Commentary

Embracing Transformative Content Creation Models

"May you live in interesting times," goes the ancient Chinese blessing. But for many in the media industry, it feels more like a curse. We are currently witnessing a tectonic shift in behavior that's impacting the business models of traditional publishers.

Many traditional media companies are struggling to create enough content to fuel the growth of their businesses amid layoffs in their editorial staffs; perhaps they should be pondering the question, "is there a better, more cost-effective content creation (publishing) model which equally serves the motivations of creators, advertisers, and publishers alike? What if traditional media moved away from the purely "if you build it, they will come" model and embraced a new standard whereby content was created knowing there was an audience, advertiser interest, and the ability to get traffic? As more and more publishing empires leave print behind and shift to purely digital formats, doesn't it make sense that they should leverage the "search-driven" economy which Google enables and users have now widely adopted?

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Imagine being able to accurately predict and rapidly create the type of content that consumers want to see and that is appealing to advertisers. And then imagine being able to produce that content so cost-effectively and at such great volume that it could feed an unlimited number of mainstream media sites as well as content-starved mid- and long-tail sites.

You don't have to imagine, because it's happening right now.

As described by Forrester Research, "curated content" involves scooping up the very best consumer-generated media and then serving it to refined mainstream media properties and vertical sites on an as-needed basis. Let's take that idea of content curation one step further beyond the questionable user generated content UGC. There is a new model emerging for curated content where a publisher leverages both humans and technology, creating a new publishing ecosystem that delivers high quality content that performs at a profit.

Through a carefully constructed content creation and distribution platform, talented and pre-qualified creators are enabled to reach an audience of more than 50 million monthly visitors and make money from the articles and videos they produce. This also provides an opportunity for these creators to publicly establish their professional reputation and continually improve their skills. In the process, brands gain newfound access to an unlimited supply of high-quality, affordable content. This new social publishing ecosystem creates an environment where a distributed content creator community is richly rewarded for collaboratively producing high-quality and profitably performing content for global brands. This model reflects a true "ecosystem" as not only do the creators win but brands themselves also win as their sites increase in popularity with their audiences which lead to growth across the board.

Essentially, Google helped discover the long tail. Newer models like this one fill that tail by producing targeted content, and doing it at a scale and efficiency that's extremely attractive in today's challenging environment. Mainstream web sites such as Demand Media's own eHow.com have grown by more than 150 percent in the past year by sourcing almost all of their new content through this process.

This model goes beyond simply creating more and more user-generated content. It is about harnessing the passions and capabilities of qualified creators and giving it a real sense of direction. It's about ensuring an audience for the content, exposing it to rigorous editorial standards, rewarding the creators, and then distributing the content in the most efficient manner to the most appropriate outlets. In short, this model is about establishing a transformative online publishing model that sustains creators, advertisers, publishers and brands alike.

These are truly disruptive times for the media industry. Companies that can quickly adapt and leverage new business models will be in the enviable position of turning what was once a life-threatening crisis into unprecedented opportunity.

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