing so well, because they have leveraged collateral ad material of their suppliers. To me, coming from a print ad agency background, that was a no-brainer.

But so many distributors, perhaps under the goal of controlling their brand, insist on doing all their own marketing, which pumps up their overhead and diminishes the volume of their efforts.

So shoppers go to MyFonts and FontSpring, and every typeface they click on will show a nice big banner ad (or series of banners cycling)—but go to FontShop.com and what do they see? Short Tail.

hrant's picture

What other pros/cons of MyFonts versus Fontspring?

hhp

riccard0's picture

From an user’s perspective, Fontspring is still a bit behind in terms of presentation of typefaces (samples setting, features, comparison, etc.).

jasonc's picture

I'm certain Monotype doesn't control 90% of the foundry market, but what about the font retail market?

I'd think the market they've cornered is more likely the custom ISV market. Who else (perhaps Dalton Maag) competes with them there?

Jason

Bert Vanderveen's picture

From their press release and information provided by Mr Siebert of FontShop I surmise that Monotype's revenues are divided 60/40 between on the one hand corporate and OEM sales and on the other hand retail (eg to individuals and smaller businesses).
FontShop apparently has a far smaller presence in the larger market of corporate and OEM sales and see a lot of potential for growth there under the MT umbrella.

Thomas Phinney's picture

> I'm certain Monotype doesn't control 90% of the foundry market, but what about the font retail market?

I don’t know what you mean by “the foundry market.” There is no general market in which people sell type foundries. :) Perhaps you mean the font retail market both ways, depending on whether one counts number of foundries or number of... whatever else you choose to count: fonts, revenue...?

In any case, I meant revenue.

Birdseeding's picture

I'm probably just using the wrong terminology. :) I mean as in the difference between the producer of the fonts and who resells them to end customers. An analogy would be with the book industry: If fonts were books, Monotype might not be the only big publisher, but they do have (perhaps too many of) the biggest bookstores.

Thomas Phinney's picture

Ah, yes. Monotype owns all the biggest distribution channels for retail fonts, yes. Although one can sell fonts directly, it is hard to get decent volume that way, especially if you are just starting out.

hrant's picture

So let me try to take a reading here:

Is now the time for a new, scalable, committed-to-independence font distribution channel?

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Acquisitions and mergers are subject to regulatory approval when the firms involved control more than a certain percentage of a market, without any allegation of wrongdoing. That is one of the features of antitrust law, in the U.S. as well as in Canada.

The current situation appears to be an oligopoly, divided between Monotype and Adobe. I suspect that the root cause of this is the changing nature of font piracy.

Font piracy is not new. In the days of hot metal types, in order to survive, the smaller firms imitated the popular typefaces from the large firms that were in demand. In the days of phototypesetting, there were many new firms which all seemed to have their own imitations of the standard typefaces - Times Roman, Univers, Optima, Century Schoolbook, Caledonia, and so on. And of course Garamond and Caslon as well, but those didn't really belong to anyone.

But this was piracy by competing firms; customers still had to pay for their matrix-cases or glass disks or golf-ball elements. Now, while design imitation is still also present, the actual .ttf and .otf files are being stolen by end-users, and for some reason, while places that distribute hacked copies of Windows get shut down quickly, blatant distribution of pirated fonts goes on unchecked. (This despite the fact that the actual files have the same legal protection as software, and so aren't affected by weak legal protections against design piracy in the U.S..)

This creates a climate where it's very difficult to do a profitable business unless you're a very big company.

In fact, though, the piracy itself is only a part of the problem. Notice what gets pirated. So the driving force behind piracy is itself a problem.

The demand for fonts is mainly for fonts of the standard typefaces that people see everyone else using. That's not to say that there's no demand for anything else. But the people who want something original do so because they're willing to pay extra money for the highest quality, for a unique brand identity, something that leads fashion trends instead of following them.

And while some of those people can trust their own taste and judgment to lead them to what they're looking for, most people with such lofty goals have to rely on the abilities of others to get there. So they will go to FontFont or similar firms with well-established reputations in the stratosphere of type design.

Of course, there are niche markets that are an exception to this: Comicraft comes to mind.

But in general, what I see in the market for type is one with immense barriers to entry if one is looking for significant financial success.

Rob O. Font's picture

Nonsense.:)

Té Rowan's picture

Nonsense.:)

Why?

Rob O. Font's picture

it is pretty clearly not the climate of piracy that makes it difficult to do a profitable business unless you're a very big company. It's pretty clearly something else, besides legal, design, marketing or sales. Hmmm.

hrant's picture

In non-Latin design piracy is in fact the biggest impediment. But in Latin it's indeed more complex.

hhp

Rob O. Font's picture

Fact. That's good to know. If a pediment comes along i will let the non-Latins know how to fix it.

hrant's picture

There really is a key difference: in the West piracy is rampant but it's culturally not kosher; in most of the rest of world paying for fonts is considered just plain strange. This probably explains why FontBureau focuses on Latin. :-)

hhp

quadibloc's picture

If it is nonsense that typeface designers face large barriers to entry, that's good news.

But my concern wasn't just due to piracy itself, but also to the forces that seem to drive what piracy is seen in the Latin script world - because these forces also affect which fonts people choose to purchase legally. It appears to me that there is very limited interest in new or original typefaces, except if they're coming from a source like FontFont with an excellent reputation and a proven track record. That limited interest comes from the few design houses that can, and will take the time to, find good typefaces without relying on filters to do the work for them.

One way I could be wrong is that good original fonts by independents do get noticed because type designers can look at a few independents, at least, and then they might talk about what they find - through media from blogs to the trade press, and so there are ways for the professional typographer to have his ear to the ground, so to speak, and be an early adopter of hot new typefaces from many suppliers, not just a few famous ones.

Albert Jan Pool's picture

From their press release and information provided by Mr Siebert of FontShop I surmise that Monotype's revenues are divided 60/40 between on the one hand corporate and OEM sales and on the other hand retail (eg to individuals and smaller businesses).
FontShop apparently has a far smaller presence in the larger market of corporate and OEM sales and see a lot of potential for growth there under the MT umbrella.

I think that as from now, typeface designers should be reading their license agreements with type foundries and distributors more carefully. Especially when they are updated or changed. Currently, it seems that there are cases in which designers get a fairly smaller share from OEM deals (down to 10%) made my Monotype than by FontShop (30%). Some of the designers that sell their fonts through MyFonts may have noticed that in case of ‘OEM-deals’, that business may (occasionally) be handled by Monotype instead of MyFonts. Instead of the usual 30 to 50% share at MyFonts, it seems that there may be OEM-deal-scenarios in which the typeface designer gets only 10%. Those who are in the font business a bit longer may know that with ‘OEM’, legal documents used to refer to so-called Original Equipment Manufacturers, i.e. manufacturers of laser printers or other devices which have typefaces ‘on board’. Current developments suggest that OEM deals may also be interpreted as ‘corporate licenses’ and the like. Unnecessary to say that the financial volume of a single OEM or corporate license deal is likely to be fairly larger than a single license. I clearly state that this comment is based on a few observations which may not be generalized. Also it seems that license agreements between typeface designers with FontShop are not affected by the recent changes. What I intend to say with this comment is that I think that we have to keep an eye on future developments though.

Rob O. Font's picture

I have not closed either eye since the future started.;)

Rob O. Font's picture

And...FB concentrates on Latin for a very simple reason unrelated to piracy.

hrant's picture

Not piracy, money. There's a lot less in non-Latin, even though Google has a far lesser presence there.

hhp

Queneau's picture

I wonder if a distribution model like Bandcamp wouldn't be able to function for indie foundries, especially if the target group is designers and agencies. Within this basic model designers or foundries can open their own shop, and most of the sales goes to designer/foundry (minus 15% of the sales + payment fees)

Perhaps it is far fetched, and the font market is different from music, but still...

Nick Shinn's picture

Microsoft and Apple are heavily invested in non-Latin, for reasons of global empire building, which one presumes is financially driven. But they are not type foundries.

Some foundries do offer diverse language and script support, but they are targeting markets (e.g. corporations doing business across the “Pan-European” EU), not acting through philanthropy.

Rob O. Font's picture

"Not piracy, money"

Lol... Money isn't everything. FB represents exclusively Latin native designers. Even if all the money was in, say Armenoperisiatic styles, Mongolian or emoji, we'd likely stick with Latin. Straying beyond ones roots, scripturally, is not generally successful even in simplified designs of mystery scripts.

The amount of money in a script, is an interesting question I'd not address as if it were either simple black or white, good or bad, hairy or bald, apple, orange, chicken in the pot or egg on your face. Technologies of various kinds have been rolling around in different places at different times with different receptions, adaptation patterns and various educational and cultural diffusion speeds, with type involved.

But, at this moment, I'd say there is no way could guess whether there was either more or less piracy or money in Latin vs non Latin, and I just don't see any o it, as the prime motivating factors for any of the monotype acquisitions, 'cept 1.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
Not piracy, money. There's a lot less in non-Latin,

And of course that does make a point about cause and effect. There's a lot less money in making typefaces for, say, Thai - so there are fewer typefaces available, and they cost more. That leads to a bigger problem with font piracy, but the root cause is that fewer and poorer people use the script system.

Cyrillic, and, to a lesser extent (because of the lower case) Greek can just be 'thrown in' when designing a Latin face, of course. Greek and Hebrew are somewhat in demand in the Latin script world for scholarly publication and the like. But most of the rest of the world's non-Latin scripts don't offer the same motivations.

Even so, of course, some free fonts are being designed out of philanthropic motives to cover as much of Unicode as possible. In the case of Burmese, there's a controversy over whether Unicode properly covers the script system, though, so there's another level of problem.

hrant's picture

Pretty much nobody really believes that money is everything, but different people strike a very different balance between money and culture.

I've straddled Western and non-Western cultures all my life (including the selling of non-Latin fonts since the mid-80s) and I can assure you that the stigma associated with piracy is qualitatively different.

FB represents exclusively Latin native designers.

It's commendable to acknowledge the relevance of "nativity", and abstain from trying one's luck (including for small and/or non-retail projects however). But it is of course entirely possible to sub-contract, or even hire the right people, as Adobe and Dalton Maag do. Speaking of which: https://twitter.com/OhBendy/statuses/490781733143740416

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture

Mark Simonson said:

“There's still Fontspring, which is second in sales for me not far behind MyFonts, and way ahead of all others, including Fontshop and Fonts.com.”

That's a good reminder. We tend to overlook younger retailers like Fontspring and YouWorkForThem. I wonder, though, if Mark’s case is an outlier. The Fontspring bestseller list shows Proxima Nova at the top. This, combined with the size of the catalog (about 6,600 families which is much smaller than MyFonts, Fonts.com, or FontShop), might skew things in favor of the few quality suppliers there.

Still, I wonder if Fontspring became an early and easy choice for web designers because it quickly positioned itself as a provider of downloadable self-hosted webfonts without hassle.

Rob O. Font's picture

Mr. Coles, I overlook them because I don't see this issue solved by pricing, promise, energy and etc., alone. Solid links beyond Latin and existing proof of continueing independent competitive technical excellence, from tools to services, seem more important. The former is relatively easy to personalize, while the latter, especially extending to non Latin minority scripts, is a matter requiring non bs masters, again we are talking about master from tools to services. The difficulty in finding seven such masters for some of these minority scripts is, I think, why they are minority scripts.

hrant's picture

If you can't find one, nurture one. Somewhat parallel to how some people make a typeface because they think it's needed, without waiting for a client with a wad of cash.

BTW it's not rational to suggest that a script is a minority script because the fonts for it are not very good; no matter how good Armenian fonts get, nobody but us is going to use them (not the same as paying for them, luckily, because we don't, sadly). A script's prominence piggy-backs on its culture's prominence.

Trying to be practical:
Seven experts? Just running a non-Latin by any single designer with nativity, even one you happen to not personally like, is better than using the Force. And before releasing it please.

hhp

Rob O. Font's picture

"BTW it's not rational to suggest that a script is a minority script because the fonts for it are not very good; "

If the opportunity ever comes up to suggest such a thing, I'll have to choose.

quadibloc's picture

@hrant:
BTW it's not rational to suggest that a script is a minority script because the fonts for it are not very good; no matter how good Armenian fonts get, nobody but us is going to use them

Well, that proves that it's not rational to suggest that the fonts for a script are not very good because the script is a minority script; as you've said, the fonts for Armenian could become good, but that wouldn't stop it from being a script used by a limited number of people.

However, to disprove the converse, you would have to point out an example of a script used by a large number of people for which good fonts have not been available. Of course, that may indeed be possible - Chinese comes to mind. Still, Chinese is a "minority script" in the sense that China isn't as wealthy as the countries of Western Europe or the United States, despite the large number of people using it!

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