The Long Tail, the milestone book by Wired editor Chris Anderson, points out that popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability. In the digital space, both hits and misses make money. In some cases, it is the misses that matter most. Read between the lines and the message comes through loud and clear: Offering more content is not only better, it can also be a source of competitive advantage. Put simply, delighting the customer with choice can pay dividends.
For content companies, it boils down to a question of make or aggregate. Companies can either create lots of content--a risky and expensive business better left to the experts--or they can combine the best content available and package it in a way that can raise both their profile and their profits. Yahoo! and Google, for example, have embraced the latter, implementing a path-breaking content aggregation strategy that has allowed them to compete--and win--against traditional media companies.
Until now, only the major players had the tools, technology, and clout to aggregate a mix of content aimed at growing their reputation, reach, and revenues. Small and mid-size players had to take a gamble, and hope their rather limited pick of sites and blogs was one their readers would appreciate in the end.
Fortunately, a new product from Participate Media, a provider of content services for publishers, domain management companies, ad networks, and ecommerce sites, could change things. BuzzTracker.com (in beta) automatically creates custom content feeds that aggregate news, blogs, reviews, discussions, video, and audio around a multitude of topics.
BuzzTracker brings together news and information that people are talking about. It currently crawls more than 100,000 sites--an eclectic mix of mainstream news sources and popular blogs--and tracks more than 1,600 different topics. From pets to portable audio and from venture capital to Vietnam, BuzzTracker offers a cross section of content made to order. As Participate Media CEO Alan Warms put it in a recent interview, the result is a published page of news that "leverages the power of the head of the long tail."
To this end, BuzzTracker provides an intelligent filter that exposes content relevant to the topic an individual is passionate about. It lets partners choose from three types of content feeds: The Most Blogged, which lists and links to the most popular articles in the blogosphere; The Latest News, which lists and links to relevant stories for the topic sorted by publish date; and a hybrid feed that combines both with photo and video content from Flickr and YouTube. Granted, Google may have developed the algorithms to track 4,500 sources, but more may not be more wonderful here. BuzzTracker harnesses the wisdom of crowds to discover what's hot and what's not.
A good example of BuzzTracker in action is TVWeek (www.tvweek.com), a site that covers people, events, programming, and new technology trends that affect the broadcast industry. Clicking on the BuzzTracker link takes readers to a polished page of news, and the option to delve deeper into popular categories including Cable, Syndication, and Viral Video. Warms tells me other site owners are gearing up to launch BuzzTracker soon. (Not hard to believe. After a demo, I've asked Warms to create feeds on mobile advertising and mobile search to feature on my own site, which tracks these topics daily.)
But BuzzTracker is more than a cool content solution that offers quality content feeds. It has the potential to support a variety of online commerce objectives, providing visitors in buy mode with important news and reviews. (Future versions of BuzzTracker will include user-review and discussion sites.) Imagine a consumer electronics retailer specializing in iPods and digital music players. A reliable feed on portable audio--a BuzzTracker topic--would be a perfect fit to generate interest in the product and perhaps even clinch the deal.
BuzzTracker also lowers the barrier to entry, opening up new possibilities for individual publishers to launch sites and participate in the online discussion. Its open approach helps companies create more pages, more ad inventory, and more links out to the blogosphere. To raise awareness--and deliver more page views, visitors, and revenue all around--Warms plans to launch a create-a-topic widget that would allow users to create and manage pages of the content they care about. No doubt this feature will profoundly impact content creation and distribution. Now all publishers, not just the usual suspects, can benefit from the halo effect that comes from being able to offer our audiences the content that matters most to them.