Sunday, July 19, 2009

Life with Daylife: On-Demand Feature Content Development Grows Up

There have been any number of content aggregation services surfacing in recent years that have helped publishers to expand the richness of their Web sites. APIs, feeds and other tools are helping publishers to power up new online presences that offer new opportunities for ad revenues and audience building. But as the marketplace for news begins to revolve increasingly around passing topics, it becomes harder to use such tools to respond rapidly enough to revenue-generating opportunities. The "bogie" for this new model often mentioned is The Huffington Post, which has made an art of whipping up special sections of content and links from a wide variety of sources focused on headline-grabbing topics wrapped with its own layer of editorial content from bloggers. How do publishers respond to this model with their own instant feature sites?

Enter Daylife, a content aggregation service which is evolving past APIs and feeds to deliver through its Daylife Select service what you might call a HuffPost-in-a-box service that can enable publishers of all kinds to develop new and improved online content focused around specific topics rapidly. Using its own blend of semantic analysis and content serving technologies, Daylife can serve up text, photos and other multimedia content from a wide variety of sources or from a publisher's own content to create complete pages of topic-specific content very rapidly - complete with built-in ad inventory. What I find to be impressive about Daylife Select is that it is really a complete publication in its own right with great usability and appeal, as seen on its own site, but not just your typical autopiloted content technology. Content served up automatically can be managed by a non-technical staff to deliver a true editorial presence and can be supplemented by original content such as a publisher's own blogs though Daylife technology. Instead of waiting days or weeks to get APIs and other tools set up, Daylife Select can provide a tailored, branded and highly navigable topic-focused presence for many major themes within minutes.

Most importantly, although many major publishers are using Daylife technology to whip up valuable focused content, major consumer companies such as Kellogg's and Purina are also using Daylife to deliver focused content for their own clients. The idea of companies developing their own content to attract people in their marketing scope is nothing new, of course, but the ease with which this can be done through a service such as Daylife begins to point out how important it can be to enable publishers to be able to support marketers rapidly and effectively with content aggregated in whatever form their clients need with whatever overarching branding serves their needs best as effectively as possible.

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, "content is as content does"; that is, the content brands that are willing to work actively through tools such as Daylife to aggregate whatever content works best for their audiences and their marketing partners most effectively wins the publishing game. A simple concept, but one with which many publishers continue to struggle as they try to adapt traditional editorial methods to today's content aggregations tools that enable many editorial functions to fall into place automatically. Yes, a service like Daylife cannot replace all of the editorial value of a traditional newsroom and more robust editorial content development platforms, but when it can provide most of the robust functionality that people expect from an online publication today along with access to deep and high-quality content, it's time for publishers to think more actively about how they can use tools such as Daylife to enable their content to succeed in any number of topic-specific "instant portals" and other efficiently managed content presences far more actively.

In other words, why complain about HuffPost when you can succed with their model any number of times over in any number of content categories? It may not bring back the salad days of high-flying publishers, but this type of rapid and effective content aggregation may help publishers to deploy focused publications with content from a wide variety of sources far more cost-effectively - and in doing so make the best of their native editorial resources far more efficiently. I think that we're going to see more services like Daylife coming to light over the next few years, a trend that offers great promise for publishers if they can master it well.
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