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“Significant bottom line revenue impact”: Why Wright’s Media is doubling down on its award and accolade programs

At this year’s 46th FIPP World Media Congress held in Cascais, Portugal, a key event partner is Wright’s Media who provide awards and accolade programs – as well as licensing permissions – to some of the largest media companies worldwide. Ahead of Congress, we sat down with Michelle Myers, Global Chief Revenue Officer to find out the year’s key trends and, crucially, what we can expect moving forwards…

Headquartered in the United States but with a global footprint, Wright’s Media has inspired media companies to create breakthrough award licensing programs for over twenty years, which has helped make a significant revenue impact to the bottom line for many companies.

Internationally, Wright’s Media represents companies such as Condé Nast International (US, UK, Italy, France, Spain and Germany), Hearst (US, The Netherlands, Italy, UK and Spain), Dow Jones, IDG (UK and Germany) and The Stylist (UK), to name but a few.

The company, which has almost 60 employees, also offers a suite of accompanying services for publishers, including award/logo design, a wide range of awards services, as well as consulting on licensing best practices for a publisher’s award programs.

In advance of FIPP World Media Congress we talked with Michelle Myers (left) to uncover the chief trends in content licensing, the power of publisher awards, and the impact of AI on content licensing.

Mx3/FIPP: Can you set the scene and give us a little more background about Wright’s Media?

Michelle: Wright’s Media is a true pioneer in the media industry, the very first one of its kind – in fact we created the concept of ‘content licensing’, and we are the only company whose sole focus is licensing and certainly the only one on a global scale.

My background as a former Publisher at both Condé Nast (Allure, Brides, and Lucky magazine) and Time Inc. (People StyleWatch) places me in a unique position to guide publishers with their Awards programs. Now in my role as Global CRO of Wright’s Media, I love being on the other side of the ‘aisle’ to help publishers find additional revenue in what is a very competitive media landscape.

Mx3/FIPP: What are the key trends you are seeing in content licensing right now? 

Michelle: Commerce content is growing exponentially which is perhaps not a surprise when you consider that 64% of the world’s population uses the internet, double that of ten years ago. In fact Euromonitor forecasts that consumers will spend nearly $11 trillion on goods and services bought online in 2024 – and publishers are now taking advantage of the commerce opportunities in front of them. 

A key part of this, of course, is the affiliate revenue that publishers are receiving from commerce content. We are seeing success in consulting with our publishers on how this same content can be leveraged for an accolades program that generates licensing revenue through award seals. Thus, creating an additional revenue stream from the affiliate content that was already written and published.

Video licensing is also a key trend we are seeing, and again it is another source of revenue from which publishers can profit from – many creators are looking for B-Roll and even A-Roll, and many publishers have a vast inventory of suitable content.

Mx3/FIPP: Do these trends vary by geographical territory or are they universal? Is there any particular market that is particularly noteworthy?

Michelle: We are seeing licensing be successful both in the US and globally as well. We are also hearing from marketers about the importance of 3rd party endorsements coming from editors at well-known brands, and how these are becoming more valuable than influencer endorsements. We are also seeing them allocate a separate budget just for these award programs and this type of content.

Mx3/FIPP: What is the process you initiate when one of your licensing partners’ content is used without the correct permissions? Or is that left to the media owner?

Michelle: We actually have a whole department at Wright’s that handles this type of content infringement. Part of the services we offer our publishers includes the protection of their IP, which includes their logo, overall brand and any accompanying award seals. We proactively monitor for these types of infringements and also encourage our publishers to send them to us (for a potential sales opportunity) should they see them in the marketplace.

Mx3/FIPP: What is the impact you are seeing from AI in regards to content licensing? Do tools like ChatGPT play a role at all?

Michelle: Currently, we are not seeing it negatively affect licensing revenue. Since most of the content we licence is review content, we are always reminding our publishers not to generate reviews content through AI as the reviews need to be done by a human. The methodology around the review process plays a LARGE part in the value of the accolade. For example, there is a greater value to the award if it has been tested by an actual, human editor rather than content generated by a tool such as ChatGPT.

Mx3/FIPP: You are the leader globally in helping publishers to leverage their consumer and business awards, especially with logo permissions for brand owners. Can you tell us more about this revenue opportunity and, perhaps, name a brand who is a standout leader in the way they harness their awards?

Michelle: As previously stated, we continue to see licensing revenue grow internationally both with traditional content licensing as well as commerce content where publishers can collect both affiliate and licensing revenue.  

Another revenue opportunity becoming more popular is video licensing and this might be an avenue that other publishers should consider. Marketers like the option to licence a video created by the editors with the content highlighting why they chose a specific product to receive their award. This creates an asset that the brand can’t create on their own since it is directly coming from the publisher and not just a social media influencer.

One of our stand out international brands that has seen large revenue increases is Condé Nast Traveller. This is a global brand but for their largest award program, Readers’ Choice Awards, each country created a slightly different seal allowing them to sell the one award program with revenue from two countries, both the US and UK. We have seen significant revenue growth over the past 3-years from this strategy.

Mx3/FIPP: Is there anything else we should know about?

Michelle: We find that many publishers have content that is licensable that they may not even know about. This means no extra work is needed to start creating this new revenue stream. If a publisher is interested in knowing more, they can reach out to me directly for a complimentary content review.

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