RedHerring.com, the online offshoot of Red Herring print magazine, wanted to increase their branding and Web-wide visibility. VP Business Development Jeff Cain realized the site could gain that visibility, plus more traffic and a tidy additional revenue stream, if RedHerring.com branded content were to appear at other major sites. So for the past two years he and his team have been working on content syndication deals with major players.
Cain says networking is critical, “To get in the door you leverage whatever resources you have. You call all your friends, email everybody saying ‘Hey do you know anybody at Yahoo?’ Go to industry events and parties. You never know who might be a good contact -- you meet someone and they might not seem that good but they might know someone.”
Cain also maximized the connections Red Herring’s editorial team had with their peers at other Web sites and media companies, “Writers know a lot of writers at other publications, and half the time they are doing the hard parts of the deal. They get together from an editorial perspective and agree we’re a great match. All we do is put a contract around that transaction.” Cain always makes a point of dropping in editorial’s regular offsite meetings, “The Chinese wall is really firm, we have absolute editorial independence. I never say cover this story; but, I do tell them what business development is and we’re looking for in terms of deals. I’ll say, ‘If anybody you’re talking to is interested in a biz dev deal I’ll take it off your hands for you so you can focus on writing.’ They often come to me and say, ‘Here’s this cool company we should work with.’”
RedHerring.com has closed syndication deals with Yahoo, USA Today, Excite, Altavista and a “few dozen smaller deals, plus a couple of big ones are on the table now.” Cain notes, “I wish I could take credit for it. The key is having great content. It sounds simplistic and pat, but it’s true.” Cain also notes, "USA Today was actually a writer-to-writer connection. Two editors said, 'We love your stuff - can we do something?' and then business development got involved."
NOTES: Cain says a it’s important to target your sales pitch to each potential partners, “The key is in having a good solid pitch of why your content is different than someone else’s; and, why it’s valuable to the audience they have.”
When negotiating with smaller sites he suggests sticking to a 50/50 split, “it’s easy and fair, and you’d much rather get the deal done than nickel and dime over an extra 15%. That said, portals are tough. They pretty much say what they’re gonna do and there’s not much room for negotiation. Maybe Lycos won’t give you a ton of money, but they can give you a fair amount of exposure and drive valuable traffic back to your site.”
Cain also advises negotiators to, “stand firm on editorial integrity, copyright protection and redistribution rights. It’s your brand up there. Be flexible about what stories they take, how many and how much they pay you.”
On the technical side, Red Herring uses Kinecta’s Interact to deliver syndicated content more easily.
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