Content explosion

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It looks like 2000 may prove a bumper year for b-to-b Web content providers.

"There is content springing up like tulips in spring," said Anthea Stratigos, president of content industry analyst group Outsell Inc., Burlingame, Calif.

"On our database alone, we've probably got about 2,000 vendors," Stratigos said. And there are many that Outsell has not counted--and may not even know about.

With the advent of the Web, "Everybody's a content vendor," Stratigos said, "whether it's a big company or an individual."

Although content vendors are a diverse lot, there are a few main types, Stratigos said.

They include "primary publishers"--original content generators such as trade journals, general magazines or information providers such as Dun & Bradstreet Corp.; and "secondary publishers," such as the Institute of Scientific Information, that deal mainly in indexing and abstracting--taking traditional content and paring it down to provide fact-rich content. Secondary publishers also create and publish new content, although it's created with material from primary publishers.

Then there is a new breed of content providers, Stratigos said, called "infomediaries." These are "pure aggregators," she said, that collect and market content but don't create or own any. They instead obtain content from publishers and distribute it directly to Web sites and to more traditional or established aggregators such as Dow Jones Interactive, or portals such as Yahoo!.

Infomediaries provide a valuable service, Stratigos said, because they provide links between publishers and Web sites, and manage licensing arrangements, which can be labor intensive and expensive.

Also joining the fray are entities such as Inc., Burlington, Mass., that license out original content as a small part of their offerings. The site, a portal for maintenance, repair and operations purchasing professionals, didn't plan to distribute content when it went online six months ago, said Keith Yocum, VP of content and community, but has gone from being a content producer and purchaser to being a content vendor as well.

"We realized that we were generating so much original content [14 writers contribute original content to the site] that it became obvious," he said.

So last month agreed to let infomediary Inc., New York, distribute some of its content. receives a small fee for its use, but the arrangement is more a marketing tool than a moneymaker, Yocum said.

What's for sale?

"Anything that is digital and available on the Web, we can syndicate it," said Joel Maske, founder and CEO of iSyndicate Inc., San Francisco.

iSyndicate aggregates information from more than 800 content creators, then packages and distributes it to a network of more than 180,000 Web sites. B-to-b Web sites comprise roughly one-third of the customer base for iSyndicate's Network Service, which licenses content out for full Web site integration.

Historically, b-to-b Web content has included a lot of news and real-time financial information, Stratigos said. But the content is increasingly including other information, she said.

B-to-b sites are requesting more photos, audio and video, Maske said. "Initially, maybe a year or year and a half ago, a great majority of it was text. But today we're seeing demand for all different types of applications. It's getting much more sophisticated."

How they make money

There are several ways content vendors make money, Stratigos said. Some sell the content either on a subscription or a type of pay-per-use basis; others sell memberships; some sell advertising, using the content as a vehicle to gather viewers, but the revenue stream comes from advertising.

And many manage their offerings so that some content is available for free, some for pay and some is ad-based. A fourth way is to sell content to commerce sites and receive a percentage of the transaction.

"In some cases," Stratigos said, "we're seeing a commerce link into these content environments and vice versa."

iSyndicate employs several of these methods, Maske said. Fees vary with the type and amount of content a client wants, but there is generally a set-up and monthly subscription and services fee. Set-up typically costs between $3,000 and $5,000; monthly fees for the Network Service start at $1,500 and can cost up to several thousand dollars, he said.

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