Businessweek.com Editor and Chief John Byrne recently said, “It’s not, as some people say it is, ‘online vs. print,’ because the contrasts are actually more insidious and dangerous than that. The more threatening contrast is between aggregation and original content — because aggregation is something that’s cheap.”
His words, though now buried deep in the archives of Mediabistro, ring true as the economy continues to tank and publishers are telling online editors to do more for less.
As a freelance writer myself, the real problem hits home in a different way: It requires me to produce original content that can be packaged and neatly wrapped with aggregated content. I can’t approach an online editor and suggest just a video. Nope. It’s got to be a video with a long tail effect—say, something that can support existing or future editorial content without becoming stale our outdated.
Just this past week I finished a short 24 Hours of Moab course preview video for Bicycling.com. The final product, less than seven minutes long, was complemented with an interactive GPS-supported map, links to Moab bike shops, and every mountain bike ride Bicycling.com has ever mapped in Moab.
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Essentially, a racer could watch the course preview video, read expert advice on what to eat during the race, click on a link to rent a bike, and then decide which post-race rides to tackle. All without leaving the page.
The fresh editorial content was the course video and the map. The aggregated, everything else. The long tail is that the race happens every year in the same spot, and unless we have a major flood, the course isn’t going to be changing too much, and finally people are always going to Moab, so this page creates a digital guidebook of sorts.
But it also had its problems. Bicycling.com was limited in how they could package it online, and even though I think it turned out well, there is room for improvement. Online editor David L’Heureux did a fantastic job working with me and my production team to push boundaries, but he was still constrained by budget and ad placement.
The next step will be when publishers begin to see content and editorial as the same, and when they are able to produce new editorial content and wrap it with aggregated older editorial content, while having the flexibility to package the content appropriately. Of course, it’s already happening on some levels, but not everywhere.
So, if you are thinking about pitching multimedia, remember to ask yourself the following questions. If you can answer them well, then you’ve got a pretty good shot of at least being heard.
1) How does this content support/complement content already on the site?
2) If I were to go back in five months, would I still find this interesting?
3) Can this content stand alone in a standalone player, and be interwoven with other pages on the site?
4) What is the serviceable information readers/viewers will get from this content?