A version of this post first appeared on the Bureau, NewsCred's content marketing news portal.
Today's top digital marketers know that they need compelling third-party content to keep their audiences engaged on their owned and operated sites as well as their social channels. But getting the right content mix can be a challenge. Content curation helps brands scale their content marketing campaigns to the pace of the web and nothing brings balance and authenticity like content from trusted sources.
As you develop your content strategy, you'll likely compare both unlicensed content (also known as aggregated content) and licensed content options. NewsCred began as an aggregator of unlicensed content before moving up to high-value licensed content, so we are well positioned to describe the benefits and disadvantages of either option.
The Unlicensed Content Model
In this model, content or social media managers at brands take headlines and excerpts from other news sites and blogs and displays snippets of third-party content on their own branded pages. With aggregated content you can provide your readers with a curated 'cheat sheet' featuring interesting articles around a given topic.
However, unlicensed content comes with its limitations. Curators must link back to the original source, which means readers are required to leave the site in order to read the full article. Furthermore, it's up to content curators to figure out how much of an article they can aggregate under murky 'fair use' laws. Worst case scenario? Aggregators may face legal action if they chose to not comply with existing copyright laws.
The Licensed Content Model
With licensed content curation, brands have the right to publish full text articles from premium publishers on their own sites. This results in an ideal user experience, allowing for simple navigation and easy consumption, while making your brand newsroom site a dedicated destination for high-quality journalism.
The only downside of licensed content is the cost. In general, monthly fees are required in exchange for republishing rights. But even with the content licensing fee, full text content leads to a far greater ROI for the reasons below:
The Benefits of Licensed Content
Platforms like NewsCred provide brands with high-quality content from over 2,500 global sources. This includes wire services like Reuters, Bloomberg and AP, as well as major news publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. We even provide quality magazines including The Economist and Forbes, in addition to long tail sites in every B2B and B2C niche like the Daily Muse, Fathom, MedCity News and XConomy. In full disclosure, we also offer licensed content from The Huffington Post.
NewsCred is able to offer content for any audience because we have licensing deals with all the publishers and we share revenues with all our sources. In many cases, our direct partnerships grant us access to content that isn't even available to aggregators on the open web.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Social referrals are becoming an important traffic driver, upsetting the traditional reliance on organic search. With licensed content, you can share a link on your social channels and send readers back to your site, as opposed to directing a reader back to the site of the original publisher. This helps greatly in terms of traffic growth and incremental social referrals.
But SEO is still important. When your site adds licensed, full text content pages, you'll increase search traffic by providing more pages for indexing. Full text content licensing generates more shares and inbound links, which also increases a site's page rank and overall likelihood of coming up on the top of search queries.
On the other hand, pages that consist of nothing but scraped, unlicensed content offer little value to readers. In the eyes of Google, pages containing unlicensed content appear as spam, and Google's Penguin algorithm update is meant to filter out sites containing "text generated from scraping Atom/RSS feeds" or pages "stitching or combining content from different web pages without adding sufficient value."
When brand managers use unlicensed content, they run the risk of copyright violations. But if you license content, every full text article comes with a tracking pixel which verifies to the original publishers that you are using their content legally. The tracking pixel also allows for in-depth audience analytics that can inform which articles you should publish next.
It's worth adding that unlicensed content can link to third-party sites that may not be reliable and that could be damaging to your brand's reputation. With licensed content curation, you know that every source is reputable and appropriate for your audience, as well as the regulations of your industry.
Modification & Editorialization
Stitching together aggregated excerpts and rewriting headlines requires editorial manpower and dedicated, internal resources.
With licensed content, editorial teams don't have to waste time with editing. No one knows how to craft a shareable article and a snappy headline like a professional journalist!
In the absence of licensing fees, scraped content might appear to be free in all respects, but there's a price to pay when it comes to to figuring out which articles are "safe" or reputable. Editors need to consider whether or not their staff has the bandwidth to cut through the noise in order to find valuable, trustworthy content. There is also an opportunity cost if you are not serving your audience as well as your competitors.
Content licensing does require a monthly subscription fee. But it's a lot lower than you'd expect because platforms like NewsCred ensure you are only paying for the content streams that your brand needs. And licensing content leads to measurable, sustainable gains in traffic and audience development.
So, Which Option Is Right for Your Brand?
Unlicensed content curation might make sense if a brand is new to the content marketing space and their social media managers want to experiment with aggregation.
However, once a brand realizes how vital high-quality content is for your digital channels, it's easy to see why licensing full-text articles is the proper route to take. Given the highly competitive nature of the web today, consumers deserve to have the best user experience possible. Remember: if you don't provide it, the competition is only a click away.