Generating Content

Last month, entertainment web site pop.com went flop. Pop.com is an interesting story for a number of reasons. First, DreamWorks was behind it. Led by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen, DreamWorks is not used to flops. Per movie it grosses more than any other studio. Second, after spending more than $7 million, pop.com never even launched.

Third, one of the key reasons pop.com didn’t launch was because it was determined that creating original, compelling web content on an ongoing basis would be at a cost that didn’t really have a business model.

Quality content is a lot more expensive to create than most people realize. Maintaining a quality web site is also more expensive than many think. Reducing content costs while maintaining quality is a difficult balancing act. However, the viability of many web sites may come down to how well they can manage content costs.

A certain amount of content will always have to be created. However, there are a number of alternative web content generation strategies that can be explored. These include the following:

Summarize

Readers prefer shorter, snappier content on the web. Summarize the content you already have in other formats, and you have new web content for the reader. This is a significantly cheaper approach than creating content from scratch. You may also summarize content from other web sites or print media, employing the copyright principle of “fair use.” (This is the strategy we employ very effectively at Nua Internet Surveys.)

Link

The cheapest way of generating web content is by linking. Linking is the foundation on which the web is built. The power of appropriate linking should not be overestimated in an online environment. (Yahoo is just one example of a successful content business built on the linking model.)

However, you need to recognize that linking sends a reader to another web site, so don’t overdo it. From the reader’s point of view, it’s also not a good idea to create too many links. Better to show the reader 3 great resources to link to rather than 30 mediocre ones.

Barter

It may be possible to swap content with other web sites that are not in direct competition with you.

Partner

If the web site publication requires a substantial amount of new content that the organization presently does not create, then there may be a real case for exploring partnerships. The ideal partner is one that already has some of the content that is required but is not in direct competition with you.

Purchase

There may well be books and/or reports that can provide valuable content for your web site. It is often cheaper to pay copyright fees for these than to write the content from scratch. There may also be specialized news feeds that are appropriate.

Customer-Generated Content

This is among the most cost-effective content of all. Customer-generated content is broadly generated by interactive content tools such as mailing lists, discussion boards, chat, customer reviews, etc. A prime example is Amazon’s approach of getting its readers to write online reviews of the books they have read.

The above strategies are not only cost-effective, but they can provide you with the kind of quality content that builds traffic and brand.

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