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Times Syndication Service, the syndication arm of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd (BCCL) launched TimesContent.com – a B2B website for selling archived images and content online, around a month ago.

The site has a collection of 180,000 images that have been handpicked from Times’ library and specially tagged for search; TimesContent is expected to ramp up to 0.5 million items within this fiscal. Buyers can purchase or subscribe to articles, images, cartoons, illustrations, and microfilms. Clients are primarily other newspaper organisations and authors, but the company is also corporates for in-house usage (marketing or presentations, etc).

Digitization For Syndication; Clients

The syndication division of The Times of India Group, Times Syndication Service (TSS), distributes photos and content to print publications, internet sites, corporates, content aggregators, libraries and research organisations. With this portal, the division hopes to encourage its clients to migrate to an online booking format.

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“Previously, clients rang us requesting a particular item and we would do a manual search online and e-mail it. Now, they are able to log in, search, click to buy and download it – which is more efficient and faster,” said Sidhant Khosla, Director, Corporate Group, BCCL who manages TimesContent.com. This is possible as the images go through a laborious tagging procedure that uses an extensive meta-tagging structure that results in easier search.

Khosla did not comment on the number of clients the website has. He did say that a lot of clients were international, but would not comment on the domestic-international split. People Magazine is a regular buyer. The service does not currently offer the content in the form of CDs/DVDs; only on request.

TimesContent.com  currently holds a “small fraction” of the digitised content at BCCL. Old content is selectively digitised by the team based on demand. Unlike other Times properties, the site sports a basic, monochromatic look. “We wanted a business like appearance since it is a B2B site,” Khosla said. The site receives 2000 hits per day.

Top categories are Bollywood photos (which account for half the images bought off the site) and old political/historical photos such as of Rajiv Gandhi and family. Infographics (charts, graphs) are also popular on the site. TSS also offers RSS feeds of articles from the Times of India according to categories such as sports, politics, editorial. The division tracks usage of the articles and bills the client quarterly or annually. Microfilms are requested primarily by research bodies and libraries. The site does not yet offer videos – it might do so in the future depending on the customer base, Khosla said.

Tidbit – the oldest images on Timescontent.com are from 1900s and of Bal Gangadhar Tilak at the Churchgate Station.

Protecting Copyright

The copyrights for the content remain with the group, and the site has already dealt with a Bangladeshi site that posted images without purchasing them. The site was made to shut down completely and it is now a paying customer.

Competitors

Getty Images and Corbis are third party syndicators who have made this business model popular. Getty owns 70 million photos and illustrations, after it went on a rampage of acquisitions of smaller image banks. Will TimesContent.com also adopt a similar strategy?

In India, TSS would compete with ImagesBazaar, a subsidiary of Mash Audio Visuals Pvt Ltd, which also runs ModelsGuru.com. ImagesBazaar has 6000 clients and 700,000 photos and is primarily viewed as an image bank. In comparison, TSS claims to offer vintage photographs which attract international interest. It also has text archives, and images from 1838 onwards, Khosla said.

Update: India Today Images by the Syndications Today division of Living Media India (a subsidiary of media house India Today) also boasts of coverage from 1975. It has 500,000 photos.

BCCLs print properties include The Times of India, The Economic Times, Navbharat Times, Sandhya Times, Mumbai Mirror, Bangalore Mirror, and Maharashtra Times. In the Internet space, it owns Times Internet Ltd and Times Business Solutions Ltd; radio (Radio Mirchi), television (Times Now, Zoom, ET Now) and other related media activities like Times Music. World Wide Media, which owns Femina and Filmfare among other magazines, is a joint venture between BCCL and BBC.