Your Content, Everywhere
Kindles, iPads, Blackberries, Androids and Galaxy Tabs—a few years ago, you might have thought I was talking about rock bands, but of course, these are just a few of the ever-growing range of mobile devices. The freedom and the depth of information that tablet and smartphone technology offers is not disputed. But for publishers and other content creators, the same technology that has simplified the way we capture and share information presents yet another daunting challenge when it comes to content licensing: Adapt or else!
We have seen this movie before. In 1995, the arrival of the World Wide Web brought new business opportunities along with questions about managing intellectual property rights. The same storyline also played out beginning in the 1970s with the commercial availability of photocopiers.
At the nonprofit Copyright Clearance Center, which came into existence in the Photocopying Age and was an early arrival in the Digital Age (we registered www.copyright.com in 1995 and began conducting e-commerce soon thereafter), we understand the need to look constantly beyond established approaches to copyright licensing while making it easier for content buyers to secure reuse rights. In other words, the key is to address technology-driven challenges with technology-driven solutions.
Context-based licensing is where everything begins. It's about understanding what readers really want. Where and how do they want to access information? In what formats do they want that material? How do they prefer to share information? And how can they most efficiently get permission to share copyrighted material?
Within a few years, the answers to those questions will likely vary depending on each individual audience within a publisher's market. Once customer needs are determined, rightsholders can choose from a host of traditional and emerging licensing approaches to meet market demands and to maximize their revenue potential. Experience proves a useful guide for developing the proper solutions. Here, then, are ways—that you can count on two hands—to arrive at the answers:
1. Commit to processing licensing requests in real-time by offering instant permissions through automated transactional services. Without these services, publishers often replicate offline licensing processes with requests being handled within 2 to 3 weeks, which risks frustrating customers.
2. Integrate your licensing tool where the content resides and wherever you expect the transaction will take place; for years now, this has been your website, but in 2011, it can also mean your "app."
4. Streamline your permissions process, allowing like-minded publications within your organization the ability to scale up in terms of handling more permissions requests. This helps free staff to focus on other business growth opportunities.
5. Leverage existing Web and mobile traffic to drive additional licensing revenue. For example, if a publisher provides a "get permissions" button, the user looking to share content is more likely to complete the transaction due to its ease-of-use.
6. Offer everything for licensing, not only text but portions of text, as well as images, audio, video, etc. A perfect example of how context licensing and technology work together is the trend toward atomized content—rightsholders licensing smaller portions of their content—by the chapter, article, even by the paragraph. Content buyers want it, and publishers are listening.
7. Take control. Publishers can set their own custom licensing options based on their particular pricing structure. Custom licensing requires the greatest effort, but it often delivers high financial return and allows publishers to tailor their licensing programs to the specific needs of content buyers. This type of solution is available to all publishers of all sizes in all types of markets, including trade, scientific, technical and medical (STM), news and business-to-business. Unfortunately, custom licensing can be expensive both in labor and overhead, regardless of whether an agreement is implemented through a direct sales force or through subscription or sub-rights agents.
8. Be consistent. Every order experience should be the same.
9. Provide 24-hour customer support. Third-party services are now frequently used by rightsholders to manage custom licensing contracts, collect revenue and dramatically reduce overhead expenses. Customers appreciate this because it's fast, easy to use and responsive to unique permission requests.
10. Follow the content. Implement content licensing capability directly within the publishers' mobile application.
While we cannot know what technology will bring next, we can know for certain that it will bring change. With a deep understanding of customer needs and the right licensing choices, rightsholders can maximize customer satisfaction and seamlessly license their content no matter what innovation is around the corner. BB
Miles McNamee is vice president, licensing and business development, at Copyright Clearance Center (copyright.com), a not-for-profit organization that is the world's leading provider of copyright licensing solutions.