Hi, we are Adelaide “Addie” Nascimento (Syndication Product Lead) and Randy Abramson (Director of Product and Operations) at the Office of Digital and Design Innovation. As Director of Product and Operations, Randy helps drive strategy and product support for the digital arms of VOA, RFE/RL, RFA, MBN and OCB across the mobile, audio/video, social, syndication and API product lines. As Syndication Product Lead, Addie concentrates on distributing BBG content to the Web, mobile and platform destinations that best fit with the needs of our target audiences. In the past, we have focused our syndication efforts around our USIM Direct product which gives access of BBG long form content to our affiliates, as well as sending content to large content portals like YouTube. We are continuing to make enhancements to USIM Direct but also making a concerted effort to be more active in content distribution and form strategic alignment with key consumption destinations and devices.
Why syndicate?Just as the days where people waited for the newspaper to hit their doorstep are gone, so too are the Web and mobile users who flock to media entity websites to get the latest news. As the speed of news quickens, the news ‘comes to us’ in the form of Facebook posts, Twitter feeds and aggregation sites like The Huffington Post. These sources show that portals which effectively curate can be as powerful as old media stalwarts like The New York Times. Meanwhile, more and more users are spending time on audio and video powerhouse sites like YouTube–which served over 1 trillion streams in 2011–or Sound Cloud, the audio-centric site that just announced that it has more than 20,000,000 registered users. The content producers at VOA, RFE/RL, RFA, OCB and MBN create best-in-class journalism daily. One of ODDI’s tasks is to get this high quality content on to the platforms and into the environments that our users are currently spending time with. The solution lies within strategic syndication partnerships and distribution methods that align with current usage, future consumption forecasting and mission based targeting.
The Syndication Prioritization Process
There are dozens, if not hundreds of great syndication possibilities for our content. At ODDI, we try to prioritize those opportunities, foster relationships with syndication partners, distribute our content and look for larger opportunities with partners once our content is syndicated.
We focus on 5 key areas:
1. Metadata Distribution
2. Mobile/Tablet Distribution
3. Audio/Video Focused Distribution
4. Over-The-Top (TV-like experiences) Distribution
5. Mission Focused Initiatives
In working closely with the content producers at all of the BBG entities, we are prioritizing syndication opportunities and aiming to launch with three new syndication partners per quarter.
Prioritization can be driven by various motives:
- Are we trying to simply reach as many people as possible?
- Do we have mission focused content that can be distributed to targeted areas?
- Are particular devices or platforms emerging as standards within key populations?
- What technical steps do we need to take in order to match up with specific syndication destinations?
These are the hard questions that we ask when trying to figure out the order of our efforts.
Know Your Content, Know the Platforms and Start Small
Another key to understanding syndication is knowing that our content will perform differently on the various syndication platforms and destinations. Short video and audio clips may do well on mobile phones where users are on the go and have limited time where as our long form content may be more popular on tablet, over-the-top TV platforms and other ‘lean back’ experiences. Metrics can help us assess what content we should be distributing where. It is important to note that some opportunities are simply too new to predict how audiences will engage with our content. In these cases, we try to start small with pilot projects and measure behavior along the way.
First Up: Google Currents
Our first syndication effort will be to distribute content from VOA, OCB, MBN, RFE and RFE/RL to the new Google Currents mobile application platform. The application formats published content into a dynamic magazine-like format. We will be distributing BBG textstories, audio, video and photo content to the Currents app, which is currently coming pre-installed on Android mobile phones and tablets (note that there are currently 850,000 Android devices being activated daily, worldwide). As an early mover to this platform, we hope to be able to take advantage of the marketing opportunities within the Currents platform that would drive users of the app directly into BBG content areas.
The Road Ahead
The exciting thing about helping to drive these efforts is that the space is so dynamic. Syndication opportunities are emerging every day as start-ups around the globe provide new and interesting ways and places to display and engage with BBG content. We’re learning to ask questions, watch the metrics and let the audiences help drive the decisions that we’re making. We’re excited to keep track of the trends and prioritize accordingly. The one thing we know for sure is that the landscape will continue to shift and we need to be ready to move with it, wherever it goes.
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(Thank you to Addie Nascimento and Randy Abramson for their contributions to this post.)
(The foregoing commentary does not constitute endorsement by the US Government, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, VOA, MBN, OCB, RFA, or RFE/RL of the information products or services discussed.)