'There Is Value in Analyzing Your Content and Creating Packages'

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"We license content to support our core mission and develop more audience," said Alice Ting, VP, licensing & syndication for The New York Times, in a Connectiv Executive Summit talk earlier this month. "There is value in analyzing your content and creating packages. Today we have more resources—and can get to our international audience more directly."

Content licensing has proven to be a valuable revenue stream for publishers large and small. Every SIPA publisher has specific content that is very useful to an audience segment, so trying to package that content in other ways makes sense. Paul Gerbino, president, Triumvirate Content Consultants, will delve more into this at the SIPA 2017 Annual Conference, June 5-7 in Washington, D.C., in a session titled, Content Licensing 101: Go-to-Market Strategies.

"Individual content components that make up an article have value," Gerbino said, in a SIPA webinar he presented earlier this year. "The sum of its parts may be greater than its whole. Charts, graphs, tables—these individually, separated from the original document—can be used to generate revenue. [Basically] you're mining for gold.

"This means you're starting to look at your content differently. If you have a book, can you extract single chapters? Can you decouple your audio from your video and have text transcripts made from that audio? [Those] are easily searchable. If you produce conferences, and speakers sign their rights away and any PowerPoints they provide become yours... these presentation materials have value."

The Times might also target non-traditional media—"anyone interested in supplementing their content with ours," Ting said. This could include a newswire, a lifestyle magazine, and even the film industry where a long article might be optioned.

Here are the questions Ting said publishers should ask before starting:

  • Where do you see a possible need in the marketplace?
  • What products can you create around that?
  • What competencies do you have that can make you successful in the market?
  • How are you going to enter the market? Partner?
  • Are you the only one creating this content?
  • What are your overall goals? Making money? Supporting subscriptions?
  • What markets do you want to enter? Are there countries you're getting traffic from? (30% of traffic to the Times site comes from outside the U.S.)

Giving content greater reach can also foster added engagement. In late 2015, The Times took their popular Modern Love column and turned it into a popular podcast. "It makes sense for us to extend it primarily because we have such engagement with our readers for that column," Ting said.

If you do decide to sell internationally, learn the customs of the market you're selling in, Ting advised. "Know the history of the country and any subjects that might be taboo. It will give you insights into the way they think... Understand how their business etiquette works—little things help to establish relationships." How do they greet each other? Do they shake hands, kiss? "Any new market—whether topic, country, demographic—will require research into those "little things."

She told a story about launching a new product in Latin America. Her colleagues translated a paragraph for her to read in Spanish. "They had me work hard on a word that would've insulted them if I got it wrong. But my reading that one paragraph in Spanish made a difference in the relationships we built."

It's also vital to determine who will sell for you. "A sales staff used to just be [concerned with] straight sales," Ting said. "Those were the good old days. Now it's more about business development, much more complex."

Lastly, define the terms of the sale. "It's important to define all your terms and do so as narrowly as possible," Ting said. "We inherited contracts where digital was not defined. e-Books, mobile, tablet, we had given all rights away for nothing. So know the value of your content."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…