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Somewhat customized mass publishing

If you can find an audience of audiences.

[realty times demo]

I recently received an email from a local friend who I know through his trumpet playing, and his email's signature revealed his day job: he's a real estate agent. The signature pointed to his "Realty Times" newsletter that greatly impressed me for about four seconds, as I thought: "He's researching, writing, and finding illustrations for this many stories every month?" His picture is at the top, with a link to his business's home page, and his phone number, email address, and postal address are all in the footer of the newsletter.

Seeing /94/TomBibb after the realtytimes.com domain name of his newsletter's URL suggested to me that other people had a similar, if not identical newsletter, and the right Google search showed that there were quite a few. The most interesting one is the newsletter for real estate agent Your Name, a blond woman whose hair adds five inches to her height. Before I saw it, I had planned to title this weblog posting "Fake customized publishing," but Ms. Name's newsletter showed me that the newsletter includes slots for "YOUR OWN ARTICLE" on the right and a "FEATURED LINK BOX" where you "Put a link of your choice here (i.e. listing of the week, helpful consumer site, etc.)" The realtytimes.com main page does have news stories, but their main activity seems to be the accumulation of content so that they can charge others for rebranding it.

Syndication (selling content to be rebranded and repackaged by your customers) is not a new idea. The Internet makes finding syndication customers and distributing to them easier, and it makes becoming a customer easier—it's not very practical for a one-person business to become a customer of a grand old syndication network like the Associated Press or King Features. The Internet also makes syndication less necessary—why read a New York Times story on your local newspaper's web site when you can read it at nytimes.com? To come up with a new, Internet-based syndication business model, as realtytimes.com did, you need to find customers with their own audiences and little reason to go after each others' audiences. Local real estate markets are a great choice. Does anyone know of other examples of Internet-based syndication where someone found an audience of customers, each with their own separate audience to publish to?


(Note: I usually close comments for an entry a few weeks after posting it to avoid comment spam.)

Although AP certainly began as a syndication network (indeed, as a virtual corporation: it was originally just a bunch of agreements, some leased telegraph lines, and a few reporters covering the Mexican War), the overwhelming majority of its content that is of more than local interest is now self-generated.

Splogs provide an example from even deeper into the dark side. Sometimes we just can't escape the fact that we are from the third species of chimpanzees.

This idea is quite common in UK politics. A national party will produce a single general newsletter describing all the good things MP X has done, provide it to each local party and the local party then replaces the label MP X with the name and photo of their local MP and then distributes. I've not seen this done with e-mail or MP's website content though (yet!).


That's an excellent example. A national political party is a centralized organization with the resources to generate professional content that they can provide to geographically localized organizations for customization.

Thinking about it as a marketing campaign that seeks to combine a consistent message combined with localized content, I realized that many wide-scale advertising campaigns for commercial products do something similar--for example, Goodyear or Michelin might provide articles on tire care tips to auto repair shops to incorporate into their own hard copy or online publicity.