So I have good news and bad news.
The world of media has been turned inside out by the internet.
By now everyone knows that fact represents both the good and bad news. On the negative side, the online world facilitates “sharing” and digital thievery while conditioning audiences to expect everything for free. However, it also opens up the global marketplace to even the smallest company, giving any good idea, product, or service a chance to fly.
So the business channels have changed – publishers now have many avenues to pursue paying customers, such as by holding live events (and rebroadcasting them), sponsoring online and traditional conferences, contests, awards, print and digital advertising – all kinds of options including newsstand and subscription sales. But smart folks will always seek more and better ways to promote themselves and grow. For B2B publishers, data and lead generation have seen widespread adoption across most sectors of the industry. What else can be done?
In the publishing world, brand or content licensing refers to the leasing of media assets or intellectual property to a third party, temporarily, for an agreed-upon fee. It can take a number of forms, from awards programs and editorial “best of” lists to reprints and logo licensing (the “Playboy Bunny” being a classic magazine media example).
But does everyone get it? Does anyone get it?
We decided to find out. Folio: and Wright’s Media teamed up to conduct a short survey of 261 media companies across the consumer, B2B, association, and city/regional magazine sectors. The goal was to determine how well brand licensing was understood by publishers, and to what extent were they exploiting these opportunities to create more revenue.
Believe it or not, only about one quarter of publishers get it. The survey found that 28 percent utilize brand licensing as a revenue stream.
The stated factors behind this apprehension vary, according to the data. Some publishers simply do not understand what brand licensing is, while others fear the potential costs of initiating such a program will overwhelm any possibility of a positive return.
Brian Kolb, COO at Wright’s Media, says this is a common misconception among publishers.
“Most publishers seem to believe that they have to keep any content licensing activities in-house. Of course, this means they will need to hire a staff to manage the program,” he says. “Our partners understand that content licensing is an art form that we have many spent years perfecting. And when Wright’s initiates a content licensing program, there is no up-front cost for publishers.”
Indeed, more respondents (42) say they use an in-house team to monetize their logo and content than use external partners (34). Other respondents cite fears of a damaged brand reputation.
“Licensing the brand and logo would make it appear that we are ‘selling out,’” writes another respondent.
There was a glimmer of hope that publishers are pursuing additional avenues of revenue growth. Media companies are beginning to more vigorously pursue brand licensing initiatives (even without a formal brand licensing strategy). Fully one third claim to have an awards program associated with their publication currently in place, with another 8 percent saying they will add such a program in the year.
And yet, out of those with an existing awards program, less than half monetize the awards logo and trophy in any way.
“Your brand has value,” Kolb continues. “Every time you give away content assets or the use of your logo for free, you are slowly eroding the value of your brand – something you spent years building.”
Among those respondents who say they have changed their business model in the last five years to maximize brand licensing opportunities, most have invested in more awards, recognition programs, and editorial lists. Makes sense, since the survey also showed editorial lists such as “best of,” “top places to work,” or “rising industry stars,” make up the most commonly cited form of brand licensing (27 percent) where respondents see growth. A dedicated marketing communications department comes in second (17 percent), followed by reprints/e-prints at 14 percent.
Still, those publishers who have changed their business model to embrace brand licensing remain a minority, at just over 21 percent. “Publishers change their business models to keep up with the latest changes in their audience and in technology, yet nearly 80 percent of respondents haven’t altered their model to maximize revenue from content licensing,” adds Kolb. “A well-crafted licensing strategy generates a substantial new, sustainable revenue stream.”
If there’s a clear takeaway from the survey, it’s that brand and content licensing remains a mostly untapped market for publishers. In a time when complacency can often lead to obsolescence, Kolb says it’s definitely worth considering, despite concerns over how it works or the investment required.
“When we start conversations about licensing content for publishers and creating revenue, we usually find great content, a trusted brand, but no staff or experience developing a licensing strategy. That’s where we come in.”
Consider the cigar
Long, contoured, and fragrant. Hecho a mano with a few carefully selected ingredients and an unflagging dedication to tradition, integrity, and ultimately, satisfaction. Done honestly, good cigars take time to assemble, roll, seal, and wrap, and there are no shortcuts. Done correctly, these will burn long, slow, and even, providing that sublime state of self-satisfaction we all seek after a job well done. A good cigar is a celebratory smile in the mirror – a personal indulgence that has been earned.
Consider the deal
I know what you’re thinking – am I really going to compare a business deal with a good cigar? No way – believe me, I’ve got a million things to do that are more important than testing the patience of my readers with questionable metaphors. Sure, I’m a “work hard, play hard” kinda guy, but I play on my own time, not yours. And besides, the comparison is a real stretch. A deal is not “long” or “contoured” in the physical sense, although good ones often take time to develop and shape.
I don’t know about you, but I can smell a deal. The moment when the conversation tilts to your favor, the air changes and you can smell it – you sales pros know what I’m talking about. It’s like walking from the humid, fetid parking lot onto the casino floor and breathing in that diabolical but euphoria-inducing brew du jour of oxygen and pheromones. When it happens, you just know it. Of course, if you are fortunate enough to have the upper hand in your negotiation, the scent of fear might also be discernible, but that’s a fun topic for another day.
So we all agree that deals are not cigars, but I do find it interesting that there are certain ingredients which must be added to cook up a successful deal. Integrity is important because people have to believe what you say. Two people talking at each other will never get anything done – to create the foundation to build a deal, both parties must possess some level of credibility. Honesty is part of this process because ultimately, if you are not telling the truth you are lying. We all know it’s possible to get a deal inked by lying, but you’ll never do business with those folks again, and word will get around. I like the word “tradition” too because for me, it connotes your personal brand. If you are known for your honesty, creativity, and integrity, you will be successful in business because your brand will introduce you as someone others should be pursuing to get things done for mutual benefit.
But probably the most important takeaway here is that there are no shortcuts. To establish and maintain your personal brand (i.e. credentials as a dealmaker), you have to be honorable in your negotiations, keep your promises, and actually get the deals done. It takes time to build your aura, as Richie Cunningham found out on Happy Days back in 1975. To paraphrase Arthur Fonzarelli, in order to have a reputation as a fighter, you have to have actually had at least one fight. Makes sense cuz talk is cheap.
So maybe there are a few parallels between a deal and a good cigar, but it’s more of an intellectual, Lumosity-type brain exercise discussion.
There’s nothing here to learn. Is there?
No, but I will say that deals do have steps that must be followed, and they take time. If you skip a step, or try to finesse it too quickly, your end result will likely disappoint. For example, let’s say that you are trying to sell your house. As everyone who has done this knows, finding a buyer is just the beginning. You have to have a team assembled to shepherd the deal. There’s usually a realtor and movers involved, but also an appraiser, title company, attorney, and at least one banker. Oh yeah, the place has to be insured too, and you may use Fedex and couriers to send the stacks of papers back and forth. So with the team in place, you roll up all the documentation into a neat package, present it to the principals, and hopefully everyone seals the deal by giving it a collective thumbs up. Money changes hands and that’s a wrap.
The only wrinkle in the sequence described above is this – you can have a great personal brand that speaks volumes about your integrity and creativity, you can be truthful and innovative and carefully follow the steps outlined, but your ingredients (in this example, your team) must be of high quality. Your ability to get things done will depend on the quality of your weakest link. At the risk of offending half the universe, all it would take is one lazy realtor, sloppy banker, or chicken-shit appraiser to scuttle the deal and hurt your brand. So don’t skimp on your ingredients to save a few bucks or days. The company you keep cannot help but reflect on you.
So take it from me – done honestly, both good cigars and deals take time to assemble, roll, seal, and wrap, and there are no shortcuts.
Done correctly, both are worth the effort and will provide immense gratification.