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Possibilities from Piracy - 8/22/2011 -

Here’s a fresh approach: Monitor the piracy of your content with an eye toward possibilities for new markets, formats, or content offerings.

By Apryl Motley

Understandably, thoughts of potential products and possibilities for expanding their audiences are not foremost in the minds of association publishers when they consider the challenges associated with piracy.

However, during his session at the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting ("Should You Be Worried about Content Piracy?”), Brian O’Leary, founder and principal of Magellan Media and a member of the Association Media & Publishing board of directors, suggested that attendees think about these challenges a little differently.

As the availability of content online has grown, so have opportunities for members and nonmembers to copy and distribute it without the publisher’s permission. "In publishing, the concept of free content is not new,” O’Leary says. "The issue is that with digital sampling on the rise, publishers have less control of what’s free.”

Certainly, enforcement is one option association publishers have for dealing with piracy. For example, they are well within their rights to ask hosts to take unauthorized content off their websites.

Still, O’Leary believes association publishers have another, possibly more beneficial, option as well: the innovation that may come from studying more carefully which content is being pirated and why. He made a distinction between "content for which piracy is a direct loss and enforcement makes sense” and "content for which piracy may help build awareness to spur sales or consumption.”

As a first step, O’Leary said association publishers should figure out which content is most at risk for piracy and analyze why. In his presentation, he highlighted the primary factors that often lead to digital content piracy:

· Content not available in a desired format or in a given market.

· Unmet demand for "some” information at a reduced price (unbundling).

· Unique information not available elsewhere.

Certainly, price is a consideration with more expensive content being at greater risk for piracy. According to O’Leary, association publishers would be wise to regularly monitor these risks with an eye toward not only prevention, but also possibilities for "new markets, formats, or content offerings.”

It’s important, he continues, that association publishers consider why their content is being pirated. In some instances, they may find it worthwhile to interview and assess unauthorized users.

Further, O’Leary suggests that pirate activities can reveal developing interest in a specific content area, as well as opportunities to innovate or streamline by offering more extensive or current services. These activities may represent "weak signals” that can help association publishers compete now and in the future. As such, he recommends that association publishers take these steps to monitor them:

· Find out where your content is shared.

· Establish the impact on sales.

· Invest in measurement on an ongoing basis.

· Learn the right lessons from other industries.

At the same time, he stresses that this approach to dealing with piracy does not represent an argument against enforcement. Instead, O’Leary offers an alternative that allows association publishers to balance their policing of piracy along with the possibilities it may present.

Apryl Motley, CAE, is a freelance writer and communications consultant, who frequently contributes to Association Media & Publishing’s Final Proof e-newsletter and Signature magazine.


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