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Syndicate or Die

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This article first appeared in the December 2009/January 2010 issue of Streaming Media magazine. Click here for your free subscription.

If online video syndication was as established as television syndication, this would be a much shorter article.

As it is, however, online video syndication is still feeling its way, and the forms it’s taking are still being created. While the rules and cost structures for television syndication were put in place long ago, there are no rules for online syndication. And while everyone agrees that syndication is the future of online video, no oneknows what the field will look like in 5 or 10 years.

"It’s still fairly Wild West right now, in that people are trying to develop the rules on an ad-hoc basis," says Brian Walsh, founder and CEO of Castfire, Inc. "The questions that come to us from customers are really all over the board, because I think that everybody’s trying to get a different thing out of each of the different syndication deals."

The Basics
Let’s start by defining syndication. It simply means that an online video creator distributes his or her videos to a site (or to several sites) in order to get more views. Without syndication, we’d all be posting our videos on our own personal sites and hoping the world takes notice. It doesn’t necessarily mean a paid arrangement,either; free and paid syndication are available. People uploading their videos to YouTube and Vimeo for free are still syndicating their work.

When most people talk about syndication, however, they’re talking about paid syndication. Often that means pushing content to a wide variety of sites, and it inverts the classic online publishing model.

Figure 1
"In the syndicated video model, you’re starting to see theability to take your video and your advertising experience,really your whole brand, and start to push that out to yoursyndication partners," says Kent Steffen, vice president forCSG Systems’ Content Direct unit.

"It used to be in the old days that you’d try to drive everyone to your website, and eyeballs equals traffic, equals—potentially—advertising dollars. In the syndicated video model, you’re starting to see the ability to take your video and your advertising experience,really your whole brand, and start to push that out to your syndication partners," says Kent Steffen, vice president for CSG Systems’ Content Direct unit.

If you’re thinking about creating a project for paid syndication, it helps to know which concepts work best—and which don’t. Anything that can be labeled "NSFW" (not safe for work) is a dead end, says Walsh.Advertisers simply don’t want to be associated with it. While the web has no shortage of adult content, don’t expect much ad revenue if you post it. Instead, look for an episodic project that will engage a passionate audience. Gaming and sports-related videos work well, Walsh says, because the audience gets excited about the work and comes back for more. Syndicators like having that type of content on their sites because of the repeat traffic it brings. The advertising salespeople like working with it, since the audience is a defined group and the salespeople know they can find advertisers thatwant to reach that group.

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