Content or Brand
It continues to be a puzzlement that the enormous revenue opportunity that exists in the business use of content remains largely untapped by publishers. Think $1.5 billion. So the question is “How come”? I believe there are 2 reasons which are actually interdependent.
Typical media licensing activity has been focused on use of the brand. This is about the content itself aggregated with the content from thousands of other publishers. This is an area that is a non-traditional source of income. It is completely outside the comfort zone of advertising and subscription revenue models. In addition, it is very complicated. Purposely so by the design of the intermediaries that are making the content available to the business market for research and communications use. The more complex the royalty model the easier to obfuscate the actual use case and revenue opportunity. Of Course, since this actually all about risk management, they will only be attentive to those marquis publishers that they fear will take notice of them. The idea in all this is to use the content and avoid paying publishers for the use. So far this tact has been extremely successful. There are only about 10 primary players in the distribution of content to businesses or other downstream intermediaries and I am going to guess that most of you smaller publishers can’t name them. They wear hats of various shades from white to decidedly black.
This leads to the second reason which is about any given publishers available resources. I recently met with the person in charge of licensing for a large media company. He was hired to administer secondary market content agreements. Being in the digital division he quickly was pressed into service overseeing digital subscriptions and licensing has now been upstaged. When pressed, a publisher must double down on the existing revenue stream.
The need, then, is to discover a relatively pain free way for publishers to look after their licensing franchise in the secondary business market that has little or no cost in both human and financial resources. I applaud the effort and was, in fact, promoting the NMA’s new infringement effort. It needs to now gather the rights holders together to effect a change in market behavior. The Copyright, Compliance, and Licensing working group needs to be resurrected. This was a group of publishers, rights holders, that was meeting and taking action against infringers using the resources of the SIIA at no cost to the participants. The NMA can now serve that function and License League can provide the understanding of the market behavior and overturn the rocks to shed a bit of light so to speak. This goes beyond news publishers to include information publishers and is actually even more essential to BtoB publishers.