As Fusion Senior Editor Felix Salmon wrote for Reuters, we live in an age of promiscuous media. In contrast to traditional wisdom, in which you keep your best content on your own site behind gated walls, Salmon suggests that the most effective method of distributing content is through multiple channels—including your owned media site.
Social media is, of course, a tried-and-true method for doing this. But like-minded publishers are also beginning to partner together and pool their resources to publish more efficiently by sharing the content they create.
1. Pooling editorial resources
“When Taylor Swift cuts her hair, I do not need six editors writing that story,” said Hearst Digital’s editorial director and VP of content operations, Kate Lewis, in an interview with Digiday. “We don’t need 50 people writing about the first photos [of Kanye West’s and Kim Kardashian’s wedding] that come out.”
That’s why Hearst has built a centralized news desk to create content for its 18 glossy magazines.
A similar setup could work outside of the confines of a single major publisher like Hearst. Imagine two marketing companies—a design agency and a tech firm—with similar voices and audiences, but with different technical expertise. They could form a strategic alliance and combine resources by sharing relevant stories that appeal to both audiences.
However, this approach can have consequences if not done carefully.
2. Minding the panda
Content sharing has to be done in careful moderation; after all, the core of any content strategy is a strong offering of unique, high-value, and original content. And a high quantity of duplicate content can get you in trouble; when Panda 4.0 was released, some sites that had between 20 and 40 percent duplicate content saw their traffic drop by 60 percent or more.
However, if you share content purposefully and in moderation, there shouldn’t be a problem. Google’s head of Webspam, Matt Cutts, has repeatedly said that only “spammy” content will get punished by the search giant. That’s because nearly a third of the web is duplicate content.
Since the Panda 4.0 update, publishers have had to be more careful with attributing content. G-Squared Interactive’s digital consultant Glenn Gabe advised readers in Search Engine Watch to link to the original content and use “rel=canonical to point to the original content on another domain (via the cross-domain canonical tag).” KunoCreative recommends adding a “noindex,nofollow” tag” to let Google know that they can ignore your duplicate content.
Alternatively, companies republishing your content could no index it to stay out of Google’s index. If you really want to be careful with syndication, then don’t fully republish work—and instead, share content by curating other people’s work, similar to the approach of 99U’s Workbook. (Full disclosure: I am a writer for 99U.)
3. Partnering on big-time features
Publishers are also partnering together to create stories that are bigger and better than what they could produce on their own.
Three local Colorado newspapers attempted an experiment where they joined resources to produce regional, digitally-focused, feature stories in an attempt to publish higher quality with a smaller team.
Every other week, each reporter would write a feature story with digital components (e.g., live chats, interactive graphics, timelines, etc.). For an example, have a look at “Evil Cheesey’s Final Ride,” a story about Boulder’s “famously infamous illegal motorcycle stunt legend.”
For the resource-strapped publications, partnering together just made sense.
“We have been able to provide more digital content over a larger geographic base, providing a regular, weekly digital experience for readers,” Boulder Daily Camera’s Aimee Heckel said in an interview with NetNewsCheck. “This has also provided a higher quality of digital content—with smarter, not extra, work—because we will each have three weeks to put our package together, as well as a smarter digital-centric planning system that encourages sharing ideas.”
To give another example, we created this e-book on social governance with Sprinklr, a leading social media management platform, and this interactive guide to brand newsrooms with Ceros, a visual content platform.
4. Reaching wider audiences
Perhaps the greatest benefit of this strategy is not one of efficiency, but effectiveness: Your content and messaging will reach new audiences. Depending on the partnership, this can work to various degrees. For example, look at how Business Insider republished Scientific American’s article entitled “Earth Will Cross the Climate Danger Threshold by 2036.”
Business Insider provides the original author credit and a few links to related or popular articles on Scientific American’s website, creating a win-win for the two sites: Business Insider gets a great content piece, and Scientific American introduces itself to a new audience and earns some referral traffic. Similarly, Reuters recently partnered with Variety to publish their entertainment news.
In case you have no idea how to get started, offering a like-minded blog the chance to republish one of your most popular articles is any easy first step. It presents the opportunity for both of you to add value to each other’s content offering, and it allows your partner to gauge how your work will resonate with their readers. Who knows? It could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.