How Syndication Works


"What a cool Web site. But I've been wondering: How do you make money?" We get that question a lot at HowStuffWorks.

Because you find HowStuffWorks on the Internet, most people assume we must make money purely through advertising on our site. However, you really should look at the products we provide (articles and video), not the medium through which you found the product (the Internet). HowStuffWorks is a media company, and like many other media companies we offer a variety of products, including:

  • Featured Articles
  • Short Articles
  • Images (Photos, Drawn, Rendered)
  • Animations
  • Video

We like to think that we distinguish ourselves by providing coverage of relevant topics in a refreshing, entertaining, yet educational way. But like other media companies, we make money by licensing the use of our articles, graphics and videos to other companies for their use. This is called syndication.

"So how does syndication work?," you ask. In this edition of HowStuffWorks, we will explore what syndication is, the different places HowStuffWorks products can be syndicated into, and who you can contact to find out more.

Syndication, Generally

Companies that make a business of providing content generally count on two things:

  • People crave information.
  • People like to be entertained.

When media companies create content, whether the content takes the form of articles, books, videos, TV shows, motion pictures, graphics or sound, they hope that it will appeal to one or both of these needs that people have. The goal of the media company is to sell this content to someone. If the content has appeal, either people will buy the content for their own pleasure (subscriptions, tickets or direct purchase) or other companies may buy the right to present the content to their own audiences (licensing), hoping that the licensed content will help them to appeal to those people.

Stock Media:

Some media companies only sell what they have already created. An example is companies that sell stock photography. For a price, XYZ company may use their photographs, so long as XYZ company does not use those photographs to compete with the company selling the stock photographs. Typically, a company, let's call it Photo Flash Company, will not license another company, in this case XYZ company, the right to resell Photo Flash's own inventory in direct competition with Photo Flash. An exception exists for reseller agreements, in which case Photo Flash extends its sales force by allowing XYZ to sell on its behalf, and shares revenue with XYZ on sales facilitated by XYZ.

Another example is a fashion magazine. Readers either buy a subscription to receive every issue for a period of time or they purchase only those issues they like from a retail store that sells those magazines. In this case, readers can either purchase direct or the magazine has sold some copies to a middleman, the retailer, who then sells to readers of that magazine. The media company that produces the magazine has also made money by selling advertising within the magazine. Those advertisers are betting that readers of this particular magazine will like their product and if the advertisers can just tell the readers about it, they will buy the advertisers' products.

Custom Media:

Other media companies only work on projects that have been ordered by a customer. An example of this is a marketing and public relations company. A client hires them to write marketing materials about how cool their company and its products are. Another example is a big studio motion picture. Whereas an independent film may get made without anyone's input except the guy supplying the shoestring budget, who may be the scriptwriter, actor, producer and director, a big studio motion picture only gets made, generally, once a number of decision makers have signed off on the picture. Factors considered include: budget, caliber of actors and director interested in the project, timing of release, similarity to other recently successful pictures, politics of the studio, and so on.

Hybrids:

Many companies produce both stock media and custom media. HowStuffWorks is one of those companies. While a company, organization or individual can purchase the right to use our articles, graphics, and even our content delivery management software, they can also hire us to develop custom article, graphics, videos, or training materials, and even websites.

Who uses HowStuffWorks' content?

  • Product Manufacturers - Imagine that you have a website and you want to sell a product through that website. You want to build a trust between your company, its product and potential customers. To that end, you want to inform potential customers about cool stuff, functionality and news that is consistent with your product and its message. You search the web for cool, educational and entertaining information. You find a website called HowStuffWorks.com - it has everything you are looking for! If only you could get that content . . . the articles are great, and you love the supplementary video clips.
  • Publications - Now imagine you have a magazine, newspaper or textbook whose lifeblood is the provision of articles or chapters that will continually incite reader interest (and subscriptions or purchases), inform, educate and entertain. Looking at HowStuffWorks' website, you see lots of great material for your publication - maybe even a syndicated column. And you wonder if HowStuffWorks licenses their content . . .
  • TV Stations - You are a news station and you are looking for great newsworthy content that you can insert in your broadcasts and then place on your website. You search the Web and discover HowStuffWorks TV. The 90-second vignettes are the perfect supplement to your local broadcast. You can even envision selling advertising around them for profit. You wonder if HowStuffWorks is in the business of licensing those clips for air use . . .
  • Education and Training Providers - You are a technical company with a product that is only understood by its founders. The press has made a fuss over you and you've had some successes, but the sad fact is that your own sales and customer service people are unsure about why your product is necessary or even helpful in the marketplace. You need to give these people a primer on how your product works, functionally, economically and even socially. You decide to take a break in the day and go to your favorite site, HowStuffWorks. You read the latest article, which deconstructs water blasters. You think to yourself that if you could just get HowStuffWorks to write about your product the way they do about water blasters, the rest of the world would understand the relative beauty and simplicity of your product, its place in the market, and why consumers, corporations or institutions need the product. You wonder if you could get HowStuffWorks to write that article.

Through syndication, HowStuffWorks licenses the use of its articles, videos and graphics. Below are some examples of what our content and graphics have been licensed for:

  • Use on news broadcasts
  • Offline group presentations
  • Marketing and sales materials
  • Training material
  • Company intranets
  • Resource Libraries for Internet sites (we provide HTML files or an entire turnkey website) For example, our How Biz Works' Website Turn-Key Website Solution provides you with: Fresh and timely rotating content Layout and implementation Hosting, if desired Maintenance Reporting Excellent and responsive account management
  • Chapter excerpts and illustrations in textbooks
  • Syndicated columns in print and online magazines and newspapers

You can choose from our large array of individual articles or graphics that educate, inform and entertain your audience. HowStuffWorks will even create articles, videos and graphics just for you!

Custom articles and videos are written and produced by HowStuffWorks with the normal voice of the site - they are information pieces designed to help visitors to learn about your product in a non-biased, "non-sales" way. Custom media has all of the normal features of any other HowStuffWorks media.

The two keys to a great custom article or video are a:

  • Cool or high-interest topic that fits the audience
  • Desire to transmit information rather than a sales pitch.

Taking advantage of the option to put your custom articles on the high-traffic HowStuffWorks site can expose your product or brand to a massive audience, increasing the probability of a sale.

If you would like to introduce your product or brand to a large audience of interested, educated and curious business people, then a custom article or video is an excellent option. Contact us to find out more about our technical writing and consulting services programs.

Why Should You Syndicate?

Your company could use existing internal resources or even add personnel to create content. However, that can quickly turn into a major investment in infrastructure. Syndication provides a proven model for rapid and affordable delivery of content. Depending on your needs, syndicated content provides:

  • Entertainment: You provide your audience with "sticky," attention-getting articles. An example of one of most entertaining, often-syndicated summer articles is How Water Blasters Work.
  • Information: You give your audience with a clearer understanding of your message and product. A great example is How LAN Switches Work created by HowStuffWorks for Cisco Systems.
  • Sales Driver: Your customers are more likely to make a purchase if they understand the value of what they are getting, and they understand the value better if they grasp how it works; on the same note, your sales force is more likely to be effective if you give them a primer on how your product works. Another great example of a product introduction written to give the sales and target customer audience a better understanding of the product is How Caterpillar Skid Steer Loaders Worki, written for Caterpillar.
  • Customer Loyalty: When you take the time to give your customers and employees a primer on your value points, you earn their loyalty as well as their business. The primer approach used in How the Sega Dreamcast Works was a good example of building customer loyalty through tutorials, as demonstrated by the traffic to this article.
  • Branding: Every time you enhance your communications with your customers, you not only build loyalty, but also a brand recognized for quality, stability, and education of the public. Even trade shows need branding, as shown in HowStuffWorks Reports From the Detroit Auto Show.
  • Product Introduction: If you would like to introduce your product or brand to a large audience of interested, educated and curious business people, then a custom article or video is an excellent option. An example of an introduction to a new and somewhat esoteric product is How Elumens Vision Station Works, written for Elumens.

Contact Information

To find out more about our syndication programs, including pricing and/or revenue sharing details, please contact Beth Richards: