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More Publishers Need to Share Content

Ammunition in the War for Views

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Consumers' appetite for content on a 24-hour basis is at an all-time high, and many publishers are struggling to keep up. Most are experimenting with a multitude of different strategies, from native to mobile to social and more, all in the name of earning revenue and providing readers with a constant stream of fresh, engaging content.

But the fact remains that high-quality content, from in-depth articles to premium videos, is scarce. This valued content is expensive and time-consuming to do well, and in today's climate it no longer makes sense for publishers to create great content and have it live only on their own websites.

All of this adds up to the need for a radical shift in how publishers do business. They need to be more forward-thinking, taking a page out of the blogosphere and adapting in a more meaningful way to the openness of the internet. They need content exchanges.

Content exchanges enable publishers to buy and sell content at scale, increasing traffic to their own articles, filling gaps in their coverage and opening up new revenue streams. A handful of digital media outlets have begun to experiment with these types of exchanges, but legacy print brands as well as traditional content brands have been especially apprehensive, and the industry as a whole has been very slow to adopt the very thing that could help save it.

(Full disclosure: AOL operates a content exchange, but so do Cox, Gannett, Hearst, Tribune Co. and others.)

If executed correctly, content exchanges will enable premium publishers to share premium content while maintaining full control over what appears on their sites, negating fears about subpar content. The bottom line is that this is a tool that publishers can no longer afford to ignore. Here's why:

Additional Revenue

The more locations at which content can be viewed, the larger its audience gets, and the more money that can be brought in from adjacent advertising (albeit now shared among various publishers). On the flip side, the more content hosted on a site, the more ads can be served up. The most successful platforms and publishers will be those that take advantage of both options.

Improved User Experience

By diversifying its content, a publisher can improve the reader experience and increase time spent on its site. If PandoDaily, for example, wants to expand its sports coverage but doesn't have the manpower, it could go to a content exchange and secure stories from a partner like ESPN or Bleacher Report (assuming they too are a part of that particular premium exchange), and fill its pages with best-in-class content from the leaders in sports, rather than trying to build out its editorial team.

Discovery and Branding

Content exchanges provide an invaluable opportunity for publishers to get in front of new audiences at other destinations across the web. This is especially true for smaller or vertical publications, which may have high-quality content on a niche topic, but lack brand recognition. Aligning themselves with a larger brand can be a powerful branding tool, and may ultimately drive readers back to their sites for more. A great example of this is marketing trade ClickZ -- its content is syndicated to Mashable's site.

Media organizations today face the daunting task of doing more -- generating a constant stream of stories, creating multimedia content and keeping up with the 24/7 news cycle -- with fewer and fewer resources. In order to survive the shifting dynamics of the publishing industry, major publishers need to take a hint from some of the digital natives that have already embraced exchanges, eased their coverage load and driven monetization with more text and video content.

Content exchanges are an important tool that publishers need to take advantage of to stay relevant and keep up in the new digital landscape.

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