In the two prior installments in this series on content licensing strategy, I offered practical guidance on assessing the library channel revenue potential of your catalog, new releases to longtail, and how to identify and evaluate the available channel partners that your publishing or distribution business can align with to address all licensing opportunity that fits your content niche. In this installment I will 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. In rare cases you may choose to pursue an exclusive licensing agreement; a topic I will address in a coming installment in this series. Let’s now turn to a business model breakdown.
Aggregation versus Single Title:
In the simplest terms think of Netflix versus Amazon Prime new release video rentals. Higher education libraries use both broad, subscription product access (like Netflix) and single title purchasing to acquire content; this applies particularly to e-books and streaming video, but similar options exist for other media formats such as periodicals. Aggregation can go beyond massive, multi-disciplinary databases as library vendors often build discipline-based or topic-based databases composed of mixed media formats (e.g. video and e-books) and your content can be aggregated into such a product. The most common opportunity, however, is large, single media format aggregations, such as Academic Complete from ProQuest, an ever-growing e-book subscription product currently approaching two million titles.
Subscription versus Perpetual Access License:
In single title purchasing, many library vendors offer options between term access (effectively a subscription) and permanent ownership, referred to as perpetual access license or life-of-file. Term access can be for as little as a day or as long as three years, depending on the vendor and its platform business models. The length of access must be considered against the number of users/viewers. For example, with e-book access models, it is common to see options between one user and unlimited users. In assessing these single title access models for your content catalog it is important to note that the various vendors will often use different naming conventions to describe their access models, so you will need to focus on four key questions to consider the vendor’s access model:
- What is the term of access?
- How many users/viewers will have access during the term?
- What is the price point and multiplier of the price point for each access model?
- What copying, downloading, and printing (if applicable) rights will the user have?
Evidence Based versus Demand Driven Acquisition:
Evidence Based Acquisition (EBA) aggregates content from many publishers and distributors into a large package that the library accesses for a fixed, pre-paid sum for a fixed period, typically one year. The total pool of content is significantly more than the sum committed by the library would purchase, very often as much as ten times as large, i.e. $500,000 of content access for a committed spend of $50,000. At the end of the term, the library uses the “evidence” of usage to select the titles they wish to own perpetually, up to the sum committed and generally with a discount or access model incentive; for example, unlimited user access for the price of single user access. The key points for you the publisher to understand about EBA is that it is an aggregation of your content with other content, it is delivered on perpetual access license if your content is selected at period end by the library, and there is rarely a revenue guarantee.
Demand Driven Access (DDA) or Patron Driven Access (PDA) functions in a similar fashion to EBA in that content is aggregated from many publishers and distributors into a large package selected by the library and with a fixed sum committed at the outset; however, DDA is a user-demand drive model that triggers a sale of your title based on parameters set by the vendor. These parameters are typically the number of pages viewed or number of minutes of video viewed. The sum committed at set-up by the library is generally set as a deposit that can be refunded when the DDA access is turned off, whereas, with EBA, the sum is committed and fully allocated to publisher content at the end of the access period. EBA and DDA differ on two key points: first DDA programs often include content not available for perpetual ownership and, importantly, all titles triggered are purchased while your content may be used in EBA but still not selected by the librarian at term end.
And in Conclusion …
I know this is a lot to digest! Keep in mind that each channel partner you meet with will, of course, extol the benefits of their access models over that of their competitors. Your opportunity and your challenge is to enter these discussions with an understanding of each of the models and a consideration of how your content catalog will perform in these various access models. It is my hope that you will be sufficiently well-informed about your catalog’s potential and the different business models so that you can make your choice based not on partner opinion but rather your rational assessment of opportunity. In the next several installments in this series I will describe the opportunity for exclusive distribution with a privileged channel partner and then I will tackle how you bring all I have delivered across this series together into defining your content distribution strategy: which titles and when, into which models when and with which partners and how to measure success.