A number of trends are coming together to make content licensing a more robust part of the media business.
U.S. media companies are seeing growth from traditional content licensing clients, including other media entities, often based outside the country; aggregators of business content, such as Factiva and LexisNexis; and large enterprises within their audiences through site licenses. Yet even bigger opportunities may reside in newer channels, such as licensing content for use in content marketing or licensing data to nontraditional customers.
While demand for content licensing services remains fairly low—only 11% of marketers surveyed said their organization had a need for such services, according to “Leveraging the Power of Marketing Services,” a report published by BtoB's Media Business last year—the business is poised for growth. B-to-b marketers are demanding more content for their websites, social media efforts and email campaigns. Many b-to-b media companies have set up marketing services units to meet the demand for custom content, but content licensing is emerging as an additional option.
At Penton Media, content licensing is a new area within Penton Marketing Services, led by VP George Assimakopoulos. He noted that marketers are hiring people to build communities that will position them as thought leaders in specific business areas. Rather than watch marketers encroach upon the leadership position of its brands in their vertical sectors, Penton plans to build out communities on behalf of marketers using content licensing as a key component.
“Penton wants to remain the informational hub in our vertical industries,” Assimakopoulos said, not only as a content creator but also as a distributor of information through multiple channels, including digital media, social media, and live and virtual events.
CFE Media started to develop a tool to automate content licensing as a response to clients' content needs. The company's ContentStream is a subscription-based content syndication service introduced in beta last fall and rolling out live this year. For an annual fee, marketers license a set number of content pieces, including articles, blogs, white papers and videos.
To supplement content from its Consulting & Specifying Engineer, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering titles, CFE Media made an effort to increase inventory through content partnerships with universities, consulting firms and trade groups, said Patrick Lynch, project manager and sales executive.
The content being licensed is formatted in Extensible Markup Language (XML), which is designed to be easily exchanged on the Web, and sent via a secure connection from CFE Media to subscribers' content management systems. Clients can then use the content—which cannot be edited—on their websites, in newsletters and on social media.
“One of the benefits of ContentStream is that it keeps the viewer on the marketer's site,” Lynch said. “Also, our content syndication software tracks page views and time on page for every piece of content. Based on those reports, customers can tweak their content feed to fine-tune the topics and maximize their traffic.”
CFE Media plans to offer its ContentStream software-as-a-service technology to other publishers as a tool for licensing their own content.
With the rise of Big Data, some b-to-b media organizations see new avenues for licensing data.
Sheila Rice, VP-business development and licensing at Northstar Travel Media, said one of her newest licensing agreements is with a startup called the Data Exchange that's counting on Big Data to fuel its online trading platform for travel-related data.
“I've packaged some data subsets that will be showcased through the Data Exchange,” Rice said. “I decide whether or not to work with a potential licensee, and all of them must sign my licensing contract, which tightly controls permissible use.”
“It could be a game changer,” Rice said of the Data Exchange. “It is a streamlined distribution channel to reach buyers it would be difficult or costly for me to find—with almost no sales cost. As a cost-effective method for the buyer, it could also bring new customers into the market.”
Media company ALM has scaled back content licensing in recent years as it has reserved key sets of data for use in its growing suite of research and business intelligence offerings. “We're focusing on licensing content to sales channels that are different from ours or which go to different market segments than we do,” said Chief Operating Officer Kevin Michielsen.
However, Michielsen anticipates that companies with Big Data technologies could develop uses for ALM's content and data that would not conflict with the publisher's products—opening up a new set of potential customers.
“The move toward Big Data is a trend that could impact licensing not only for ALM but for all of b-to-b media,” Michielsen said. “It bodes well for the future of content licensing.”
Some business media companies are augmenting revenue by converting individual subscriptions to site licenses, in which an employer pays to provide access for all or a certain number of its employees.
The Financial Times has been selling corporate subscriptions for several years. At the end of 2012, FT had more than 160,000 corporate users at almost 2,800 licensee companies, according to a spokeswoman, who added that the number of users increased 47% and the number of companies rose 40% over 2011.
Access Intelligence has made a concerted effort this year to increase site licenses for its two major paid-subscription properties, CableFax and Defense Daily, said CEO Don Pazour.
Site licensing revenue for Access Intelligence was up more than 10% in the first half of 2013, Pazour said. “That could easily go higher if we landed a couple more big companies.” Not only do site licenses bring in significant gross revenue, “they're also a big win on the bottom line because there are almost no incremental costs,” he said.