Issues to be considered before stepping into the syndication jungle (10/9/2000)
Assuming content providers are already set up to supply their wares - written, visual, or a combination of the two - and already comfortable with a given field of expertise, such as gardening, travel, woodworking, raising children as a single parent, the challenge will be to determine how to attack the marketplace. But wait: before evaluating potential content marketing strategies and distribution approaches, establish a website. As thousands of successful internet content providers have learned, websites are the best display for works targeted to the internet medium - a showcase to sample and market work to editors or syndicators, much more efficiently than placing a bunch of URLs in an e-mail, or worse yet, faxing copies of articles written for the local paper.
What do you Mean by 'Syndication?'
Next, determine the appropriate type of syndication. A lot of this has to do with frequency. Content providers who have a couple of key issues or pointers they want to tell the world about must consider whether their interests may not be broad enough to maintain a 'regular' syndication schedule. Their creative wellspring of ideas may "run dry" quickly. Such content providers are probably better off targeting a website's Letters or Opinion page whenever the spirit moves them.
Marketing: Who will Distribute the Content?
There are at least five models available to the aspiring content provider. These are: self-marketing syndication, assisted sydication, online posting of offline content, pay-per-view and pay-to-view.
This is self-syndication in its purest form; this approach entails individually contacting websites and pitching content. In mostly sticking with this model, I constantly patrol the web for new sites that seem like a suitable home for the type of content I provide (mainly technology and personal finance articles). I read the business pages and computer magazines for launches of new sites that sound like potential markets, and then, if I can determine who the editor is, I query him or her with a cover note and a 'check out my site' invitation. This has led to a good deal of work, (some of which, as I write this, is due tomorrow).
This entails approaching established syndication services with ideas. Two of the best-known companies are iSyndicate and Screaming Media. Each contracts with websites to provide specific content. Forrester Research terms this model 'hypersyndication: interest-targeted bundles of content, products, and applications customized for distributors and personalized for consumers.' Content providers interested in assisted syndication should check out the websites of these and other syndication services, examining the client base, and determine whether their expertise lies in an area in which the syndicator specialises. If it does, go to some websites that have a relationship with these syndicators, and determine whether or not content is already posted for those topics. If not, contact the syndicator with these findings, and offer to present some work.
Be forewarned, though: competition is very tough. Many of the leading syndicators receive hundreds of proposals per week. These companies make most of their money redistributing already-posted, specialized content to different web niches. For example, financial websites use online syndicators to redistribute their content to general interest sites that are seeking to add financial articles.
Online Postings of Offline Content
An example of this would be a content provider who self-syndicates a weekly home decorating column to three or four local newspapers, which then post the columns on their websites.
This model entails posting content on specialized content-hosting sites, such as Themestream; the content provider is paid each time a site visitor reads the work.
Arguably the least respectable self-syndication choice, this option involves paying 'showcase' websites to post content.