For those who are not yet aware, content locking or content unlocking is an up and coming technology within the performance marketing industry that allows website and content owners to monetize their site content using a monetization platform such as the one Adscend Media offers. Our content monetization platform allows website/content owners to seamlessly integrate an overlay that appears above selected webpages. This overlay requires the visitor to complete a short, advertiser-sponsored offer to gain access to that content. The content being locked is generally valuable – such as in the case of an indie artist, a song or a bundle of songs. Our technology goes the extra mile and allows fully customizable integration options to ensure a solution exists for everyone. Our custom integrations have allowed the website and content owners we work with to significantly eliminate the downsides of content locking, such as bounce rate.

A brief background of content locking
In 2009, content locking was beginning to explode, but through mid 2010 was generally unknown to most advertisers, publishers, and industry leaders. At the time, there were many website owners utilizing the content locking technology to monetize illegal content such as TV show sites.  In May 2010, a showdown between advertisers and various content locking networks ensued.  The advertisers no longer wanted this traffic (and with good right! Very illegal and highly unethical) – and this is the point where content locking really came to the forefront of the industry as a major problem (rather than a solution). As an industry leader, Adscend Media was the first to put a compliance system in place to ensure publishers would not monetize this type of content moving forward. Not only that, we put a system in place to ensure that our compliance team was both proactive and reactive, which set another industry standard for ethical marketing. Over the course of the next year, I worked diligently with advertisers to repair the image of content locking, even though Adscend Media was not directly responsible for any of the trouble that was created in May 2010. Further than that, I worked closely with certain advertisers to show them the true ROI that could be achieved from content locking with the right optimizations. This led the way for a surge in the number of advertisers looking to promote on a content locking platform. During this time, many competitors entered the space – some with good intent and some with not so good intent (as is common in any industry, to be fair, there are always good and bad players). Finally in mid 2011, I believe my hard work paid off and the content locking image was revived as a serious alternative solution for website/content owners to monetize their content. Advertisers are looking to work with content locking networks now more than ever. And as we continue into 2012, I strongly believe that the true value of content locking will emerge. After all, the content locking industry is still in its infancy, and a great deal of changes still needs to be realized before it becomes an entirely viable solution for big brands.

What really makes content locking so great? 

Previous to content locking, there truly was not a solution that existed to help website/content owners really get the most they could from their visitors, while leaving the user experience intact. Most websites were simply using Google Adsense to monetize their content – which usually does not yield high eCPMs, given it’s not as performance-based as content locking. The ROI for advertisers that promote on content locking platforms is generally immediate, versus the ROI on Adsense which is dependent on too many factors. eCPMs for Adsense in the US may be around $4-5 for the average website owner, whereas the eCPM for content locking with Adscend Media is generally right around the $100 range in the US. While Google Adsense is a great ad placement solution, the staggering eCPM differences make it very clear that a combined solution could bring up a website/content owner’s overall revenues, while ensuring the end users’ overall experience isn’t affected much. In a growing digital age, content is king and the value of content should be appreciated through these types of content monetization technologies that allow publishers to earn more revenues for their hard work.  The best part of content locking is that all of these revenues can be earned while ensuring the end user does not need to be charged for the content. The end result is a win (for the content monetization networks) – win (for the advertisers) – win (for the publishers) – win (for the end users).

Further than that, as we’ve progressed into 2011, many of the problems with content locking are slowly starting to be eliminated. The biggest problem is that many foreign countries do not offer a large number of advertiser sponsored offers, so there are end users who are difficult to monetize. Though, I will say that most countries still had an eCPM greater than Adsense. However, as things are going now, the number of foreign advertisers interested in promoting on content locking is growing exponentially and this can be visibly seen in the growing EPCs/eCPMs of foreign countries. In the past year alone, there are many countries that have managed to surpass the EPCs/eCPMs of the US – something that no one would have imagined in 2010. As advertisers learn how to gain value from content locking and generate the ROIs they are looking for, this problem will solve itself as it’s doing now. Of course, we will be there to guide advertisers through the baby steps of learning how to optimize their offers properly with content locking.

Another major issue until late 2010 was that not much attention was focused on the end user experience; It was all about the revenues.  However we recognized this problem and developed various content locking solutions that can be fully customized/integrated based on a client’s needs. And I’m happy to say today that there are a number of successful integrations that we have done that have increased eCPM significantly, reduced bounce, and ensured the user experience was affected as little as possible.
So really, what’s to hate? If you have valuable content that end users are looking to get their hands on, and want to earn revenues without charging the end user… content locking is your solution.

Are you interested in getting into content locking? 

By now… you must be wondering what kind of content works well with content locking. Of course, content that is available just about anywhere isn’t going to be ideal for content locking.

Here is a brief list of ideas/content that may work well with content locking:
   Mobile apps (both allowing users to download apps for completing a survey & in app monetization)
   Instructional videos (e.g. specific guitar lessons)
   Virtual worlds (items/currency)
   Font site, wallpapers, Windows themes
   Guitar tabs, bass tabs, sheet music, etc.
   Music – if you own the rights, you can lock it! Indie bands can offer songs for free and fans can support their artists by downloading. Also makes a good Donate alternative
   Templates: web, flash, WordPress, forum, etc.
   File conversion sites (doc/docx, PDF, keep it legal)
   Graphics: icons, stock photos/images, textures
   Software downloads or in software monetization
   Games (online/flash, freeware, items/currency)
   How-to sites similar to eHow or Instructables
   Code, plugins (forum, etc.), browser add-ons, royalty free sounds
   House plans, blueprints, etc
   Online shopping carts – as ‘payment’ method / free shipping / discounts
   Free blurays, movie tickets, CDs/iTunes, books/Amazon cards, photo prints
   Ebooks you own the rights to

As we look forward into the future of content locking, I see an increasingly viable solution. The end goal is to eliminate the issues that currently exist with content locking as much as possible and subsequently offer this solution to small & big brands alike that stand to benefit from monetizing their content [with a solution that does not affect the user experience as much].

What's your opinion?