Content Licensing Strategies In The Age Of Proprietary Mobile Devices
Finding the right strategy for dealing with a plethora of platforms for consuming today's content is no easy task.
Photo credit: color Blackberry
The ideal digital content platform for publishers is not the latest faddish gizmo but the digital objects that they create to run on these hardware platforms. Keeping content highly profitable in the midst of disposable technology wars means thinking long and hard about how you're really going to make money in the long run on from content users using these devices.
But content producers can make it a lot easier on themselves if they look a little past the familiar terrain of past licensing deals and think about how the users of content are really going to value their services in a world where content needs to be on ever-changing platforms to provide that value.
Here are a few tips as to how to think about platform strategies for content licensing in an age of short-lived content appliances:
1) Be careful what you ask for in a platform partner: you just might get it.
The Apple's iPod has an attractive form factor and proprietary rights management packaging for content that make it hard to walk away from this platform.
But premium content suppliers who didn't bet on the dominance of iPods now find themselves in the unenviable position of Apple having huge control over pricing and distribution as they introduce their proprietary file formats to new platforms.
What will remain is the Web, the amorphous catch-all of content that is always ready to provide acceptable substitutes to proprietary channels.
The Web enables both iPods, Sony and MP3 devices to download content with equal ease.
With a ubiquitous distribution medium, why try to chase fake exclusivity through platform choke points that will never catch up with your need to grow revenues across the broadest array of audiences?
Most traditional licensing deals will begin to feel more like a noose to content suppliers trying to keep up with the "gizmo du jour."
2) Bring the lessons of building Web revenues on to personal content devices.
The Web untethered many publishers from subscription database services that sprung up in the days when collecting and distributing content was expensive work.
Free to build their own relationships with content consumers via Web content services we see magazines, journals and news sources using affordable Web technologies and services to build higher-margin revenues away from "choke point" content licensing.
Why should publishers accept anything less than ideal conditions in which to sustain those relationships via personal content devices?
Content suppliers need to look beyond the short-term comforts of artificial scarcity offered on trendy personal content devices and recognize that the same advantages of openness that are now working for them on the Web are going to follow an inexorable path onto other devices.
Traditional content licensing deals can help to lock in market position on new platforms, but when the platforms themselves are going to have very short shelf lives it becomes far more important to develop a direct licensing relationship with your content users.
3) Think of digital objects as the ideal personal content devices.
Instead of chasing disposable content devices that dispose of the user relationships at the heart of revenue growth in today's electronic publishing it's important to recognize that the real platform that publishers want to support at all costs is their own digital content.
XML and other standards allow for both content and functionality to be packaged together into downloadable digital objects that can act as virtual machines in their own right.
The more portable those virtual machines the easier those relationships will remain intact as digital objects move from machine to machine over time.
The International Digital Publishing Forum is working on new standards for digital containers that promise to move beyond eBook packaging into a more generalized container for licensable digital content.
As the ability for publishers to add value to such containers increases the focus of content licensing for downloadable content is more likely to move in the direction of downloadable digital objects that have long lives in the hands of their purchasers.
Getting content on the hottest personal devices will remain a high priority for publishers for years to come. But being able to avoid lengthy licensing battles to get in touch with content users on those devices will be the real struggle for publishers to fight.
The more that publishers embrace and help to form platform-independent standards for content packaging and license management for digital objects the sooner that they will be able to build the strongest revenue base possible on personal content devices.
Now that's a passion that we can all live with.
blog comments powered by Disqus