Case Study

Piracy vs Digital Streaming: A Case Study

How Marketly Helped a Top Digital Streaming Service Compete with Piracy

The secret to piracy’s success is not all that secret. Piracy is popular because it’s easy, free and accessible. So, when it comes to piracy vs digital streaming services, how can media and entertainment companies compete with piracy in new markets?

In 2017, Marketly began working with one of the top five music streaming services in one of the BRICS markets. What followed was a case study in how piracy and digital streaming services compete with each other.

Piracy in emerging markets creates a major obstacle to growth for media companies of all shapes and sizes. International markets, especially the BRIC markets, have been a key opportunity for expansion. Marketly had the opportunity to take the problem of piracy in an emerging market headon.

Using a market-based approach to anti-piracy, Marketly delivered targeted enforcement tactics that maximized its customer’s opportunity to reach new consumers in search. Marketly’s campaign correlated with a decline in traffic for top illegal sites and increase in traffic for the top commercial services.

Piracy vs Digital Streaming Music for the Digital Consumer

Piracy vs Digital Streaming for Brand Visibility in Search

The music market for the target country was estimated to only a few hundred million dollars at the time.. But comparable countries without piracy issues boasted music markets earning billions of dollars per year.

Marketly’s customer competed in this emerging market with nearly a dozen illegal music sites that nearly every consumer knew about. Most of these popular piracy sites outranked their commercial counterparts and had the brand recognition and approval of a mainstream legal site. These sites dominated the top positions in search.

In a market where two-thirds of the music industry’s revenue is digital, this is a big deal. Mobile penetration makes for easier access to pirated content across music, TV and film. Entertainment searches accounted for nearly a third of all online searches in the market. The majority of those searches returned infringing content, quickly and easily. Music had a large digital audience, but commercial revenue accounted for less than 1 percent of the country’s media industry.

The company had to compete with piracy or they wouldn’t have a market, plain and simple.

Google has removed over 3 billion URLs from their Search engine in response to copyright claims. However, infringing sites capture enormous search traffic unless they are actively held in check. For example, ZippyShare — one of the largest music file sharing sites — receives 1.3 billion visitors each year, while Spotify receives 3.1 billion. And that is just one pirate site.

In emerging markets, mobile and Internet penetration often precedes legal distribution channels by a wide margin and attitudes toward piracy are lax, to say the least. The result is an emerging music industry where pirate sites are better known than commercial sites — and an ecosystem where consumers are largely unwilling to pay for music.

Music streaming platforms are adding millions of paying customers every year, but there’s no question that music piracy is affecting both growth and retention for the topic music sites.

Marketly’s customer was losing money simply because many pirated sources had more brand visibility in search and were relatively easy to access. It was time for them to do something about it.

How Marketly Opened Opportunity for Music Streaming Services

Marketly began working with the customer when streaming was taking off in their market, but piracy had a stronger foothold and was growing even faster.

As one of the top five music streaming apps in the country, the customer used both subscription and ad-supported revenue models. Similar to Spotify, users could use the platform completely free of charge. But the platform needed traffic to grow.

Because the service was free to begin with, willingness to pay was not the primary issue. Capturing search visibility and traffic for the brand was main objective..

To address the visibility issue, Marketly focused on coverage for the top consumer searches 1,000 Billboard songs on the platform. Enforcement was tuned to the searches that were driving traffic.

Before the customer engaged Marketly, one out of every two popular searches resulted in infringing content on the first two pages of Google. At the end of the year, 70% of these searches returned no infringing content at all. This opened up the opportunity for their brand to get the visibility it needed.

Campaign Results

The top commercial music site saw a 20 percent rise in traffic — along with a good boost for most of the rest of the music industry. The top ten pirate music sites lost 50 percent of their traffic over the course of the campaign.

Targeted search enforcement dramatically reduced the visibility of infringing content while boosting both the reach and visibility of the customer’s platform.

Piracy vs Digital Streaming Campaign Results

The Market-Based Approach to Piracy

International markets are a major driver of growth for media companies today. However, piracy is the mainstream consumption model in many emerging markets and middle income countries. Companies have to compete with piracy in digital marketing to reach new consumers in these markets if they want to grow.

Marketly’s market based approach to search enforcement helped create the opportunity for our customer’s brand to replace piracy and reach those digital consumers. Marketly not only improved search rankings for our customer but also reduced traffic for pirate sites across the country’s entire music industry.

This improved visibility in search meant the difference between fighting for retention and actually reaching new consumers where they were already searching for the music they love.