Vol.8, No. 7 • July/Aug. 2000 
New Web Site Content Options from New Content Aggregators
by Susan A. Funke

Prior to the arrival of the Web as the dominant medium for electronic news and content delivery, traditional online service providers such as Dialog, Factiva (Dow Jones/Reuters), or LEXIS-NEXIS were the sources for the latest news and content. As the Web emerged, online wires such as Reuters, BusinessWire, and AP — already available on the traditionals — began the migration to the Web with offerings of free Web-based news through Yahoo!News. This set the stage for other traditional news and content to migrate to the Web with services available for free or a nominal charge. In addition to opening up free access to existing news services, new Web-based publications such as and were started.

With the rise of these Web-based opportunities, a new type of content provider had emerged: the Web content aggregator. By reaching a broader audience through syndication opportunities, providing a wider variety of content and customization, and introducing new business models and delivery formats, this type of content provider is creating a new environment for content. This article will focus on some of the Web content aggregators and the changes they are bringing to content on the Web, as well as the resulting demand that is being created for business-to-business e-content.
Key Factors Driving the Rise of Web Content Aggregators
Demand for business-to-business content. As already mentioned, businesses are looking for content to fill Web pages that would hold customer interest and keep them coming back. Web content aggregators have the infrastructure and economic relationships to fill this niche for Web sites.

Anyone can publish content for the Web. The Web has created a publishing medium available for anyone with a computer and access to it. Good content on different subjects not previously available interests Web content aggregators and their subscribers. Aggregators can usually syndicate content for distribution fairly easily.

Traditional journalists are migrating to the New Media. A number of traditional journalists have shown interest in writing for Web-based publications, either lured by the aura of the new media, stock options, or newfound celebrity. These journalists have the recognized experience, often bring their own readership, and help build the credibility for new Web-based publications.

Syndication. Web content aggregators can help traditional and new media content reach a wider audience. Little-known publications can be syndicated and find an audience on the Web, and traditional media can expand their presence, both through a Web content aggregator. 

Variety of content formats. Web-based content creates a demand for formats such as XML, HTML, and wireless networks. Web content aggregators help subscribers integrate these wires into their sites.

Rich Media (aka Broadband content). Audio and Video content and its availability will continue to grow and become as important as content offerings on the Web. For example, has strategic partnerships with rich media sites such as (MP3 retailer) or (next-generation entertainment) to distribute content featuring full-motion video and CD sound. 

New Business Models. The notion that information on the Web should be free is part of a Web content aggregator’s business model. Aggregators have the infrastructure to support both new and old content providers, to make their content free, and to expand their audience, while continuing to use the content licensing business model as well.

ScreamingMedia refers to itself as an online syndicator. It acts as an intermediary between content creators and Web sites wanting specialized news feeds. News feeds from ScreamingMedia range from traditional newswires like PR Newswire to new media wires such as Newsbytes Network and little known sources such as ScreamingMedia provides a wider range of news sources to a larger audience.

The primary audience for ScreamingMedia’s products is business-to-business Web sites that use news feeds to fill Web site pages. ScreamingMedia offers 500 news feeds through two products: News!Stand and Custom!Content. News!Stand offers 13 pre-defined news feed packages for categories such as National Economy, Internet Economy, and Technology News that subscribers can post to their own Web sites immediately. The news feeds packages update at least twice during the business day and cost $750 per category. Custom!Content allows a business to customize the content for its Web site using Editor’s Desk software for filtering available directly from ScreamingMedia. In addition, all news feeds from ScreamingMedia are available in Web-based formats such as XML, HTML, and Java and also for wireless networks.

As an online syndicator, ScreamingMedia also provides a service to content providers by helping them to improve their branding and to reach a broader audience. Newspapers such as the Atlanta Constitution Journal and Christian Science Monitor have collaborated with ScreamingMedia to reach audiences beyond each publication’s own Web sites and to generate additional revenue without increasing the amount of content produced.

Alan S. Ellman, a former ABC television network finance manager, founded ScreamingMedia in 1993. At the time this article was written, ScreamingMedia had filed its IPO with an estimated offering amount of $60 million. Clients include, Sun Microsystems, CNET, Hewlett Packard, and IBM. For more information on ScreamingMedia, see its Web site at, the “webfeed company,” has a different approach to news on the Web than the usual open-source environment. With proprietary software, spiders more than 1,500 editorial sources (in near real time), providing “webfeeds” of headline links for more than 250 news categories. The key differentiator for is providing headline links to Web sites where the actual content resides, allowing customers to integrate the links into their own Web sites for free. In addition, Webmasters can easily integrate these Web feeds onto business-to-business Web sites, since providers such as offer a wide variety of formats, e.g., HTML, Java, and several flavors of XML. also offers custom feeds, tapping the expertise of its editorial staff, that start at $1,500 per month. is also extending its Web content aggregator role by partnering with, a business unit of Bright Station plc (the new company that emerged from the former Dialog owners in the U.K.). provides a desktop research tool called WebCheck that analyzes e-mail and desktop applications and searches the Web and’s own news and company databases. News feeds from appear in NewsZone,’s free news database. Revenue, which and split, comes from advertisers., founded by a group of ex-journalists from the U.K., is funded by Atlas Venture and several executives from Businesses using for intranets and portals include KPMG, Hill & Knowlton, Bain & Company, and Mercedes Benz. For more information on, see the Web site at views itself as a “one-stop shop” that brokers content produced by content providers to businesses that want to carry content on their Web sites via syndication. ISyndicate offers products for full text, headlines, and rich media (i.e., content with multimedia features). For full content, Network Service allows a Web site to host the full content produced by various content providers with which ISyndicate has an agreement. ISyndicate splits the fee with the content providers that include AccuWeather, American Banker, Associated Press, CBS Sportsline, CNET, PC World Communications, The Industry Standard, The Sports Network,, U-Wire, and Zacks. ISyndicate is also affiliated with the traditional content providers such as LEXIS-NEXIS for additional content to fulfill client requests. It has been in operation for the past year.

Express Service provides free headlines, rich media links, and photos to customers. When the customer clicks on the item of interest, it takes them to the Web site where they can access the entire content. ISyndicate receives a “click fee” for every hit that gets passed on to the content provider. ISyndicate also provides rich media (aka broadband content such as RealAudio and RealVideo programming from RealNetworks, animations, interactive games, comics, and weather). Lastly, the service also offers Essentials, a channel service that provides content covering 26 topics defined and developed by the editorial staff at ISyndicate.

ISyndicate was founded by Joel Maske in 1996, who also co-founded Galt Technologies, producer of the Internet’s first financial portal, NETworth. ISyndicate received initial funding from Scripp Ventures and Labrador Ventures, followed by additional investments from Vignette Corp, NBC,, Microsoft, and News Corporation. Customers include Amway, Citibank, Nortel Networks, and PeopleSoft. For more information on, see its Web site at

The Present and Future of Web Aggregators
According to Jupiter Communications Inc. [], online content licensing will be a $1.5 billion business by 2004, up from $126 million in 1998.

At the moment, Web content aggregators have created a niche for current content driven by the demand for business-to-business content on Web sites. However, traditional content providers currently offer content and services that differ from the current Web content aggregator business models, including more sources, archival content, user searching, brand recognition, and a wide variety of prepackaged content options. Yet, Web content aggregators have the economic relationships, infrastructure, business models, and momentum that may attract many companies struggling with the content needs of intranets and portals. Web content aggregators could emerge as big winners in the online content licensing business.

For further discussion of syndication and its future role in business, see “Syndication:  The Emerging Model for Business in the Internet Era,” Harvard Business Review, May-June 2000, pp. 84-93.

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