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CBS Syndication Deals Reveal Seismic Strategy Change

While CBS as a television network is struggling—including a plummet back to third place in the evening news ratings—the company’s online strategy is taking an honest look at its previous shortcoming, yielding an expanded, innovative approach to advertisting and content placement.

The company revealed a portion of its new strategy just prior to the National Association of Broadcasters’ show last month in Las Vegas, when it announced a series of content deals with YouTube and other sites that generate a significant amount of original content. While CBS still employs the traditional stringer model, where it uses its own video staff in bureaus around the world or hires freelancers and other companies such as AP or Reuters, to provide the majority of its news content, the company also recognized the value of "virtual stringers"— that is, average consumers with prosumer cameras or even cell phones who are on the scene of a breaking news story.

This shift, which has progressed throughout the news industry in recent years, effectively turns the news reporting model from one of paid professionals with very high-quality content to a get-it-to-air strategy that uses lower-quality, but more readily available, content as the first line of offense. CBS’s deals with various content sites helps push that trend even further.

The second portion of CBS’s strategy, announced today in New York, is to move the network’s content away from its own site and out into a larger internet syndication model. Starting this week, according to The New York Times, starting this week, an expanded menu of CBS's video content will be available for free to consumers on almost a dozen websites, including AOL and Joost.

Dubbed the CBS Interactive Audience Network, the intent is to get CBS’s content to as much of the web as possible.

According to the Times article, CBS realized that its model of forcing consumers to come to its to view video had not worked for consumers or advertisers. "We can't expect consumers to come to us," says Quincy Smith, the president of CBS Interactive. "It's arrogant for any media company to assume that."

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