A new startup called Repost aims to make it easy for online publishers to distribute their articles via embedding — the same way I can share a video from YouTube or a document from Scribd directly in a blog post.
Right now, if I saw an article that I thought TechCrunch readers would find valuable — such as this blog post from Repost founder and CEO John Pettitt — I could share a link on Facebook or Twitter. But what if I wanted to share it on TechCrunch itself?
After all, while TechCrunch does plenty of original reporting, we also build on stories that broke elsewhere, and we point readers to announcements that companies have made on their own blogs. In those cases, I could include a link, but according to Repost, there’s only a 2 percent chance on average that readers will actually click. Pettit elaborates:
Yes, there are lots of sharing services. But here’s the thing, they don’t actually share the content. They share links to content. VERY different.
If you want to take an article from one site and publish it on another, you have to find a person, get permission, and then manually copy it. Assuming you don’t break all the formatting in the process, you’re still not in good shape because you still have to worry about search engines seeing it as duplicate content.
With Repost, I can just copy-and-paste an embed code into my post, and then you get the full article, with all the formatting and images preserved. You can see an example at the end of this post. (Update: Apparently there are still some issues with how Repost integrates with TechCrunch’s specific WordPress installation, so what you’re seeing is actually a stripped-down version of the embed.)
That means the original publisher gets their content presented with clear attribution and their own advertising. It also integrates with existing analytics systems, comScore counts the embed views as part of the publisher’s traffic, and since the article is rendered in an iFrame, it doesn’t look like duplicate content to a search engine.
The new publisher, meanwhile, gets to present the full, most up-to-date version of the article to their readers. Since the author is basically saying, “Please share this article!” it should help avoid a lot of the tedious arguments about whether one publication is “aggregating” another site’s content.
In outlining his solution to the content distribution challenge, Pettitt drew parallels with the video world. He said that initially, if you had told the video industry that you wanted to add a button to their content making it easy to embed those videos anywhere, “They would have told you you were crazy.” Yet those buttons are “ubiquitous” today, because video publishers realize the value of broad distribution, and they can monetize that distribution by including their own ads in the embedded videos.
Repost says it already enables embedding for 3 million articles from more than 4,000 publishers, including Fox Sports, PandoDaily, NewsRight, and Tom’s Hardware. On average, Reposted articles see a 5.7 percent clickthrough to the original publisher, and they make readers read three times farther down on the page.
Pettitt estimated that around 75 percent of those publishers aren’t just using Repost as a way to share their content, but also to find outside content worth posting on their own sites. Future plans include adding e-commerce features, such as automatic insertion of affiliate links.
The Repost model could even work for paywalled sites, Pettitt added — in fact, the company is working on a partnership with one such site right now. Publishers could enable Repost sharing for their free content, or sharing of a snippet of their paywalled content.
“Fundamentally, the best ad for your content is your content,” he said.
Pettitt isn’t the only one who thinks this could have a big effect on web publishing. Jeff Jarvis, a well-known media pundit and associate professor at City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism/Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, recently joined Repost’s board of advisors.
“Repost should end the wars over aggregation and copyright,” Jarvis said in the press release announcing the company’s launch. “The Repost technology changes the fundamental architecture of content distribution on the net, and reinvents and reverses the idea of content syndication.”