Content licensing is a tool that facilitates a publisher's expansion by leveraging content on various platforms for content consumption.

From the business point of view, content licensing is a publisher's distribution of its intellectual property to third parties in exchange for money or traffic referrals. Legally speaking, licensing content forces both parties into a contract, which outlines the rights for using specified intellectual property, like images, text, data, software, or audio.

Advice for Licensing and Partnering

  • Though it is beneficial for a licensor to have guidelines for content licensing, remember that every customer has very distinct needs, issues, and reasons for wanting the content. 
  • Get clear on your target audience and make sure that your licensee target market aligns with it.
  • Don't be overly opportunistic nor conservative about licensing―think about the larger picture and implications, while being open to new opportunities.
  • Don't overestimate the value of your content and know that publishers from a different market segment will see it differently.

Licensed Content for Curation

When working with unlicensed content, content managers create snippets of headlines and excerpts from other sites. All the information must be linked back to its original source, which requires the reader to go to a different page for reading the full story. Also, there is no clarity about how much of the article can be published safely.

The best digital marketers understand the importance of great content for their audiences on all platforms. Content curation helps to attain the right content balance and originality for successful content marketing campaigns. Having your own content coupled with licensed content and other material will impress your readers.

For a reasonable monthly fee, licensed content curation allows brands to publish full articles from premium publishers. Your readers can navigate and consume the content easily, and you become a reputable source for quality journalism.

The perfect time to start content licensing is when you neither have the budget for creating content yourself or with the help of freelancers nor can you produce content fast enough. 

Benefits of Licensed Content

  • Licensed content stimulates traffic growth because it allows you to share a link on your social channels and direct readers straight to your site instead of sending them to the original publisher.
  • Licensed content improves SEO because such content provides more pages for indexing. Licensed content gets more shares and inbound links as opposed to unlicensed content pages that Google perceives as spam and filters them out.
  • Usage of unlicensed content comes with the risk of copyrights violation and possible linking to unreliable sources reflecting negatively on your reputation.
  • Though unlicensed content appears free at first glance, consider the cost of maintaining a good editorial team―and not just for rewriting excerpts and headlines pulled from unlicensed content, but also for singling out reputable and valuable content. Factor in an opportunity cost of providing your audience with a subpar-quality material and the monthly subscription fee for licensed content fades away in comparison. Content licensing always results in sustainable and significant gains in traffic.  

Misconceptions About Licensing Content

  • Buying content is not the same as licensing. It is very costly to buy content―about ten times more than licensing it from another source. 
  • Content licensing is not the same as guest blogging. With licensing, you pay to publish a content reprint of another publisher or author, while choosing what to feature. A guest blogger usually submits content to you in return for a link back to their site.
  • Content licensing is not stealing from other publications but rather an agreement of ethical and legal reuse of articles. It requires a proper attribution to the source.
  • Though it takes time to cultivate partnerships for content licensing, you can save this time by hiring a third-party service that sublicenses content from hundreds of publishers.

Syndication and Licensed Content

In media, to syndicate means to legally publish someone else's content for a fee or credit. Changes in how people publish, access, and consume media today challenge the syndication model, specifically for news-type content. In the past, syndication worked because of a lack of access and options. Nowadays, syndication only works for content that people are willing to pay for and for content with restricted access.

Syndication doesn't work for free content, except when one publisher with an audience doesn't overlap with a smaller publisher that produces content for a very particular niche. Today, most content marketers are not interested in reaching the largest number of people possible― typical for media companies―but rather want to target specific groups and build relationships with them.

If you need more information about content licensing, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.