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.”