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In its narrowest sense “content syndication” is the multiple use of information in the form of text or images. In principle, other media content such as videos and software can be syndicated as well.
The principle of syndication is over 100 years old. In 1895, the US publisher William Randolph Hearst marketed single popular comics. For this purpose, so-called “syndicates” issued print licenses for certain cartoonists to many publishers. Thus, small regional newspapers could benefit from the publication of individual comic strips not just the big ones. A win-win situation was created. The artists did not have to market their comics themselves and the newspapers were able to increase the attractiveness of their issues by including comic strips. The company which was founded by the inventor of syndication, King Features Syndicate, is still active on the market today.
Today many media companies still work with the principle of syndication. Thus, newspapers benefit from a news report and publish it simultaneously in all regional editions. Likewise, syndication provides TV broadcasters the ability to distribute a news report over several broadcasts. Content syndication is operated in the news section of agencies like dpa or AP. Large portals provide photographs or graphics for businesses. The publishers acquire the publication rights for a certain fee. There also exist a database with royalty-free content. Individual articles can also be exchanged between different publishers.
While there are usually physical limitations for content syndication in the analog world such as the edition of a newspaper or the range of a TV station, the Internet is nearly limitless when it comes to publishing content. Virtually any website on the Internet that provides relevant information on a topic can be a content provider. The dissemination and sharing of media content can occur either via payment systems or free of charge by RSS feed or XML files. For operators of large portals, it can therefore be attractive to display important stock exchange reports from a news website on their site as added value. Likewise, smaller sites can act as news aggregators by using RSS feeds in order to pool information for their visitors.
Syndication as part of one’s SEO strategy
For SEO experts, it has long been an effective way to get backlinks for their own websites via RSS feeds. Likewise, more traffic can be lured to your website through the multiple use of content. However, this tactic should be used with caution, especially in view of “spamming” and “duplicate content.” Therefore, the focus in content syndication should be on the benefits for users and the relevance of your website.
- Legal problems: Publishers engaging in content syndication are first of all faced with a copyright issue, because the integration of external content on your website requires the consent of the content provider. It is not advisable to integrate the contents from an RSS feed on your website without asking its owner first.
- One-sidedness of content: If many websites take advantage of the content distributed from a content provider, the uniqueness of your website may suffer. Thus, the mass use of syndicated content will, in the long run, be considered spam rather than a meaningful source of information by Google and users.
- Risk of double content: If you integrate RSS feeds or other syndicated content on your website, you should be aware of the risk of duplicate content. This could be remedied by marking the outbound links as rel= “nofollow.”