Ten Questions: When Is Your Content Ready to Be Monetized?

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This past year unleashed a wave of new content distribution opportunities for existing content brands and for new independent producers. We saw an increase in broadband video initiatives by the broadcasters and studios, and we also saw the growth of user-generated content (UGC) sites and the democratization of video on the web.

On both ends of the spectrum (Hollywood and UGC) the challenge is to make money. Broadcasters and programmers found ways to make money online by porting television content to ad-supported websites and to online video storefronts, and by striking syndication and affiliate deals with websites and cable operators. Some independent producers were able to find fame on user-generated websites like YouTube and leverage that fame to score development deals with studios or gain deals to develop sponsored and branded content. Other video solutions like Brightcove, Revver, and Veoh emerged in the middle ground between Hollywood and UGC, allowing independent producers to tap into the ad networks and revenue opportunities they offer.

For this article, we asked content experts at all points in the value chain to provide a list of ten questions content owners or creators should ask to see if they're ready to start making money.

1. Do you have content?
This question might seem obvious enough, but it is where everything starts. "In theory, content is ready to be monetized as soon as it is created," states Noah Bonnett, creator of "The Daily One Minute Trivia Challenge" at 88SLIDE.com. "If there is an audience, even a small monetization can offset the costs associated with an online production."

If you’re an independent producer, the first step is to assess your assets. Do you need to create video, or do you have existing productions that you can try to monetize?

If you’re a media exec, you are most likely sitting on a large archive of content. Your first step is to find out if you have the rights to distribute it online. If you do have the rights, the next step is to find out if your company has the infrastructure, budget, and capability to encode, distribute, and monetize your content online.

2. Do you have something that will generate eyeballs for sponsors?
Whether it is one person or one million people, you need a fan base. Niche content plays can make for great subscription products, but they also can be very valuable to focused advertisers. "Content can be monetized when you have created something that an intermediary believes will add value to their brand through sponsorship," says Bryan Carmel, founding partner of the production company Disposable Television. By intermediary, Carmel is referring to someone who is willing to place their brand around your content for a fee or someone who is willing to pay for your content. Think about what your target intermediary is trying to accomplish and who they are trying to reach.

3. Do you have a marketing strategy to reach the people within your target group?
Once you have figured out that people want to watch your content, you need to figure out a way to reach them. If your business model is advertising, you will need to reach your audience and create traffic. If your business model is pay-per-view, then you need to go where your customers are. "If content producers can figure out how to reach their target customers, then they can forego all gatekeepers and middle men and keep a larger piece of the pie," says Carmel. "But the trick is to create awareness and interest without using the big marketing machines."

4. Is digital distribution a corporate priority?
For independent producers and media executives, digital distribution needs to be a high priority in order to create effective monetization strategies. A company needs to be positioned to support digital distribution from creation to monetization.

Lisa Osborne, supervising producer of the American Film Institute’s Digital Content Lab, offers the following advice: "All it takes is one senior person to articulate a company’s digital potential and that person’s vision can have a ripple effect throughout the entire organization. It is about the will to get things done."

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