Risks of Borrowed Content

Want to use other people’s content? Are you ready to risk your brand for it?

Many of my clients are creating a book series that supports and monetizes their brand’s knowledge base and information architecture. Some are experienced book publishers and some are experienced periodical publishers. While both skills are required to be a successful Mequoda Internet Marketing System operator, most of my clients do not possess both sets of skills.

The periodical skills are needed to create, manage and grow the daily email newsletter that is the backbone of the customer relationship. The book skills are required to build the digital book series that is often the first level of paid product that the customer buys in the operator’s Mequoda Media Pyramid. Ten email newsletters, published 26 times per year, and 10 digital books on those very same 10 topics are core to the Mequoda Marketing System.

Look no further than Johns Hopkins Health Alerts for a well-executed example of a Mequoda Media Pyramid that starts with 17 free email newsletters and 15 paid white papers on matching topics (the Men’s Heath and Women’s Health topics do not have matching white papers at this time). Hopkins also offers its email subscribers paid periodicals and books that match the 17 free email newsletter topics.

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Advice to a New Digital Book Publisher

One client, an experienced periodical publisher, once asked me “Why don’t we just license the book content from several other publishers and repackage it into digital books on each of our 10 email newsletter topics? It would be so much faster and easier than writing them ourselves.”

Risks & Benefits of using OPC – Other People’s Content

The Benefits of Using Other People’s Content

  1. Effort: It’s easier than creating your own content. Creating great content is hard. The process involves research, interviews, editing, organizing and packaging a topic into a digital book that is accurate, concise and easy to read.
  2. Speed: It’s faster than creating your own content. The process of creating a new digital book will take 90 to 180 days from concept to publication, as each step in the process must be done before the next can begin. Research, writing, editing, illustrating, design, layout and production are for the most part discrete steps that make it difficult to produce a quality book or report in less than 90 days.
  3. Cost: It may be cheaper than creating your own content. The editorial cost for hiring a “writing partner” who brings both time and expertise to your project will cost from $1500 to as much as $7500 per book depending on the topic and length. A book designer, whether on staff or freelance, will cost between $500 and $2500 depending on the length and complexity of the book. Then add in your time to contribute concept, do research, rewrite, edit and manage the process. Each book you create will cost between $5,000 and $25,000 when all costs are allocated.
  4. Quality: It may be better content than what you can create. If you can find a well-researched book on the topic (perhaps a 600-page reference on the topic that can be divided into 10 60-page digital books) you may get a series of products whose quality you can’t match on a reasonable budget.

    The Risks of Using Other People’s Content

    1. Brand Building: Unless it comes from a single source, it will be inconsistent in tone and structure. Book series like the Hopkins White Papers, America’s Test Kitchen Cookbooks, Fodor’s Travel Guides and the entire Dummies series work based on the users’ correct assumption about each book’s tone and structure. The book series builds and leverages the trusted brand.
    2. Earned Media: It will limit how you position your staff as the expert on the topic. When your editor-in-chief is the lead author for each book in the series, your editor-in-chief becomes the person other journalists want to interview, the person event producers will invite to speak and the guru that gets offers to do everything from a PBS series to a guest spot on the Today Show. The celebrity author is a powerful technique for leveraging earned media.
    3. Line Building: Not having your own content will make it more difficult to extend your book series into other media products like paid newsletters, magazines, audio CDs, video seminars on DVD, events and consulting. Original content, to which you own all rights, is the key to extending your Mequoda Media Pyramid into many lucrative levels.

      There is, of course, no reason not to mix and match the content you create. Fodor’s publishes multiple book series using different brands that each has its own tone and structure. All are sold at Fodors.com – although it’s my bet that the Fodors branded products sell best to the Fodors email newsletter subscribers and website visitors.

      More on Media Brand Building

      For more insights into the process of building and managing media brands, check out our new guidebook: Multiplatform Publishing Strategy: Using Blogs, Video, Podcasts, Email Newsletters and More to Expand Your Audience and Keep Them Coming Back .

      You might also be interested in one of the half dozen in-depth Mequoda Case Studies that go into greater detail about how each publisher is building and managing their brand in a multiplatform publishing world, such as: Forbes Mequoda Case Study, America’s Test Kitchen Mequoda Case Study or The Daily Reckoning Mequoda Case Study.


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