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5 important questions about content reuse

For many years publishers created content, used it once and never considered its value beyond that initial use. Some publishers created remixes in the print-only era but everyone needs to explore content reuse in the digital age. At its heart, reuse leads to additional ROI on your initial content investment.

There are several questions publishers need to consider before they embark on a content reuse initiative. Here are five of the most important ones to answer:

1. What type of content are customers looking for?

Everything starts and ends with the customer. Is there really an opportunity for you to create new products around redeployed content? In most cases the answer is yes, but it’s important to first determine where customers are finding content solutions today and whether your strategy addresses any of their needs. Cannibalization is probably the biggest obstacle to overcome here. Too many publishers are afraid of jeopardizing their existing content revenue streams and end up allowing competitors to do it for them (see The Innovator’s Dilemma).

2. What reuse rights do you have?

In the short-form world most content is acquired on a work-for-hire basis with all rights in the publisher’s hands. That’s not always the case though as some noteworthy authors hang onto certain rights, including the ability to veto certain distribution channels and reuse. Things are a bit more complicated in the book world where publishers typically own all rights but usually have to pay authors a royalty for reuse; even if you have full rights you’ll need to figure out what portion of the revenue stream goes to each author, particularly for those products containing content from multiple authors. An additional layer of complexity comes into play for content signed with limited territorial distribution rights. The first step for any content distribution plan is for the publisher to determine exactly what rights they have and how well those rights align with the biggest sales opportunities.

3. What channels are you looking to expand into? 

Where are the content redistribution opportunities? Where are consumers most likely to be looking? If you’re a newspaper publisher you’re focused on subscriptions and owning the customer relationship. That’s not always possible with digital content, particularly when you consider the big retailers who deal direct with readers but don’t pass that information to publishers. And don’t forget about the app stores for iOS and Android. Discovery is a critical issue here, so be sure to develop a promotional campaign that doesn’t rely on “if you build it, they will come.”

4. Is your content stored for optimal search, retrieval and reuse?

Publishers often overlook this critical item. They have a grand vision for content reuse, plans for marketing these new products and then discover they have no easy way to retrieve the content from their existing repository. In most cases that content wasn’t stored with search, retrieval and reuse in mind; it’s just where the content happens to be archived. If your CMS isn’t designed for reuse you’ll never be able to scale your efforts for the full opportunity.

5. Do you have content curation resources available? 

Finally, you need someone (or a team) to help curate your content and create these new products. This is one of the most significant problems I see when talking with publishers. They love the idea but there’s no bandwidth in their organization to make it happen. Freelancing is an option but it’s important to clearly spell out expectations and make sure freelancers understand the product vision. This is also a terrific way to dip your toe in the water without making an add-to-staff commitment. Test the concept first with the variable cost of freelancers and as you build success stories you’ll be much better positioned to lobby for new, full-time positions to extend the program further.


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