From WordPress to Twitter to Tumblr, the web has given rise to a dazzling array of new content creation tools that have revolutionized the business and practice of journalism. But for all the innovation around content creation, comparatively little investment or innovation has gone into new tools for how content is distributed and monetized online.
That may be starting to change. On Monday, public TV broadcaster KQED, along with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Public Radio Exchange, unveiled a new startup accelerator called Media Ventures aimed at incubating media entrepreneurs. Among the areas of the business Media Ventures will emphasize, its backers said, would be content distribution.
“As this new media world evolves we’re going to need more innovation around — not the content development, because that we know how to do — but how these productions can be distributed in the most effective way across these multiple platforms,” KQED board member Mark Perry told the New York Times.
The Times itself, meanwhile, has also recently gotten into the distribution innovation game. At the Paley Center for Media’s Innovation Without Borders conference in New York a couple of weeks ago, the Times’ VP of R&D Michael Zimbalist offered a fascinating overview of two new tools developed in house by the paper focused on tracking and monetizing the viral distribution of news content across Twitter. A video of is talk is available on the Paley Center website and very much worth watch.
The most promising tool is called Ricochet. It’s a real-time platform that allows advertisers, for a fee, in effect to rent Times content for a period of time to incorporate into their own social media brand-building activity. Rather than a brand simply tweeting a Times story to its Twitter followers with whatever advertising the paper’s ad server happens to wrap around it, Ricochet creates a dedicated link to a version of the story that can be surrounded by a brand’s own advertising. Each time the link is clicked or retweeted, the brand’s customized ad package travels with it.
It’s a step toward creation of the same sort of real-time B2B marketplace for premium content as already exists for online advertising through ad exchanges. Whether or not Ricochet itself pans out for the Times, it’s another sign that media content distribution may finally be getting its due from innovators and entrepreneurs.