Publishers, that is enterprises devoted to bringing to life the intellectual work of content creators for commercial ends, thrive in the world of digital distribution when they most skillfully manipulate three key levers that are entirely within the publisher’s control: 1. The timing of release and point of first access, 2. The digital list price and associated price multipliers for access models across vendors and 3. The selective deployment of digital rights management. I believe the primary objectives of a publisher in the educational space should be to simultaneously maximize revenue return to authors and creators and drive exposure and usage of the published content. The three-levers available to publishers should be continuously monitored, skillfully adjusted, and then measured by reader/viewer/listener engagement and usage and royalty return to authors and content creators.
Publishing and content creating businesses may not get a lot of attention from venture capital, but they are bedrock providers nonetheless. Building new products that leverage content in ever more meaningful ways for higher education library patrons demands we celebrate the role of publishers and content creators and that we build their perspective into our products. But we must also challenge and refine the publisher perspective when an opportunity to broaden access, improve affordability or enhance research outputs is in the balance. In short, new product development in the higher education space must be done in a give-and-take partnership with publishers and content creators.
Much has been written on the process of discovery and the usefulness of proposing a hypothesis about customer needs, stating your assumptions, asking good questions and then evaluating and refining your hypothesis based on iterative customer interaction. An excellent resource for developing an understanding of the discovery process in general is the Silicon Valley Product Group blog: https://svpg.com/ In this post I will focus on specific challenges in formulating hypotheses in the context of content-based products for learning and research and the challenges that follow in customer discovery. With content-based products two intertwined concerns need to be addressed before a testable hypothesis can be generated: 1. Prevailing and possible business models and 2. Publisher relationships.
We are at the conclusion of this six part series on designing, implementing and measuring a licensing strategy. The key steps we have explored include assessing and organizing your catalog into categories of expected volume of usage and/or sales. We also discussed techniques for establishing a comprehensive view on possible channel partners and available business models to maximize return across your content catalog. We considered the possibility of gaining a high-value exclusive distribution deal. Finally, we detailed the steps in defining your lifecycle distribution strategy for your catalog, from new releases to the longtail and the evergreen and all the valuable content in the middle of your uniquely constructed demand curve. The final step then is to create a visual model for tracking and evaluating the performance of your licensing strategy.
In the first installment in this series I suggested organizing your catalog into three groups: 1. New release/high potential, 2. Low potential/longtail and 3. Medium to high potential. I noted there is no absolute measure of performance that can be tied to these three designations as each publisher operates in markets of different sizes with different investment levels to bring content to market and different views on what “high potential” means in terms of annual volume of titles sold and revenue generation. With this in mind and having organized your catalogue and planned new releases for the coming year, you are ready to address the key decisions in strategy setting: which partners, which business models and when do titles move across business models and partners.
Exclusives are rare opportunities and frequently not in the best interest of the publisher or the channel partner extending the exclusive offer. With this caveat stated, let’s move to a discussion of the three “must haves” for a publisher to be in a position to seek an exclusive and then consider mistakes to avoid that will dilute the potential of an exclusive once entered.
Publishers must make wise decisions when considering new markets, new product configurations, new distribution partnerships and new business/access models. And the known revenue stream, margins and customer base are the foundation for considering and making these reasoned moves into experimentation. But zero sum thinking, being predisposed to believe new access/sales model will erode revenue one-to-one, is to engage in unhealthy risk averse management that will, long term, only hurt the business.
In this installment I focus specifically on the Higher Education library distribution channel and the various packaging and pricing access models you will need to consider and select from as you deploy your catalog in licensing. Remember, you can license all or part of your catalog into a mix of these business models and with a mix of the channel partners you have already identified.
By establishing a complete view of all possible channel partners and then, based on the catalog assessment described in part one of this series on content licensing strategy, deploying content across partners in restricted tests, you the publisher will achieve maximum total revenue and usage.
In this series on content licensing strategy, I will walk you through the six steps necessary to be confident you have fully leveraged partner distribution through the Higher Education library channel.