If you have read the first four parts in this series, then you have analyzed and segmented your content catalogue, evaluated all potential distribution partners and their many business models, and you have considered if an exclusive distribution deal with a major partner is an appropriate strategy for your business. From this foundation you are now ready to develop and implement a specific, intentional and measurable channel distribution 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.
Which partners and which business models: new releases/high potential titles
New releases expected to generate strong sales and evergreen titles with a history of exceptional performance belong in access models that reward usage, offer an ongoing revenue stream or demand a perpetual access license sale price that is very high. The format (for example, documentary video versus e-textbook) will, of course, factor into the choices available, but the business model selected must deliver a renewable payment, a usage based payment or a high first sale price point. Some examples may prove useful. A much-anticipated and in demand new documentary would perform very well in a demand-driven access business model with a one year or three-year term of access and in a subscription aggregation package that pays for each time a patron watches the video. An in-demand textbook for course reading and reference will do well when offered for sale as perpetual access but with a restricted range of users, encouraging layered purchasing to meet demand or with unlimited access at a high price point but for a limited term of access, such as six months or a year. The key point is your new releases and high performing evergreen titles are licensed only with partners that reward usage, offer renewable revenue or support delivering at an appropriately high, but value-delivering price point.
Which partners and which business models: low potential/longtail
Once you have done the analysis and you are clear on that portion of your catalogue that has moved into, or always performed as, low potential then your decision is simple. Your goal should be to maximize the spread of these titles across as many possible distribution partners. This can be challenging in terms of messaging and communicating with authors, content creators and partners because a very low per title royalty may be received more poorly than no royalty payment at all. In the end, some distribution is better than nothing, especially for educational content that may be reaching a very limited user group but might be elevating understanding or changing hearts and minds. But content creators imbue their work with value and potential often disproportionate to the real market opportunity and very often we publishers could be more forthcoming at the beginning of these creator/publisher relationships. Digital distribution and multi-channel distribution have revolutionized the introduction of new possible routes to the end-user/patron. It is understood that the aggregate return across all these distribution partnerships will be low for your low potential/longtail content, but there is always the possibility that one of these new, experimental partners will mine a new vein of demand and by being an active participant you will have early insight into emerging distribution opportunities for your medium to high-potential titles.
Which partners and which business models: medium to high potential
I turn last to the medium to high potential part of the catalog as this block of titles represents the mix where the most attention must be paid to moving content across models and across partners. From launch to a noticeable decline in sales (and analysis of historical performance reveals the typical timeline of this change) a moment arrives at which the potential from usage-based royalty, renewable single title sales or a high price at point of sale has plateaued and these models need to be augmented by those used for the low potential/longtail titles, but selectively. By broadening the distribution of medium to high potential titles that have plateaued into selected low potential/longtail models, total revenue can be enhanced. And, a new opportunity emerges at this point for a broad selection of your titles in discipline-specific, multi-format aggregation products. Platforms focused on curation and aggregation in specific disciplines are always looking for attractive catalogues to power their products. A great example of this type of product is Bloomsbury’s Drama Online: https://www.bloomsbury.com/dr/digital-resources/products/drama-online/. If you are a publisher with a significant sized catalog with reasonably well-known and well-used content, licensing non-exclusively into a curated, discipline-based product is an excellent move after your titles have moved from high potential to medium potential.
One final piece to pull it altogether
In the final installment in this series on content licensing strategy, I will bring everything discussed across the series together in a template you can adapt to and track performance. You will organize your catalog as described above by expected performance, distribution partner, business model and your success metrics to evaluate performance over time. This will guide your decision as to when to move from one model to another and/or one distribution partner to another.
If you want to work together on your licensing strategy, contact me directly.
Photo Credit: maarten-van-den-heuvel – unsplash