Content Syndicate's words don't add up

Content Syndicate‘s tagline is “words on demand” (I am dying to insert some sarcastic quip about blogging here but I’ll restrain myself).

The pitch from the entrant in last week’s Seedcamp contest is to help content providers and buyers to commission, distribute buy and sell content that’s exclusive, customised and personalised. To do this they’ve built a platform to offer content services to all media outlets in all languages which will handle the life-cycling of buying, selling, commissioning, payment security, you name it.

Sounds like tall order, but after 9 months of operation they they have 87 clients and 30 employees spread across their home base of Dubai as well as India and the US.

Content Syndicate is designed to be an end to end solution. Publishers can put out a commission, rather like an RFQ, and freelance journalists (of which there are many) pitch to take the piece. Media firms in turn can buy content with a credit card and also talk to the writer direct. A publisher pays 60% of the commission up front for an article, there are two revisions possible and then the rest on delivery. I see problems here in that the professional review process is much more complex than this model.

A freelancer can also write an article “on spec” and put it into the system for a publisher to pick up or tweak. However, no real freelancer I am aware of does this, and in other quarters this is just called blogging.

CS claims that smaller publishers – being the vast majority of the 200,000 publishers on the planet – don’t have time for syndicating content and that CS will handle this too. All they need to do is upload all their content into the system. This is worrying – I think I’d rather take my chances with an RSS feed.

My questions about the practical running of this platform were met with optimism by the founders, but in in my world all publishers like to deal with writers direct, especially because the issue of writing for a title is so complex. Every title is different and there is no such thing as an “off the peg” article. Perhaps where CS could succeed is in the buying and selling of rights to generic content for corporate and customer magazines and the like.

But I don’t see it succeeding inside the full-blown professional editorial market.