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June 5, 2001
Freelancers Get Push From Online Syndicates
By Sherril Steele-Carlin

Freelancers have gotten support from several online content syndicates in the past year or so, but several syndicates and content-rich sites have also shut down unexpectedly, leaving freelancers in the lurch. The question remains, are syndicates a viable forum to showcase freelance work?

Even though content delivery has suffered in the recent slowdown of many Internet companies, providing content is still a huge business. According to a new report by Frost & Sullivan, the content delivery industry generated $905 million in 2000 and is expected to reach $12.1 billion by 2007. Many Internet companies see content as "non-revenue producing," but many content producers can show a marked increase in revenue with the addition of targeted content to a site.

Freelancers are often the biggest source of content for producers and syndicates. Some content syndicates rely solely on freelancers to create and sell articles, columns, and white papers, like Featurewell.com, and iTravelSyndicate.com. Many other news syndicates have produced news feeds for years, like NewsEdge.com and Comtex News Network. Syndicates exist all over the world, and some of the largest, like Correspondent.com and Indipen.com are located outside the U.S.

Content syndication works in several ways. In one model, the freelancer registers with the site, and uploads content they hope to sell to editors. The site then markets the contents to registered editors. If the content is purchased, the site retains a commission for placing the article, and the freelancer receives the rest of the sales income.

Other syndicates hire freelancers and staffers to create targeted content, and then market the content to web sites and businesses. Some syndicates charge the freelancer a fee to post their work, and others are free to content providers.

Many freelancers maintain good working relationships with these syndicates, and receive a steady income from their articles and columns. Several individual writers list their work at iSyndicate, and at least one of those claims to make at least $200 a week in income though her columns.

Another new wrinkle in syndication is OoiPtech.com, who "developed the technology that enables data syndication and aggregation...in a very easy way." Even one-person syndicates can share their work with web sites quickly and easily, with the OoiPtech process. While large e-companies may have the resources in house to produce and syndicate their content, most small e-businesses do not, so they must rely on content syndicates or freelancers for any content they provide. Low-cost syndication services will probably continue to grow and prosper as long as they can provide high-quality content.

Freelancers who hope to syndicate their work should research the service they plan to use. In the past few months, two services for writers to post their work have closed their doors owing freelancers money. Themestream.com and MediaBullet.com both closed without warning, and freelancers who had made sales on the sites didn't receive any money. It's best to talk to others who have used the service successfully before signing up with any syndicate.

The biggest question in online syndication is: Do editors really use the service? Often, the answer is a rather big "no." Many editors of smaller or local publications say their markets are very specialized, and their content needs are also quite specialized, so they don't go searching for "generic" material. As one editor said, "The easier it is to get it somewhere else, the less likely we are to be interested in it." Other editors say they are flooded with ideas and articles, and don't need to search for material at syndication sites. Some editors we spoke with have used news syndicates in the past, and found problems with the quality of the content delivered, (it wasn't current), or problems in the delivery itself.

Syndicates can be a boon for freelancers who provide print and online content. They provide a way to showcase your work to a wide variety of editors, and resell articles that might still be timely and useful. Legitimate syndicates can provide additional income and help freelancers become even more successful.

Sherril Steele-Carlin is a full-time freelance writer from Reno, Nevada. She's published numerous articles in print and online publications. She's also the author of the new e-book "How to get a Life by Living and Working in a National Park." http://www.dreamjobstogo.com/titles/dltg0002.html?10402 Visit her web site at http://www.powernet.net/~carlin.

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