Why License Your Content Now?

By Paul Gerbino

As a publisher or creator of content, in any form, you can bring in new high-margin recurring revenue from assets you already own.

You’ve heard all the statistics. More content will be created this year than in all of recorded history. Human knowledge is doubling every 13 hours. Google has indexed only .004% of the content on the internet.  If you create content in any form – journal articles, research, entertainment, commentary, lists, directories, product databases, conferences, podcasts, or any other expression of an idea — your mission is likely to distribute the content you create, generate revenue and, ultimately profit so that you can continue to create content. But no matter how large and efficient your internal distribution machine is, or how strong your brand is, there is one undeniable, indisputable truth: If you’re not licensing, you are not maximizing your reach, revenue, profits or brand. 

As a content creator, you own assets that can deliver new recurring revenue at almost zero expense. After a licensing agreement is executed and the delivery method is implemented, the  time it takes to hit a send button is essentially the only real cost to generating marginal content licensing revenue.

If you’re a content creator that generates much of your revenue from advertising, sponsorships, events or subscriptions, consider that licensing is proven to be more resilient to the undulations of the economy. Additionally, your owners, board members, and C-suite will support that you diversified your revenue base.

Awaken Dormant Revenue

If you have already made the investment to create the content and have monetized it within your primary business model, you can be sure there are other users in the ether that could benefit from consuming your content, but aren’t. Most content creators are creating for a predetermined audience, and spend all of their resources and time marketing to and servicing that audience. But they are invariably unaware of the value that their content has  for different audiences and in different contexts. So, the undiscovered value of their content is sleeping like a hibernating bear.  Strategic content licensing awakens bear and the dormant revenue.

The Reuters Institute fielded a survey in November and December 2022, which yielded responses from 303 senior-level editorial and publishing personnel worldwide. The institute found that publishers are bullish on content licensing: “Publishers say that, on average, three or four different revenue streams will be important or very important this year. A third (33%) now expect to get significant revenue from tech platforms for content licensing (or innovation),” up from 29% last year. It’s a slow growth, illustrating that the smarter publishers are ahead of the curve, and will garner the best contract terms to license their content before the licensing space becomes saturated. 

But Do I Risk Losing My IP?

When you have the rights to Intellectual Property (IP), other entities can pay you to distribute it or to use it.  Conventional licensing ensures that you retain ownership of your copyrighted materials, that your content will be used in a manner that aligns with your goals and values, and that you can monetize your content with as many licensees in as many verticals and geographic locations that you choose. 

If you are worried about cannibalizing your core revenue streams, which in almost all cases never happens, you can prevent it through the terms of your licensing agreement. It is fairly simple to have market carve outs or embargoes, assuring the publisher that its direct subscribers have the first and sometimes only look.

Widening Your Universe

For any publisher who doesn’t realize that its content possesses dormant revenue with users outside of its primary audience, I implore you to think again.

Publishers have a habit of equating their content with the container they put it in, i.e., media brands or database properties. Instead, licensing looks at content as components — articles and commentary, logos, lists of your top audience members and vendors, surveys and research reports, original photography and other images, video and audio recordings, podcasts, transcripts or excerpts of audio and video content, charts and graphs, conference sessions, product databases, award winners, and more.

Within the audience you serve, you have a good sense of who has money and approximately how much of it your organization can get. Licensing expands your potential customer base, not only for licensing, but also for potential subscribers, advertisers, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners.

If you don’t have a significant presence outside of the U.S. or North America, for instance, you might be surprised at how many international organizations and potential readers will pay for your education session videos or research papers, which might be net new business when you are running hybrid events in a post-Covid world. In fact, if you’re not sure about the potential of international markets, content licensing is a way to test the waters and make money while you do it.

You can also build new partnerships, and you never know what opportunities will emerge when organizations in discrete competitive sets put their heads together. 

Perhaps most important is that content licensing establishes that your brand has value. If another entity tries to capitalize on your investment and reputation, you can stop them — or turn their desire to use your content into a paid licensing agreement.

Another way to look at brand value, as one of Creative Licensing International’s clients once said, is this: “When you go to sell the company, there’s a line item for goodwill, and the fact that you can license your content beyond your core audience contributes to that.”