When it comes to curated content, there are two predominant models for utilizing third party content: unlicensed content, and licensed content. As you contemplate your curation strategy, it’s worth understanding the pros and cons of each. Here’s a quick overview on each, and how to think about which is right for you.
The Unlicensed Content Model
The first and most popular option is to use unlicensed content from around the web. In this model, the curator does not seek explicit permission from the content authors. Instead the curator, keeping the fair use statute in mind, shares a small excerpt from the original text with clear attribution back to the original article. Readers of the curated content must go back to the original publisher’s site to read the article in full.
The Licensed Content Model
The second model is to actually license the content from the original author and republish the original content in it’s entirety on the curator’s site. The appealing aspects of licensed content are: (1) You get to provide a seamless reading experience. (2) You do not risk driving readers off your site. (3) You don’t have to worry about fair-use and how much content you take.
The Downsides of Curating Licensed Content
While the licensed content curation model seems attractive, there are some obvious—and other not so obvious—downsides to building a curation destination based on a licensed content model.
Limited Selection. With licensed content, your sources for third party content are severely constrained. You can only curate content from sources with whom you either have a direct publishing relationship or with whom your licensed content provider has a relationship. Most re-sellers of licensed content have relationships with only the largest mainstream publishers, such as the Associated Presses and the Reuters of the world.
As a result, for most content marketers focused on specific topics and niches—such as B2B marketers, who rely on specific trade publishers and blogs, licensed content is not an option.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO). In order to avoid risking their original articles being confused as duplicate content, most publishers who license their content contractually obligate licensees to include special directives in the syndicated content that forbids search engines from indexing copies of the licensed content. As a marketer, this means that if you use licensed content on your site, it has little to no SEO value.
For brands looking to simply engage their existing audience and provide a more seamless reading experience, licensed content may be an option. But most marketers are not only looking to engage with their existing audience, but grow their audience and readership through search engine traffic. For the latter camp, licensed content is not a very compelling option.
Privacy. Licensed content usually comes with the stipulation that you include a provided pixel tracker with anything you re-publish. In turn, this pixel tracker can cookie your readership, measure the efficacy of the content, and provide analytics for the original publisher.
While this is not a salient issue for most marketers, it could be one for marketers in regulated industries with strict privacy policies, or marketers who are sharing licensed content to an internal audience (e.g. competitive intelligence teams).
Modification & Editorialization. If you re-publish licensed content, you are typically required to republish the original in full with no modifications or edits, so that you do not misrepresent or distort the views of the original publisher.
As a result, some content curation best practices regarding adding your own perspective, such as annotating content, and re-titling content to add value as a brand curator are difficult at best, or out of reach at worst, with licensed content.
Cost. Lastly, we should not forget cost. While unlicensed content is free, licensed content carries fees that can easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars a year based on your breadth of content.
Which one is right for you?
If you can afford it, don’t have a strong need to attract new visitors via search engines, and tend to find sufficient relevant content from mainstream publishers, then licensed content may be for you. From a reading experience perspective, there’s nothing better than providing the full original content and keeping visitors within your own site.
But for most marketers, unlicensed content is the easiest way for them to feed the content beast. If you can curate ethically, unlicensed content is free, ubiquitous, diverse and readily available.
Interested in getting started with content curation? Download the 5 Simple Steps to Become a Content Curation Rockstar eBook.