Yes, There Are Platforms That Actually Pay for Publishers’ Content
There has been a lot of talk lately in the publishing industry about platforms. Should we share our content on LinkedIn, Facebook, or even Snapchat? Does this help us? Will we make any money? According to a Publishing Executive survey, 11% of respondents believe that platforms will provide a new revenue stream to their businesses, but color me doubtful. I talk to B2B publishers who sell their content to different types of platforms, rather than giving that content away for free – old school. If your content is valuable enough to syndicate or license maybe you can look for less trendy, but truly lucrative, “platforms.”
License Your Archive to Educational Platforms
“Too many publishers don’t realize their archives have value,” says Paul Gerbino, president of Triumverate Content Consultants. He suggests publishers review their content and see what percentage could be considered evergreen. Don’t discount news articles, because those can be important for researchers. Penton’s Aviation Week, for example, launched an archive for its 100-year-old brand, allowing readers to explore the biggest milestones in aviation. To make the archive really work for readers, regardless of platform or device, you should format your content using XML. If you use the NewsML-G2 global standard, even better.
Triumverate recently helped facilitate a creative deal for Source Media flagship American Banker. Junction Education, a college courseware company, is using the magazine’s case studies and market analysis as a college course platform for students interested in banking and finance. The courses have credibility using the American Banker brand and are offered by more than two dozen colleges.
Gerbino reminds clients that even when selling to content brokers like Lexis-Nexis, Proquest, and EBSCO who routinely do deals with publishers, your positioning is important. “You want content buyers to be as excited as you want advertising buyers to be.”
Syndicate Content to Advertisers
CFE Media has taken syndication to the next level and is selling content to traditional ad buyers in the industries served by titles like Control Engineering and Oil & Gas Engineering. “Clients were putting up websites and doing newsletters, but often they were not very good,” CEO Steve Rourke explained. “We produce an inventory of 2,000 stories per year, so we decided to let them use it.”
Engineering marketers’ websites became platforms for CFE to sell content to. Dubbed ContentStream, the content marketing platform has grown from a small part of their business to a significant profit contributor and was recently spun off as a separate business. The competition is marketers writing content on their own. Since the articles are developed for CFE’s own use, the only costs for the publisher are sales and content delivery. CFE now offers videos and webcasts as well.
Buyers must commit to a minimum of 50 content assets per year. With price per article in the hundreds of dollars, each sale is a tidy five figures. ContentStream offers selection by topic and keywords. Buyers can filter articles to exclude competitors and to focus on types of technology. They are not permitted to change any text and must include the original byline. How-to and best practices content is most popular.
CFE is now offering ContentStream as a SaaS technology for other publishers who want to sell their content assets to marketers in industries they cover. They train publishers on marketing and sales approaches proven to work. For publishers in content-adjacent markets to CFE, they are creating mutual sales opportunities. Each will have named accounts, but otherwise can sell access to each other’s content. In a handful of cases they will rep content from other publishers.
Package Your Content & Data for Commercial Platforms
To do justice to how far B2B travel and hospitality publisher Northstar Travel has taken content sales requires a full case study, but an overview here might spark some ideas for your markets. “In 2002 we looked at our data assets and realized we had pristine databases,” explains Sheila Rice, VP of the information products group at Northstar Travel. Their first data product sales that year were to several of the largest travel information websites in the world (confidentiality clauses prevail here), which continue to this day.
In the 15 years since launching its data and content licensing program, Northstar has gone all in with big investments in technology and XML tagging, allowing the publisher to build out four, unique data products. Those innovations have attracted buyers like Google, Direct TV, and DHL, which use Northstar’s data in different ways.
One of Northstar’s biggest data products is its massive hotel database, the Hotel & Travel Index, which includes a quarter of a million properties worldwide with 300 fields for each record. “You need a committed team of dedicated people to build and maintain anything like this,” says Rice. “Your data must be high quality and accurate.” Travel professionals can access this database to find hotels based on location, ranking, and a host of other criteria.
Northstar’s second product is a great example of combining core industry knowledge with a publisher’s unique perspective to identify new opportunities. Intelliguide serves the “duty of care” side of travel -- those companies in the business of protecting business travelers as corporate fiduciary rules require. Data and articles about anything that might impede travel are fed to buyers. Topics range from weather and transportation delays to political danger or health risks, such as the recent Ebola outbreak.
A third product revolves around leisure destination travel. Northstar offers information on thousands of locations from Paris and Hong Kong to relatively tiny destinations. Information includes suggested itineraries, restaurants and bars, shopping, and points of interest.
The fourth product, STAR Service Online, provides in-depth reviews of more than 10,000 hotels and cruise ships. STAR uses freelance journalists who have experience in hospitality or related media as a form of mystery shopper. They check in unannounced and report their findings in unbiased detail. This is fed to the internal platforms of travel agents, meeting planners, and other buyers who can leverage this inside information.
“The beauty of the data is buyers can use it in so many ways,” Rice observes. How many ways can buyers use your data?
Related story: Tallying the Many Ways Publishers Earn Online Revenue
Andy Kowl is a journalist and entrepreneurial publisher with more than 30 years developing, marketing and growing publishing companies. He is senior vice president of publishing strategy for ePublishing Inc., the leading enterprise publishing system (EPS) provider which manages content, audience data, workflow, newsletters and e-commerce for hundreds B2B online publications. He helps publishers increase reader engagement and response by integrating behavioral data with contextual content, and shows them direct ways to monetize the results. Andy writes the B2B Beat blog for Publishing Executive magazine. His background in B2B includes publishing, editing and/or owning magazines and information products covering specialty retail, horse breeding, real estate, credit unions, Wall Street compliance and wireless technology.