Commentary

Syndication, Distribution Or Both

In a previous VideoInsider, I wrote that there is no money in online video unless you have the scale marketers need. In that article, one of the vehicles I encouraged publishers to participate in is video syndication.

Video syndication essentially means that content owners give away their content to syndication platforms, and gain video views and share of future revenue from pre-roll ads sold by the syndication partner. Syndication platforms typically have their own video player and ad-sales team, and aggregate different content providers and blend the content, un-branded into a channel-serving experience on content sites.

It's a valid way to get your content out there. You do nothing, and gain viewership and revenue in exchange.

As of late, video publishers have been echoing concerns about syndicating their videos using third-party syndication platforms, and rethinking how they can best use their own video player to get it out to the web.

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Here are some challenges video publishers face:

(1) Syndication platforms mask the brand. Syndication platforms use their own player and create their own experience when playing aggregated syndicated content. By syndicating content, content owners don't control the user experience and brand awarenes.

(2) Weakening relationship with advertisers. Some syndication platforms out there allow content owners to sell ads on their syndicated views, but those are rare cases, and due to the nature of syndication, it's usually difficult and uncommon for video publishers to sell against unknown audience on a blind network of content sites.

(3) Dilution of your brand. If your content is being viewed on someone else's player and your brand omitted, you're losing the brand recognition that you worked hard to get.

(4) "As they grow stronger, you grow weaker." Someone told me recently, "If I ever want to sell my company, and a substantial amount of my traffic comes from third-party syndication platforms where people don't even know it's my content, I don't have a granular and predictable business. If they shut me down, or if they grow too big, my value as a business shrinks".

On the other hand, what is distribution? Distribution is a similar concept to syndication only in this scenario: content owners give away their content wrapped in their embedded player, brand and ad sales. Imagine going to a third-party site, reading an article about mobile, and at the end seeing four thumbnails offering you videos related to the article. If you click on one of the thumbnails, the actual embedded video of the content owner will pop up and be streamed. Each thumbnail could be from a different content owner, with each click opening a different video player. That way, the content owners distribute their content out to the Web -- a concept similar to video syndication, but their content is always being viewed in their native environment. This helps them to sustain an experience they control, and they can go and sell to their advertisers.

Both approaches are great. Distribution of content is even newer than syndication, and I believe we'll see more of both in the industry, enriching the Web with videos.

Weather you syndicate, distribute, or do both, be aware that if content owners think they can grow a serious business relying on their destination site, they are heading into a dangerous cliff, and they better have someone thinking how to get their content out using syndication or distribution vehicles.

Content should be available when and where the audience is.

1 comment about "Syndication, Distribution Or Both ".
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  1. Bruce May from Bizperity, March 1, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.

    We supported both models at Whiteblox from 2004 to 2008, as you label them (distribution vs. syndication). The bottom line here is really pretty simple. You are either a producer or a network. A network (i.e. NBC, CBS, etc.) distributes content or “syndicates” that content. The program producers just produce it…. I dealt with lots of clients that didn’t understand what they wanted to be. Most were just producers who thought they wanted to have their own distribution channel but they rarely understood what that required (ad sales, a sales force, business processes to support marketing and sales, etc.). If you are a producer and you think you can create your own distribution platform don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can easily create your own branded channel without building a business to run it and that requires a heavy capital investment. Sure, it would be great if producers could just pop up a branded player, sell ads and “own” the user experience but that is easier said than done. If you want to syndicate your content, think of it just like any other television producer. When you produce a major show for network television, hardly anyone even knows who you are. The brand is the show… and it becomes part of the network brand, as it should be. Producers live in little dark caves called edit suites and live to create…. not to build distribution or “syndication” networks.

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