Last time, I discussed the importance of having strategic content partners and identified various potential content providers and approaches, including licensing directly from premier content providers and content aggregators, using technology providers to scrape relevant content from external Web sites, leveraging online marketplaces, and using RSS feeds. You may use one or more of these approaches to complement whatever content you create yourself. However, identifying, evaluating, and selecting potential content partners is only one of many steps that must be taken.
Once you’ve acquired access to more content, you must still differentiate your site from competitors that have similar strategies. You must intelligently integrate your newly acquired content into a cohesive user experience. Relevant information should be categorized, organized together, and teased out in meaningful ways for the audience.
This is where you can demonstrate to your audience how you understand what news and information they’re interested in and how you are actively working to serve that need in unique and compelling ways. It’s not about just throwing up a new section somewhere on your site that shows content from your new partner, or blindly letting automatic feeds run and keeping your fingers crossed that the information is relevant. It’s about doing upfront user design work and ongoing content management to ensure you get the right value out of your new assets, as well as running reports on content performance and proactively tuning and optimizing what you display.
Let’s jump into some specifics on how to strategically and tactically deliver the most value from your newly acquired content to your audience:
- You will get duplicate stories; make sure you de-dup. Whether you get content feeds from just one source or from many, you must be able to properly de-dup content, very often news stories. That is, you will get duplicate versions of the same story and you most likely don’t want to display five of the same (or similar) headlines on your site. Make sure you keep just one, and remove all others.
Duplicate articles occur for a variety of reasons, so you need editorial rules enforced by the system, an editorial staff, or both to remove them. For example, if there is a big story, many of your content providers, including your own editorial staff, may cover it. You need rules and systems in place to determine which version of the article to keep: do you keep yours, a specific partner’s, the longest? In addition, some content providers will send you updates to a story throughout the day, especially if it’s a developing news story. You need to be able to replace a story with the most recent version, which has more info.
- Display only relevant content; properly handle the irrelevant content that you get. Some content providers are dependable and will almost always provide high-quality editorially on-target content. These are usually the premium content providers you have licensing deals with because accuracy and quality is part of what you license. Other content sources aren’t as on target. Blogs are a great example of content sources that must be monitored very closely.
On a recent project on which I developed a comprehensive editorial strategy and assessed content partners, I identified a number of blogs that had relevant content and were potential content sources. However, the day after the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, these bloggers all posted congratulatory messages to the Super Bowl champions. If a publisher had blindly subscribed to these RSS feeds and just posted on its Web site without any oversight, it would have had completely irrelevant posts on the site. Its editorial brand would severely have been compromised.
There are many automated solutions that scrape content from the Web and categorize them for display on your site. These are definitely worth evaluating and potentially using, but carefully evaluate the relevancy of their results. In many implementations, these solutions don’t meet an acceptable threshold of accuracy.
- Offer timely, fresh content and ongoing access to archives. You want to deliver fresh content to your audience regularly. So you must ensure your content strategy is clear on what volume of content you expect from content providers and how frequently throughout the day or throughout the week (just weekdays or weekends) you expect content from them. In addition, the question about how long “older current” will be available to you is key. If you want your Web site to be a dependable information resource, make sure you have access to archives from content providers.
For example, an article from content provider X appears on your site, but you only have rights to display it for one month. What happens when visitors want to find that article again six weeks down the road? They won’t find it. They’ll get frustrated and look for it on another site. Having access to archives is an important consideration for your site. Depending on your content provider, there may or may not be extra fees for archives access, but from a strategic perspective this is important and should be part of the business development and deal-making process.
- Your content providers must have fast and dependable systems. If you have other company’s content delivered directly to your Web site, the speed and performance of your site is impacted by the speed of your content provider. If their systems are slow or down, that will negatively impact your site. Your customer won’t know or care who’s fault it is, they’ll just know that your site is slow. Therefore, work your technology team to conduct technical due diligence on your partners technical infrastructure to ensure they can deliver properly, as well as establish procedures in case there is prolonged downtime. Remember, everyone has system problems, even Google.
I’ve got a few more recommendations regarding content partners that I’ll cover next time.
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