Purina Joins Pack of Marketers Turned Content Aggregators

In a World of LOLCats and Crazy Dogs, PetCharts Promises to Help Visitors Find the Pick of the Litter

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In another example of how technology is blurring the boundaries between what media companies do and what marketers can do, marketers are also becoming content aggregators.
The Cat's Meow: Funny cat photos are an online fave.
The Cat's Meow: Funny cat photos are an online fave.

Purina recently bowed a site built to cull the best pet photos, videos and reading material from the web. The site, PetCharts, capitalizes on one of the universal truths of the web: People love pet content, especially funny cat photos or user-generated videos of pets at play. But the site also capitalizes on another one of the web's universal truths: that when it comes to that pet content, 90% of it is bad. The goal for PetCharts is to help people find the good stuff.

"After wading through YouTube for a while, you get a little tired," said Michael Crawford, VP-dog food marketing at Purina. "I like to say it's a service."

Satisfying an insatiable appetite
Because people seem to have an insatiable appetite for pet content, Purina was having a hard time generating enough content on its own and was falling short of giving people what they're looking for. Denuo conceived the concept and strategy of pulling together pet content from around the web, and its sibling shop, Arc Worldwide, built the publishing tool and the consumer-facing site. PetCharts uses a backend feed built by Daylife, a news-aggregator service that white labels its technology to media companies and, now, marketers.

"The biggest opportunity in the Long Tail is in navigating and curating it," said Dan Buczaczer at Denuo, which worked on the PetCharts site. "The Googles of the world just aren't cutting it. If you Google 'great dog videos' you're probably not going to find great dog videos."

The site has a Digg-like sensibility in that it lets users vote content up or down. Over time, if the community filtering works as intended, the good content should get better and less popular content will be voted down quickly. Already the content has improved since its early March launch. (The most popular video on the site right now is a white kitten curiously and gently pawing at a pet parrot.) Posts are culled from both mainstream news organizations and specialty pet blogs.

"This is really smart because the marketer is actually trying to give something valuable to the consumer in the context of how you create value on the web," said Scott Karp, CEO of Publish2, an aggregation service aimed at journalists. "The web is a fantastic information medium and what the marketer is doing is giving the consumer relevant information."
The goal of PetCharts is to wade through user-generated pet content to find the good stuff.
The goal of PetCharts is to wade through user-generated pet content to find the good stuff.

Low effort
The site pulls in a range of RSS feeds and screens them for appropriate content. It takes a trained person 30 minutes a day to go through and update the site's content, said Mr. Buczaczer, making it a low effort compared with creating a swath of content for a new website.

"It's ridiculously efficient," he said. When asked how Purina would handle content that could be controversial to a pet-food company, such as reports of contamination, he said that if it's important to a pet owner, it would show up on PetCharts. In fact, he said, if the plan works and the site becomes a magnet for pet owners, it "could become a useful tool to address the important issues" -- even controversial ones.

One other boon to content aggregation is the boost it can give to a company's search-engine-optimization strategy. Last fall, for example, Federated Media worked with JC Penney to cull women-targeted blog content for a fall shopping guide that promoted the retailer's Chris Madden line. The site earned link love as people shared it via social-book-marking tools and soon showed up on the first page of Google results for terms such as "fall shopping."

Purina plans to link PetCharts to its community site in petcentric.com and to purina.com.
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