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Syndication: An Audience Development Strategy Used Carefully

When syndication is used for audience development, magazine publishers should be wary of duplicate content

Publishers have a long history of building audiences around specific topics, or niches. But the internet economy changed the audience development model significantly. Many of the traditional practices still work, but the digital economy requires a more expansive, and agile, approach than ever before. Luckily, new tools and methodologies are developing all the time. Publishers have to decide which tools are right for them, and then conceive, develop, and undertake a strategy to use these tools to build their audience.

There are seven major Audience Development models we have identified: search, social, syndication, email, retail, paid advertising, and direct mail. Today I’m focusing primarily on syndication, and using Green Gardens Network as an example. If you’re new to Mequoda, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with Green Gardens Network (GGN), our composite case study, and CEO Rose Harper, the embodiment of all our clients whose “example” we use as a teaching tool without revealing real publishers’ names or data.

How content syndication can be used for audience development

Content syndication refers to the process of pushing your content out to third-party sites, either as full articles, portions, snippets, or just headlines. These relationships have to be approached carefully, but have proven benefits for getting your content distributed and building a bigger audience. Your content is essentially riding along with similar content to reach more people.

Many ad-dependent websites need good content to keep people interested, and to satisfy advertisers’ traffic goals. So, they need strong, informative content, preferably that is optimized for search, and some will even pay to use it. The market can be ripe with opportunities, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful.

Don’t forget that your goal is to build an audience for your brand and your website. Make sure your content is properly identified and that the path back to your site is clear.

Publishing duplicate content across portals can bump down your own pages in search results, and give priority to the sites you’re syndicating on. That’s why when done manually – for example, when you publish on Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, or other user-generated syndication methods that are popular right now – you choose a different title, and you use a snippet of the content, not the content in its entirely. You also include a link back to the original article, and when possible, make it canonical.

How are publishers using content syndication in the real world

If you’re a niche magazine, you may not be part of a large syndication network, and that’s OK.

All of the platforms below allow you to instantly write, optimize, tag, publish, and promote content on your own. There are no curators or editors, other than algorithms that may organize your content by popularity over time.

  • Medium is user-generated blogging platform that is primarily used for content republishing. It started out with original content, but content marketers have taken to it like fruit flies to vinegar and users seem to love it. Medium does all the work of putting your content in front of the right people on their site and sometimes through email if your article gets enough shares. Here’s how to make the most of it. Also, note that Medium has an API feature that allows you to set a canonical link (so Google will know where the original content came from.)
  • LinkedIn Pulse allows you to publish articles via LinkedIn’s user-generated blog, and it automatically gets shared with people in your network. Anyone can use their personal account to contribute, so you may rely on your editors for re-publishing to get the most reach and leverage their connections.
  • Facebook Instant Articles seems like a more advanced version of Facebook Notes, and is already available to many publishers. We assume these are highly integrated with Facebook’s ad network, which is where the bonus exposure comes in. You have always been able to re-publish your articles to Facebook Notes, but it only shares the notes with your current fans, and they don’t currently offer paid promotion.

In B2B land, there are other contributor networks out there that do have curators like Forbes and Entrepreneur, where you’ll need to get chummy with the digital editors to get your content republished. There are also niche community-powered marketing and business blogs like YouMoz and Inbound.org.

Publishers should remember to only syndicate content to appropriate sites. Examine and evaluate the portals in your market. Does your content fit there? Can you do anything to make your content stand out, like including a chart, video, or infographic?

For Green Gardens Network, there is not a huge amount of opportunity here outside the social channels above. Unlike categories of content such as travel or food, there aren’t a lot of big portal websites about gardening, however outside of syndication, Rose could reach out to the About.com Expert on About.com’s gardening channel and ask to write a guest post that links back to GGN (About.com doesn’t allow duplicate content, either).

There are also a few magazine websites, such as finegardening.com, that feature blog posts from contributors. The American Rose Society also features guest contributions. To the extent Rose knows of these sites, and knows her audience seeks them out, she would try to get some of her content listed there, with a link back to her own portal.

How have you used syndication to grow your audience? Please share your stories and tips in the comments.

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