Web syndication is a form of syndication in which content is made available from one website to other sites. Most commonly, websites are made available to provide either summaries or full renditions of a website's recently added content. The term may also describe other kinds of content licensing for reuse.
Syndication first arose in earlier media such as print, radio, and television, allowing content creators to reach a wider audience. In the case of radio, the United States Federal government proposed a syndicate in 1924 so that the country's executives could quickly and efficiently reach the entire population. In the case of television, it is often said that "Syndication is where the real money is." Additionally, syndication accounts for the bulk of TV programming. One predecessor of web syndication is the Meta Content Framework, developed in 1996 by Ramanathan V. Guha and others in Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group. Today, millions of online publishers, including newspapers, commercial websites, and blogs, distribute their news headlines, product offers, and blog postings in news feeds.
Conventional syndication businesses such as Reuters and Associated Press thrive on the internet by offering their content to media partners on a subscription basis, using business models established in earlier media forms. Commercial web syndication can be categorized in three ways:
by business models
by types of content
by methods for selecting distribution partners
Commercial web syndication involves partnerships between content producers and distribution outlets. There are different structures of partnership agreements. One such structure is licensing content, in which distribution partners pay a fee to the content creators for the right to publish the content. Another structure is ad-supported content, in which publishers share revenues derived from advertising on syndicated content with that content's producer. A third structure is free, or barter syndication, in which no currency changes hands between publishers and content producers. This requires the content producers to generate revenue from another source, such as embedded advertising or subscriptions. Alternatively, they could distribute content without remuneration. Typically, those who create and distribute content free are promotional entities, vanity publishers, or government entities. Types of content syndicated include RSS or Atom Feeds and full content. With RSS feeds, headlines, summaries, and sometimes a modified version of the original full content is displayed on users' feed readers. With full content, the entire content—which might be text, audio, video, applications/widgets or user-generated content—appears unaltered on the publisher's site. There are two methods for selecting distribution partners. The content creator can hand-pick syndication partners based on specific criteria, such as the size or quality of their audiences. Alternatively, the content creator can allow publisher sites or users to opt into carrying the content through an automated system. Some of these automated "content marketplace" systems involve careful screening of potential publishers by the content creator to ensure that the material does not end up in an inappropriate environment. Just as syndication is a source of profit for TV producers and radio producers, it also functions to maximize profit for Internet content producers. As the Internet has increased in size it has become increasingly difficult for content producers to aggregate a sufficiently large audience to support the creation of high-quality content. Syndication enables content creators to amortize the cost of producing content by licensing it across multiple publishers or by maximizing distribution of advertising-supported content. A potential drawback for content creators, however, is that they can lose control over the presentation of their content when they syndicate it to other parties. Distribution partners benefit by receiving content either at a discounted price, or free. One potential drawback for publishers, however, is that because the content is duplicated at other publisher sites, they cannot have an "exclusive" on the content. For users, the fact that syndication enables the production and maintenance of content allows them to find and consume content on the Internet. One potential drawback for them is that they may run into duplicate content, which could be an annoyance.
Web syndication has been used to distribute product content such as feature descriptions, images and specifications. As manufacturers are regarded as authorities and most sales are not achieved on manufacturer websites, manufacturers allow retailers or dealers to publish the information on their sites. Through syndication, manufacturers may pass relevant information to channel partners. Such web syndication has been shown to increase sales. Web syndication has also been found effective as a search engine optimization technique.