To satisfy Web surfers’ growing appetite for reliable educational content, many companies and organizations are participating in the American Botanical Council’s Content Licensing Program, which provides access to ABC’s extensive collection of databases and datasets on medicinal herbs and phytomedicine. In recent months, traffic to ABC content located on licensee sites has grown to more than 100,000 visitors and more than 500,000 hits monthly. (A “visitor” is one person who visits the site, no matter how many pages that person visits, and “hits” are counted by the number of times any visitor hits a link or a new page on that site.)
It is significant that visitors and hits to ABC content on licensee sites are higher than traffic that comes directly to ABC’s Web site. When licensee traffic is added to the traffic already coming directly to ABC, the monthly total exceeds 185,000 visitors and more than 1 million hits. This level of traffic is attractive to licensees. They license the content both for the increased traffic to their respective sites and also for the added benefit of providing a greatly expanded selection of reliable educational content for their visitors with information that has been peer-reviewed (in most cases) and vetted through the rigorous process that ABC uses when publishing material in printed and electronic form.
ABC’s Content Licensing Program has evolved dramatically since 1999 when the information was initially displayed in a relatively primitive manner. Back then the information was limited to a few sites, the search capability was limited, server problems caused periodic breakdowns in service, and traffic statistics were not available. Today, ABC has 16 licensees who are displaying at least one major database, and another 5 licensees who are displaying selected articles or small collections of articles. With the growth in licensees, ABC has invested in additional hardware to support the growing network. ABC now delivers electronic content through a dedicated server which has an automatic backup to prevent down time. Licensees are as diverse as herb and supplement manufacturers, retailers, e-commerce sites, multi-level marketing companies, and nonprofit Intranet sites like university research centers and government agencies.
ABC provides the initial setup and technical assistance, provides all technical support maintenance throughout the term of the license, provides a customized look to match the licensee site, and has developed custom search capability so that searches can automatically be performed by linking to ingredients in a specific product.
In all cases ABC maintains the content on its dedicated and secure server and “serves” it to the licensee site. Licensees display the content, which is clearly marked as ABC copyrighted material. On for-profit sites the educational content is two or three clicks away from information about commercial products.
Flexibility is also very important to those seeking content. Licensees find value in ABC’s offer to customize the display and search functions. For example, some licensees prefer to create a healthcare “library” and place the databases and/or datasets in these sections for visitors to use. In other cases, ABC creates a “homepage” on the licensee site with descriptions of all the content and an immediate method to search for the content from the homepage. In a third model, licensees give their visitors the ability to select ingredients in a product and have the system automatically perform a search that displays information including clinical studies on the uses, safety, dosage, and other parameters of that ingredient.
In addition to the quality of the content and the flexibility of the display, licensees have expressed considerable satisfaction with the results, because the number of users seeking health information is growing. Internet search engines and “web crawlers” can easily find the large number of search words from the ABC content, and then users select the licensee site to view the content. This is one of the reasons for the increased traffic to both the licensees’ and ABC’s sites.
The past 6 years have seen considerable growth and progress in ABC’s Web content licensing program, enabling millions of people to increase their health choices by accessing reliable information on the research related to herbs and other plant-based ingredients.
—Wayne Silverman, PhD