Can You Be Content With Purchased Content?

My eight-year-old son has a new hero, and it’s not Pikachu. Over the summer, my son took to watching Martha Stewart on television. Yes, I’m talking about the same kid who takes five-second showers (a new Olympic event?), leaves peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches under his pillow, and tries desperately to convince me that the latest Nintendo game doesn’t have that much blood in it. My son likes Martha, he says, because it’s cool how she takes an old tin can and whips it into a lantern or finds a package of toothpicks and – ta-da! – instantly transforms it into a hedgehog centerpiece.

“Why can’t you do that?” he asks his mother, the seventh-grade-home-ec-class dropout. “Because, dear boy,” I reply, “my talents lie elsewhere.” (And I haven’t the heart to tell him I think the hedgehog centerpieces are a tad… well, overdone.)

Now, what does Martha Stewart have to do with my usual rantings and ravings over web site content? Believe me, there is a connection. You see, I realize that while I’ve been telling you to write your own interesting copy or hire the very best writers to produce brilliant prose for your site, there are those organizations that feel their talents and resources lie elsewhere.

I’m still not completely sold on the idea of using someone else’s content, since it smacks of having precious little to say in a medium that screams for fresh ideas and original stuff. However, let’s say you’ve decided you need to purchase content to supplement the original fare you’re already posting. (Just as mom purchases a few lanterns to supplement the ones she’s been welding in the garage, right?) Where do you turn?

This week I’m taking a look at two better-known content providers, Screaming Media and iSyndicate. I’ll look at lesser-known content providers in the future for those who want something a little different.

Screaming Media offers access to content from more than 2,500 publications and has more than 1,100 clients subscribing for content. Sixty percent of these clients are Fortune 1000 organizations, according to Screaming Media’s CEO, Kevin Clark.

Screaming Media clients typically purchase content through an annual subscription, which can range from $20,000 to $400,000 per year. The fee includes the filtering software that matches customer preferences to content streamed into the subscriber’s site. (For example, if I want only healthcare content, that’s what I’ll get.) Most users also request some editorial capabilities, so if I’m selling hair solutions for men and Screaming Media sends over a piece on “hair transplant rip-offs,” I can nip that little shaver in the bud. Besides text, Screaming Media offers video, photos, and audio. The company also offers content for wireless applications.

A few sites subscribing to Screaming Media are Intelihealth.com, Evote.com, and Beliefnet.com. If you’re interested in purchasing content, check out how these sites have integrated the Screaming Media content with their own material.

How to fight the sameness of frankly boring content available on most sites? Clark says the solution is in Screaming Media’s ability to help you add a variety of articles from different media sources. “Combine a piece from Reuters with something from Red Herring and [The] Industry Standard, and you’ve got something interesting,” he says.

Besides the yearly subscription, Screaming Media also offers a News!Stand service, wherein its editors pick a handful of stories for your site in the category you select. Although limited in “wow” power, this option is available at a much more economical rate.

Now, if you want to go much more economical, there’s iSyndicate Express, offering content for a very reasonable price – it’s free. All you have to do is complete a brief registration form and get your login and password, and you can enhance your site with headline links to a wide variety of content. The links drive traffic back to the content provider, but you can’t beat the price.

iSyndicate also has a subscription model somewhat similar to Screaming Media’s for those who prefer content that is fully integrated into their sites. Subscription rates vary from $20,000 to more than $100,000 per year.

Nandita Jhaberi, director of content business development, says one of iSyndicate’s unique features is its suitability for both large corporate sites (Citibank and Wells Fargo Bank are two customers) and those sites directed at smaller, niche markets. (Check out golflinkasia.com, an iSyndicate user.)

In the end, I still adhere to the Martha Stewartesque principle that nothing replaces the satisfaction value, interest, and, yes, soul of writing web site content yourself. But if you feel the need to use someone else’s content, perhaps this piece offered you some assistance in finding it.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my son and I have some toothpicks to glue.

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