You can acquire both text and graphical content from outside sources for your site through syndicated companies that share their content. Obviously this content will likely have a broad appeal and if your company fills a niche market, you may not find content that is appropriate.

Acquire Text Content from Outside Sources
If you want to attract a large audience, which can be important if you are selling to consumers, you need to keep your site interesting so that customers keep returning. Keeping your content fresh can require a significant investment in content creation. Acquiring content from outside can keep your site interesting at a lower cost to you. You need to take into account the type of content your Web site already offers, and the type you'll need in order to distinguish your site from your competitors'. News stories are relatively easy to add to your site and are a popular feature on many sites. Any other textual content you acquire may not match your style or be consistent with your site's message. You should always review prospective content for accuracy and timeliness, particularly in such a rapidly changing marketplace.

Copyright issues, such as fair use and how much citation/revision is allowed before permission to use, must be obtained. This is a real concern. If you are revising content you've obtained permission to use, you should make it clear in the agreement what level of revision both you and the content preparer deem permissible. If you're quoting portions of previously published work without obtaining prior consent, you should be aware that "fair use" provisions that generally allow brief citations of copyrighted material for explanatory or illustrative purposes can be highly subjective. See Using Copyrighted Works of Others and Stanford University's Copyright & Fair Use: Copyright FAQ.

Potential sources of content and the types of content available. Content syndication services such as iSyndicate, MediaPeak, and ScreamingMedia may have articles and graphics appropriate for your site. Some of this content is free of charge. Review content syndication sites for topics that may be relevant to your needs. If you see a possible match, initiate contact.

Possible linking and framing legal issues. While linking to another site's content is generally permissible, it may be risky to frame such content on your site in a way that might make a site visitor think the outside content is actually part of your site. For a detailed discussion of this issue, see Legal Issues on the Internet: Hyperlinking and Framing.

The costs of acquiring content from outside sources. Check with several providers to find out what the costs are. iSyndicate, for example, has a one-time, $249 setup charge and a $500-a-month subscription.

Acquire Graphical Content from Outside Sources
Speed is the primary advantage of acquiring graphics content from outside sources. Rather than hiring a photographer or an illustrator then waiting while he or she prepares images for publication, you can instantly obtain millions of clippings and photos, usually for modest charges. Yet you need to approach these resources with care, because some of these images look like "boilerplate." Your competitors may use the same resources, so check first to ensure they aren't using the same illustration or photo you're considering putting on your site.

Copyright issues, such as fair use and how much revision is allowed before permission to use, must be obtained. Before you acquire permission to use outside graphics, educate yourself on fair use (if you're using a photo on your Web site without permission, you may be guilty of copyright infringement) and how much revision is allowed (whether you can edit a photo with a photo editing program). It's best to find out about these issues before you add graphics to your site. For a thorough discussion of this issue, see The 411 on Copyright for Net Photos, an article on the Georgia State University Web site.

Potential sources of content and the types of content available. Clip art and stock photography sources are quick and easy ways to get visual content up on your site. Corbis, for example, has more than 25 million images for which you can acquire rights online, as do Getty Images and MediaFocus. ScreamDesign has various free images you can add to your site.

File formats. An image you're exporting may be in a different file format than yours. Learn what graphics format you're using, and make sure the image you're importing can be converted to it. Fortunately, most picture editing utilities can handle conversions.

Balancing graphics and speedy download times for your Web site visitors. Lots of rich graphics on a page can look pretty, but does the world really need to see 15 product illustrations on one page? Most people still access the Internet at relatively slow speeds, and downloading complex images can take a long time. This isn't a productive enterprise for busy people. They may be tempted to leave your site rather than wait for the images to download. If you must include lots of graphics, compress them to a file format with lower resolution, such as GIF or offer thumbnails of the images, which load more quickly and can be explored further with a click.

The cost of acquiring images from outside sources. As you might expect, these costs can vary widely. Check with several providers to compare. Some clip art is free, but some costs you only a modest licensing fee. A fee of $50 to $75 per photo is not uncommon.

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