Posted by Augustin Kendall on February 25, 2014
Webcollage, a content syndication company owned by Answers.com, and content26 have worked closely together for years. If you aren’t familiar, Webcollage distributes product-detail content to Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Costco, and other major online retailers.
I’ve known my colleague Jeff Kirby is “the Webcollage guy” for some time, but I haven’t known what his specific role is in the context of content26’s relationship with Webcollage. So I decided to ask him.
In the following interview, Jeff explains to me what it means to be the Webcollage liaison in our office, how Webcollage’s Content Publisher tool works, why SEO concerns about duplicate content don’t matter in this case, and what options brands have when using the tool.
So you’re in charge of Webcollage. What does that mean?
Jeff: I manage the relationship between content26 and Webcollage. Whenever we need to set up workspaces for new clients, or we have questions about their platform or services, or anything regarding communication between the two companies, I am the one who handles it.
Can you give me an example?
Jeff: Whenever a company decides to set up a contract with Webcollage, content26 needs to gain access to their workspace so we can create their content for them. Once they’ve got their account set up, I email my contact at Webcollage and ask for access to their workspace for content26’s designers. We handle all the content creation and go through the revision processes with the brand until the product is ready to be published. We hit the publish button, and Webcollage and the client handle which retail channels the content shows up on.
What does “workspace” refer to?
Content Publisher is Webcollage’s platform for creating content online and disseminating it to retailers. Companies with a subscription to their services have access to a dashboard where they can create, edit, publish, and unpublish content for all their products, which they call a “workspace.”
We handle all the content creation and go through the revision processes with the brand until the product is ready to be published.
Are you involved in content creation? Are there certain requirements for text syndicated through Webcollage that you manage?
Jeff: Since we became partners with Webcollage, I have most likely created the majority of the content.
The only site that is really specific about text requirements is Costco. They require text that goes to their site to have a 12th grade reading level and follow a very specific flow. This has proven challenging for some of our clients who have had one version of text approved by their legal team and don’t want to wait months for a new version to be cleared.
As far as design goes, there are some requirements as well, but for the most part that is automated in Content Publisher’s systems. Depending on where our clients are planning on sending their content, we have to know which sites allow which kinds of content. For example, Walmart doesn’t allow image galleries, as they think they have perfectly good imagery on their site. So if a “content package” is sent out to a number of retailers, we generally try to let our clients know ahead of time if something won’t be published on a certain retailer.
So Content Publisher itself doesn’t create much in the way of limitations for content?
Jeff: In terms of written content, none at all. And now that Amazon has switched to Vendor Central templates, Content Publisher offers infinitely more malleable design options.
How do Content Publisher and Amazon’s VC self-service templates, as tools used to publish product-detail content, compare?
Jeff: Vendor Central is very rigid in its design possibilities. Once you choose a template there is no breaking from it. You must use a set number of images and paragraphs.
Content Publisher lets you use as many images as you want, lets you arrange them in a variety of ways, and has no minimum or maximum amount of text you need to add. It also offers dynamic, linking matrices, which only display products that are actually available for sale on the site they appear on.
So Content Publisher is not really a template so much as a tool.
Jeff: Yes. It is a template approach, but they have improved it over the last few years to make it able to handle different designs.
For instance, they eventually included the ability to add long, narrow images as banners above paragraphs that display at the maximum pixel width the retailer will allow. With that addition, there really isn’t much you could want to add to their template that you’re unable to.
If a brand wanted to publish different versions of content on different sites through Webcollage, is that possible? Or is the value really that one content package can be pushed out to large numbers of retailers at once?
Jeff: One of the main selling points is that you have control over all the content on many, many retailers in one place. If you want to change your copy or product images, you only need to do so once in your workspace and the updates are sent simultaneously to all your channels. Webcollage is working on creating separate feeds for different channels, but for the most part Content Publisher sends one content package to whatever list of retailers a vendor has in their syndication network.
Some clients, like SanDisk, have different packaging with unique UPCs for the same product across different retailers. Since content packages are sent out to retailers using unique UPCs, they can send unique content to different retailers for the same product.
There really isn’t much you could want to add to the Content Publisher template that you’re unable to.
SEO concerns about duplicate content don’t apply?
Do you get the sense that Webcollage has changed Content Publisher over the years in response to what brands want to be able to publish, in response to what retailers want on their sites, for other reasons?
Jeff: I think they have definitely been mindful of improving their platform to give clients more of what they want. Since I primarily work on the front end of the tool, it’s hard to know how much the improvements to Content Publisher have been to improve functionality with the retailers, as those updates happen on the back end. But since we’ve partnered with them, they have made it easier to design good-looking pages. They’ve also made it so ubiquitous content can be linked to a number of UPCs, which makes things easier for companies with a lot of similar products.
And they talk often of their “road map” for future improvements. The ability to send unique content to specific retailers seems to be at the top of their list.
Jeff enjoys graphic novels, tacos, and scotch. He likes playing outside, especially with dogs. Content26 originally hired him as a writer but decided to teach him how to make the Internet instead. Now he is unstoppable.
Do you want to work with content26 and Webcollage to syndicate your enhanced content to online retailers? Contact Dave Zimmerman.
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