Diary - The start-up files - Syndicating content is like baking a cake - It took time to make potential clients see that valuable content doesn't grow on cybertrees and that offline reference content is gonna cost to reproduce online

With a range of advertisers booked in for the site launch, we were keen to develop a viable business-to-business revenue stream to complement revenues generated through the destination site. And with content coming out of our ears, it made sense to investigate content syndication.

With a range of advertisers booked in for the site launch, we were keen to develop a viable business-to-business revenue stream to complement revenues generated through the destination site. And with content coming out of our ears, it made sense to investigate content syndication.

The rationale for selling content is strong. Producing high-quality content is time- and cash-consuming, so we felt that if we could offer a cost-effective way for clients to integrate our content, demand could be strong.

And although there were other reference sites that syndicated content, we felt that our play was original enough to catch the imagination of the market.

The first major issue was to address how we could repackage our content for other sites. Our technical department went away and considered the options, and returned with a method that would enable clients to choose content and integrate it into their sites easily. Making this decision early was crucial, as the raw data of our reference titles had to be processed in such a way that it could be easily integrated into not just our own destination site, but someone else's as well.

Once we knew that we could license our content in a practical way, it was time for our sales team to drum up some interest. The first major problem they came up against was difficulty in explaining the idea. With no live example of our content working on another site, they had to rely on mocked-up pages of potential clients' sites and some interesting metaphors (my personal favourite was that we provide the ingredients, but it's up to you what cake you bake). We also had to outline how we thought our content could benefit a client's site. News is news, and most people can see how and where it would fit in to their existing editorial, but we had to work that little bit harder to make people see that reference content could be both a valuable and relevant addition to their site.

It took time to make potential clients see that valuable content doesn't grow on cybertrees, and that reference content that has taken up a lot of money to produce offline and convert to online, is gonna cost.

Once the commercials had been worked out, we started on our integrating our content into a client's development schedule. This could be frustrating at times. Everyone's busy and development and resources are always flat out.

We've now clinched several content deals and are having to actually deliver.

Soon, we'll be able to forget the cake-baking analogy once and for all.



Simon Prodger is marketing manager of xrefer.com, a recently launched online reference resource



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