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Managing Content Across Multiple Sites

Automating cross-pollination is easier said than done.



By Bill Mickey
12/09/2009

Many larger publishers with multiple brands experience at least some crossover between the niche markets and audience they serve. Leveraging those areas where content and audience blend together online is accomplished by publishing the same stories to multiple sites within that publisher's network. Yet automating that process through a Web CMS is a difficult task that requires some deft work with metadata and context relevancy.

Alec Dann, general manager of business media online at b-to-b publisher Hanley Wood, has been wrestling with an automated solution to sharing stories between some of the company's 30 Web sites focused on the residential and commercial construction and remodeling markets.  

Dann's new CMS, provided by Dutch company SDL Tridion, was selected for, among other things, its ability to publish content to multiple sites. "We translated that as a good fit for us," he said. "We want to publish to multiple Web sites from the same content repository. We have a lot of overlap in our audiences."

A visitor to Builderonline.com, for example, could also be interested in content from Ecohomemagazine.com. At Hanley Wood, one of the industry's largest b-to-b publishers, that characteristic extends to all of its brands. "We have 30 magazines, and each one of them probably relates to two or three others," said Dann.

More Content Serves the Audience Better

Since reader interest extends across categories, Dann is convinced that cross-pollenizing content is a vital strategy designed specifically with the customer in mind. "From the reader's perspective, they're being served by having more relevant content," he said. "One of my philosophies on how to build b-to-b Web sites is customers read them to do work, so you're serving them by providing more content. From that perspective, the long-tail theory is true. The more content you have, the more audience you build. It matters. you need to maximize your catalogue in every way you can."

The Crux: Context Relevance

For now, once editors input a story, they are able to manually select the Web sites that a story will appear on. In the old CMS, they were actually creating copies of each story and reposting them to the sites.

While that process has been somewhat streamlined with the new system, Dann would like to see it even more refined. "The notion is that any story that's tagged for the 'Sales' category on Builderonnline.com, for example, could show up under 'Sales' on Remodeling," said Dann.

That requires an automated process based on keywords. Yet, a daunting challenge is context relevance. "'Sales' on Remodeling and Builder mean different things, so we need some context relevance," said Dann.

"The first step is to have good metadata for your content," said Rick Garvin, managing director of Ten Mile Square, a media and content management consulting firm. "One thing is knowing your audience, the other is knowing your content."

Hanley Wood, and many other large publishers like it, went from a custom-built CMS to a commercial one, said Garvin, and had a huge legacy content collection of 30,000 articles online. The company had enough metadata to display content on a single site, in context, but needed more for reuse and further segmentation.  

Dann's team created an automated tagging solution to collect more metadata for the content, but it only got them so far. "That would take you to about 85 percent accuracy. It helped a lot, but they still had to do a human review."

Bottom line, said Garvin, is to be ready to dedicate staff resources to the issue, and make sure you create all the fields you'll need to fulfill the additional uses. "If you have bad metadata, no extra cool tool will ever allow you to put the right article in front of the right visitor."

Don't Fall Afoul of Google


In the meantime, be aware of duplicate content penalties from Google, which sees duplicate content as an attempt to game the system to boost rankings. Dann makes sure that content is attributed to the original publication with a tiered linking scheme—magazine, issue and year—that links back to the originating magazine. "You can have a Web site disappear on you if you're not careful," he said. "We have lots and lots of cross-publishing among our sites, so we have to take it seriously."

By Bill Mickey
12/09/2009







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