Media firm reinvents newspaper recycling

Service offers marketers access to stories, photos for republication

Alison Yesilcimen used her experience in newspapers to develop an online platform that allows publishers to resell stories and photos

As the former president of a small newspaper chain, Alison Yesilcimen has experienced first-hand the upheaval the print media in North America has been experiencing.

Disruptive trends and technologies – from Internet bloggers and tablets to social media – have cut into the print media’s profits.

With nearly two decades of experience in newspapers, Yesilcimen knew that newspapers and magazines own a lot of content that she says is not being fully exploited.

Newspaper and magazine articles typically run once, generating one-time revenue hits, when marketers would gladly pay to reuse that content – if they only knew where to find it.

Yesilcimen left the Okanagan Valley Newspaper Group in 2009 to jump into high-tech and began incubating an idea for making it easier for newspapers, magazines and other content creators to market and resell stories and photos. The result was Media Cooler Innovations Inc.

“I knew that [newspapers] had such valuable assets,” she said. “This is a way for them to re license their content.

“Our platform helps make the content far more accessible to a much broader audience. Marketers out there have no idea where to find content. They’d either have to try to create it themselves or hire a freelancer. This way, they know they’re going right to the source.”

The Toronto Star is Yesilcimen’s first major client. The syndication department at Torstar Corp. (TSX:TS.B) used Media Cooler’s Software as a Service (SaaS) to create starcontentmarketplace.com, where marketers can get access to watermarked articles and photos from Star reporters and photographers and buy them for $30 per story or $20 per photo.

“Our primary target market is corporate communications – the folks at corporations that are looking for content for websites, for newsletters,” said Robin Graham, managing director for Torstar Syndication Services.

Some organizations prefer to reuse articles from credible media sources in their own publications rather than advertorial content.

For example, someone in the maternity ward of a hospital who is creating a brochure for expectant mothers could hire a freelancer to write a piece about exercising while pregnant or could find a ready-made Star story under the health and wellness section of starcontentmarketplace.com.

But why would anyone pay for something that, in many cases, is freely accessible on the Internet?

“I’m of the Steve Jobs iTunes model – that if you give people an easy and affordable way to license something, they’re less likely to steal it, especially in a business-to-business environment,” Yesilcimen said. “People want to do the right thing. People don’t want to chance that they’re stealing somebody’s article.”

While newspapers’ digital advertising revenue is increasing, it hasn’t kept pace with the drop in print advertising, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ).

The PEJ reported in March that digital ad revenue for American newspapers increased 19%, while print advertising fell 9%. But since print ad sales accounted for 92% of the overall ad revenue of the newspapers it surveyed, overall revenue fell by an average of 9%.

“Clearly newspapers and magazines need to find non-traditional sources of media like this,” said Richard Lee, Deloitte Canada’s leader for technology, media and telecommunications.

One non-traditional revenue source – putting online content behind paywalls – is actually an old idea, Lee said.

“Go back a long way, newspapers depended more on circulation revenue than advertising. So in a sense, we’re returning to the early days of the newspaper industry.” •

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