Originally published on Publishing Perspectives on 28 April.
By Erin L. Cox | @erinlcox
Randy Petway, Chief Revenue Officer at Ingenta, works on the front lines of digital publishing and has seen firsthand the unique and complex challenges both academic and trade publishers have faced with the digital dynamic.
His role has been to help publishers solve these problems, particularly creating systems to help them find better, more efficient ways to manage their rights and licenses. Looking ahead to his talk at the June 13th conference, Rights and Content in the Digital Age, we asked his thoughts on the state of publishing today.
Publishing Perspectives: What do you see as the biggest challenge for publishers today?
Randy Petway: Understanding and adapting to the way content is bought and read since the rise of digital publishing. Consumer behavior has changed. It used to be that when you were buying books, subscribing to journals, and reading print editions, there was only one way to go about doing that which was completely set by the supply chain that existed in our industry. Now, the format, delivery, and competition has changed. People will go out and buy or rent their music in a certain way, they buy and rent their movies in a certain way. And then they start to bring some of those expectations to the book and the printed content world, so new business models, like subscription services, emerge. Publishers have yet to fully tap into the opportunities that have been created in this new digital landscape.
PP: How can publishers adapt to new opportunities?
RP: Focusing on existing rights are an optimal place to start, but an investment needs to be made in a place where publishers have not traditionally invested. While similar industries mine their catalog of content for future revenue, publishers have not traditionally done so as aggressively. There are a lot of financial possibilities that come with monetizing existing content. And, with that, it becomes very, very important that publishers have a full understanding of their rights inventory: what do you own, what don’t you own, what have you exploited, what haven’t you exploited, and under what terms can you exploit the rights? Begin to think of your content catalog as a series of fragments that can be repurposed: reclaim, reuse, recycle.
PP: What kind of investment needs to be made?
RP: The rights department in a publishing house often lacks visibility even to the rest of the company. Oftentimes, management of rights is reliant on institutional memory, Excel spreadsheets and paper files. With the proliferation of rights opportunities out there and a similar number of pitfalls that a publisher can fall into simply by not knowing what rights in what territories they might have, a more sophisticated system of rights management can help safely expand publisher opportunities.
PP: What are some of the pitfalls you mention that publishers should be concerned about?
RP: Digital publishing has opened up new business models and new markets. So, with each, there are a number of questions that publishers must look to the contract for clarification on, such as: Do we know enough about the contract to assess whether or not we have the rights for this market or model? And if we do, under what terms should we be compensating each one of the parties involved? For publishers that have licensed photographs or other content for, say, the US edition of a book, do we have the rights to publish this content in an edition published in the UK or Australia or China? If not, then how do we negotiate those licenses and/or find or create new content to fill that gap? Depending on how far back the contract was created or this book published, some of these questions may not be immediately answered and that opens up potential for lawsuits if not addressed.
In the age of digital publishing when all backlist is frontlist, there are new opportunities and pitfalls that publishers must be aware of in order to better manage their content, reach their readers, and maximize revenue for themselves and their writers.
On June 13, Publishing Perspectives will host a half-day conference in New York City titled “Rights and Content in the Digital Age,” to answer those questions. Leading experts in the book industry and other media will highlight the proliferation of rights opportunities—types, channels, translation, format, fragmentation—available to publishers and authors, highlight ways to manage their current and future rights and licenses, provide case studies, and share situations where publishers unwittingly left themselves open to legal ramifications.
“Rights and Content in the Digital Age” will provide prescriptive advice, share helpful experiences, and identify creative new opportunities.