Spiders fly - NLA web licensing hits 30

Getting publisher permissions for the 1,000 plus newspaper and magazine websites media monitoring businesses wish to include in their online products would be a nightmare, but NLA offers a simple solution. For a fixed annual fee of less than £5 per publisher per year these businesses can scrape publisher sites and provide a wide range of services to clients.  Unsurprisingly the licence is increasingly popular and in June NLA signed the 30th media monitoring licence for web content. Through them we license several thousand businesses to use web material to support their PR and marketing activity. 

Effective licensing solutions can create bridges between users, service suppliers and publishers that benefit everyone. Licensing creates a common interest between publishers and providers to ensure a good user experience, and when that works it encourages investment. The fact NLA now delivers paywall content to many users through its eClips service is a very relevant example, as is the further investment NLA and publishers have made in providing page view data through our innovative new AIM (Article Impact Measurement) service.

The growing number and range of professional web content services is proof that the licensed market is healthy. The variety of new partners that web licensing has generated is also broadening our view of the market. While many are in the core media monitoring business (who said what about my company), there are many addressing other niche and new areas. The challenge of responding to these and to developments in the core services means we can’t sit still and need to innovate.

The list of licensees is here. We confidently expect the number of licences – and revenue to publishers - to grow.   


Why a Spotify model isn’t the answer for news publishers

In his Press gazette blog last week David Benigson of Signal suggested newspapers and NLA media access were missing a trick by not adopting a Spotify-style model – low cost, high volume - for news aggregators. A challenge is always welcome, and new ideas ditto, but I’m afraid David is not on a winner here.

A little bit of context might help first. NLA fought a four year battle with Meltwater through the courts to establish the principle that paid for use of newspaper web content is protected by copyright and the fees we proposed were reasonable. We won, and have established one of the very few licensing systems for web content. Without that win, the debate could not even start.

Now, over 30 media monitoring companies (but not, incidentally, Signal itself) are licensed and we hold around 9500 direct licences covering 200,000 businesses for use of web material. Over 1,000 newspaper websites and a further 1,000 magazine sites are covered. Publishers get 80% of the revenue, which is a low seven figure sum, about 3% of the £30m+ we paid publishers last year.  David wants to boost publisher revenue: we plead guilty to doing just that!

We very strongly doubt whether the situation for publishers would be improved if we changed our business model as David proposes. Professional media monitoring is a very well established business requirement typically of larger companies and their PR advisers – a niche service bought by about 25,000 users. There isn’t an obvious pent up demand for lower priced services from a wider audience.

If you have to monitor media for references to a specialist subject, you do it. Unlike the consumer demand for hard to get music, press monitoring is a professional requirement for a smallish group of business users. It’s not for fun. I haven’t seen my daughter – a Spotify user – claim she needs press cuttings and wants to pay £10 pm for them.

Perhaps the best proof is that Google News and many other free aggregator services have been around for years (13 in Google’s case) without any discernible impact on the core paid-for media monitoring market and with limited consumer impact. Google News is not a major traffic driver to newspaper sites; search, Twitter and Facebook are more relevant. Would applying charges make Google News more attractive? Not when I last went to business school. NLA has – with the newspapers wider advertising interests in mind, steered well clear of consumer services.

The assumption is that Google would sign up to a paid model is itself unlikely. If you haven’t been following their approach in Germany and Spain (along the lines of ‘make your content free or we drop you from search’) you will realise how unlikely that is.

Licensing web content has challenges and we welcome constructive ideas. We certainly are aware that digital pennies can in some markets be greater than analogue pounds. But – as most publishers know to their cost – pennies are sometimes just pennies.  We look forward to Signal applying for a licence and seeing how the system really can work for the publishers that David wants to help.


Planes, trains, automobiles - and international content rights

NLA media access has put a premium on developing international licensing. UK press is widely used abroad and our UK clients are increasingly interested in global content. Serving these needs makes strategic and commercial sense. Which is why I drove 1500 miles in an open top car last week. Let me explain.

NLA is a member of the International Federation of Reproductive Rights Organisation – IFRRO .  Through IFRRO agreements we are able to offer UK users rights to copy thousands of international titles. The full list is here. But looking closely you will see too many of these are restricted to paper rights. So – leaving the car in Zurich - first stop was Vienna by overnight train, where IFRRO the conference gave us the chance to negotiate wider rights. One agreement – allowing Irish education sector to copy UK material – was signed and others were worked on.

 On to Stockholm – this time by plane – to present NLA’s new Article Impact Measurement service to 180 plus media monitoring and evaluation experts, gathering for their annual AMEC event ( ). AIM was well received, as was the opportunity to participate in the discussion on EU copyright reform. NLA were encouraged by Eric Mamer (head of policy for EC Commissioner Oettinger), who recognises that copyright is essential to supporting the growth of content businesses. We also had many international and UK users and prospects for our eClips service at the event, so it was a great chance to catch up with them. The Abba tribute band at the awards ceremony did their bit to ensure we lightened up later in the evening.

Then another flight to Zurich for the Press Database and Licensing Network conference. PDLN ( is a network of 25 international press licensing and service companies, and sponsors international licensing deals to support better cross border access and rights. Through the network publisher groups have engineered agreements like the delivery of UK content to German clients through our sister organisation PMG. PDLN is smaller, and there was less music, but it’s a group focused directly on press issues and so lots got done that will benefit users. We also welcomed a new Korean member - who we discovered has many of the same challenges as the rest of us. Major MMO groups were invited to present to ensure we listen to user needs. The PDLN events are as much about learning from each other as doing direct deals, and there was a lot of knowledge sharing.

So then it was time for the drive home.  Another 700m through the Vosges and Ardennes. My transport choices were personal, but the reasons for the trip were all about improving the flow of information and revenue as press monitoring goes global.       


NLA supporting the Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF)

The Journalism Diversity Fund (JDF) was set up by the newspaper industry in 2005 to support the training of journalists from ethnically and socially diverse backgrounds.  NLA media access is the JDF’s biggest supporter, and has been donating to it since its launch. Since its creation nearly 10 years ago, the JDF has provided bursaries for 176 aspiring journalists. In 2014 the fund supported 15 students from diverse backgrounds who would not otherwise have had the financial means to support themselves on a NCTJ-accredited course.

Last year NLA media access donated £100,000 to the fund, bringing its total support for the bursary scheme to £981k since it launched in 2005. Encouraging new talent from a range of backgrounds is vital to the future of the publishing industry, but difficult economic circumstances can put off talented young applicants who cannot afford course fees. Earlier this year Guardian leader writer and columnist Hugh Muir wrote a piece about his positive experience of the work of JDF and the challenges that remain for the industry here.

This year we have also heard from one of the former bursary recipients who is well on the way to becoming a stellar reporter thanks to the support of the JDF, recently moving from a regional publisher to work for BBC online.


Sophie Mai-Lan

"I had always wanted to work in the media but I assumed journalism wasn't an industry for people from my background. It was a distant dream to be able to afford actual training in journalism which is what I needed to get

my foot properly in the door. I started freelancing with no training: just a pure drive for stories. I won a few awards for my digital reporting but paid work was difficult to secure. Not to mention the fact I was pregnant with my first child, so I was slowly giving up on ever getting a job in journalism.

Thankfully, once I had my baby I read about the Journalism Diversity Fund via the NCTJ’s website and I knew I had to apply. With their help I was able to study for a post-graduate diploma and NCTJ diploma in journalism at the University of Salford. During my studies I won a scoop of the year award at the NCTJ Awards for Excellence, I was runner-up and shortlisted for two Guardian Student Media Awards and shortlisted for an IRN national commercial radio award.

I was then able to get my first job covering titles at Johnston Press Yorkshire. I also freelanced for the Mirror Online and Bauer Radio. Finally I landed my dream job at the BBC, where I am today working on national current affairs output. If it hadn't have been for the support and funding of the JDF I know I wouldn't have been able to train and afford to continue pursuing a job in the industry.

It is vital that our newsrooms are diverse because the more perspectives we have, the better journalists we are. And, as I work across BBC online, The One Show and national radio, I know how important it is to strive to get the best content and most relevant stories to serve all of our audiences.

We are seeing great changes, but there's still a way to go. But at least thanks to the JDF and NLA newsrooms are becoming more diverse."


Publishers win High Court fight to block internet piracy

The Publishers Association is celebrating a significant legal victory today. It has forced reluctant internet service providers to block access to a number of sites containing huge volumes of copyright material.  The courts ruled that freedom of the internet does not mean freedom to steal other peoples’ work and make money selling it or selling advertising based on access to illegal copies.

Why it takes court action to force ISPs to co-operate is one of the enduring mysteries of modern life. The argument that technology and search is a neutral platform and operating these money making businesses does not carry a responsibility to intervene against criminality was rapidly undermined when Google and others were forced in the court of public opinion to act against child pornography. The principles – or lack thereof - became very clear in the public gaze at that point, but the fact that ISPs continue to drag their heels is not very edifying. Hopefully this High Court ruling will help common sense prevail.

NLA media access watches with more than passing interest. Our anti-piracy initiative, OATS, is now used by most national newspapers and achieves a take-down rate on infringing material of over 80%. We applaud the Publishers Association for taking action to reduce the volume of illegal use of published content.