David Marlin

David co-founded MetaComet® Systems in June 2000. Beyond his expertise in helping businesses profit through improved rights and royalties management, David actively promotes enhancing the operational capabilities of the publishing world through his work with the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). He currently serves as co-chair of the BISG Rights Committee, which is actively involved in the standardization of content licensing (aka subsidiary rights). He previously founded and chaired BISG’s Digital Sales Reporting Committee. Prior to founding MetaComet Systems, David spent 3 years as a technology consultant for publishers. Before that he managed operational and marketing projects for American Express in New York. David earned both his MBA and BA from Columbia University.

Three Strategies for Content Monetization: Part 3 of 3

Thomas Nelson successfully leverages content in non-book formats

In my previous post, I wrote about a technology platform that allows reference book publishers to transact in backlist content. Today, I present yet another strategy publishers can use to monetize content: thinking beyond the written word.

Let’s look at Thomas Nelson, Inc., the world’s largest Christian publisher and one of the largest trade publishers in the United States.

Thomas Nelson is a powerhouse in licensing for multiple technology platforms. The company provides multiple forms of inspirational content: Bibles, books, ebooks, journals, audio, video, and curricula. Currently, Thomas Nelson’s licensing division has over 5,000 active licensing contracts available in over 40 different formats, averaging over 750 newly-negotiated contracts each year. In addition, this division maintains active contracts in 73 languages.

As part of its initiative to leverage rights, Thomas Nelson offers multiple digital applications and mobile apps, each of which delivers inspirational content and managing their rights. Two particularly popular downloads this year were the app for Sarah Young’s platinum selling devotional, “Jesus Calling,” and the app for Max Lucado’s “Live Loved.”

Developing an app for a title is a significant investment of time and money, so it makes sense primarily for titles or authors with an established fan base or a wide audience. Some advantages: an app has a different price point than a book and reaches the user who is shopping on a digital device instead of a bookstore. The app might deliver the same content as the book, but packaged and presented differently. App content can also be delivered on a schedule: in the case of a devotional, the reader could receive a new piece of inspirational content every day or every week.

“Apps offer a new level of accessibility for this outstanding devotional content and we are thrilled to see the success of these apps,” said Laura Minchew, senior vice president and publisher of specialty products at Thomas Nelson. “I especially love the ease of sharing content via Facebook or Twitter and the immediate giftability of the apps.”

In conclusion, revenue derived from non-book rights are growing in their share of the overall industry. I have touched on 3 ways publishers are monetizing their content through creative rights management. And this is just the tip of the iceberg – we did not cover merchandising, film, or name and likeness licensing to name a few.

Three Strategies for Content Monetization: Part 2 of 3

Your rights management system determines your ability to leverage granular content

In my last post about content monetization for book publishers, I introduced the strategy of “chunking” in which a publisher takes its licensed content and breaks it up into resellable, reusable pieces.

Today I examine the model of Credo Reference, a technology and reference firm that has successfully monetized high quality third party content from disparate sources.

Credo Reference has built a successful business around licensing chunks of content from reference book publishers. “The Credo platform takes authoritative, credible content from the top reference publishers in the industry, deconstructs that content into its most usable chunks and then reassembles the chunks into one grand online encyclopedia that is tightly coupled to the resources of the library both inside and outside the firewall,” Credo Reference president John Dove told the Charleston Advisor in January. “This is a re-emergence of the core value of reference content: providing context and vocabulary to those just starting out in a field of study or taking on an inquiry into otherwise unfamiliar territory.”

Let’s say that a user goes to Credo in search of information on the artist Georgia O’Keefe. Credo’s topic page on O’Keefe contains reference entries assembled from more than 80 best-in-class reference publishers. The entries are linked to other material including library databases, journal articles, images, and video both inside and outside the library. “Each reference entry is like a launch-pad to further information of value to the curious mind,” Dove explained.

Credo showcases the possibilities for content reuse and careful management of rights.

And that is a critical point. To monetize your rights, you must carefully manage them.

As someone who works deeply in these rights management areas, I have three pieces of advice for publishers who build revenue through secondary rights transactions:

  1. Invest in a rights management system to keep track of to whom you’ve licensed content, and for what purpose, so you can make sure that you get paid. A surprising number of publishers have told us that they do not readily have a grasp on what is due them and what they’ve licensed. To do this, you need to have your agreements stored as data, which you can then run queries on (e.g. to see who has not paid).
  2. Regarding any author’s work, know your rights. Content reuse and chunking relies on owning the appropriate digital rights and having a way to pay the appropriate royalties to each of the authors for whom content has been licensed. A contract management and royalty management system is the only reliable way to manage this.
  3. Get the cost of managing rights down to a minimum. Make the process as efficient as possible. The better the process, the more content available for profitable licensing. Again, a robust rights management and royalty management tool are critical for achieving this.

In the next installment we will look at some ways content is being monetized beyond the written word.

Three Strategies for Content Monetization: Part 1 of 3

Now is the time to develop a content chunking and reuse strategy

In digital rights circles, we hear more and more about publishers who are monetizing their content by reusing and repackaging it creatively. To us, this signifies a shift: publishers are getting more savvy about ways they can mine their intellectual property for reusable content. Content that is repurposed for different digital environments can build authors’ brands, generate cross-selling opportunities, and most importantly increase and diversify revenue.

In this series, we will look at three strategies that publishers are using successfully to build revenue, monetize content, and profit from sales of secondary rights in the digital marketplace.

Many of these revenue-building strategies employ “chunking.” Chunking is the process of pulling content from published backlist books and repackaging it. These smaller chunks of content become part of a new book or other digital product. Think of it as a kind of content aggregation based on a publisher’s own backlist.

One intriguing example: the way Boston-based independent publisher Harvard Common Press has used technology to facilitate chunking. HCP has two focused lists, cookbooks and pregnancy/parenting. The firm holds twenty thousand recipes in its backlist. Chunking allows them, say, to collect all the eggplant recipes for a book on Best Eggplant Recipes, or curate the most-loved slow cooker recipes into a new collection.

HCP invested in a partnership with Yummly, a new ‘digital kitchen platfom’ site that uses semantic search technology. Forbes called Yummly “poised to become the billion dollar digital kitchen platform” in an article about the recipe site’s $6 million in Series A venture funding this spring. Users will be able to pay for recipes or subscribe. Both options will potentially yield royalty payments for licensed recipes.

“Publishers need to see themselves as tastemakers and players in the new online world,” HCP associate publisher Adam Salomone told Publisher’s Weekly last year. “Not just as content producers but as curators, trend-setters, and brands in their own right. And we need to do it now.”

Taking a page from her publisher, HCP author (and Bon Appetit contributor) Dede Wilson is launching what looks to be a similar venture, Bakepedia.

These represent just one type of creative use of content. In the next installment, I investigate a second business model for monetizing “chunked” content. I will also begin to cover some of the tools needed to manage your rights and the corresponding royalties.