The Storyline Syndicator

One of the elements I am keen on from the Social Media Newsroom template is the concept of a Storyline Syndicator.

In a nutshell, here’s the idea: Companies could create password-protected RSS feeds linked to "microblogs" that push story ideas to interested, credentialed journalists (and top bloggers). The story ideas would be trend-oriented, fairly general; they might include some interesting factoids & statistics. These storylines would chug right into the journalists’ RSS readers, eliminating some of the ill-fated PR "spam" that channels between the marketing/journalism communities.

It becomes "pull" (opt-in) vs. "push" (the current model).

The storyline ideas (they’re pitches, really) could not be too specific, because then the journalists hooked into the RSS feed might wind up peeved that they didn’t have first-crack at some of the good stories. Rather, the pitches in the Storyline Syndicator feed are intended as a jumping-off point to further exploration of a topic — ideally with the clients’ PR and/or executive contacts.

Having said that, even a "general" pitch about industry trends could tip-off a competitor about how a company is viewing the market landscape, and could even allow them to extrapolate ideas about a company’s future product plans. Thus, even though it flies in the face of the "everybody’s equally important" tenets of social media, I think that any media contact who wants to access the RSS feed would need pre-approval from the Storyline Syndicator’s sponsoring PR reps.

Example of how this might work:

  • An anti-virus company tracks the rising tide of malware.
  • It offers a special RSS feed to the IT Security industry’s top 20 journalists, in case they want to keep tabs on the findings of the a-v team’s ongoing efforts. Factoids about spam, viruses, trojan horses, etc. spew forth every few days, posted to the password-protected blog.
  • Interspersed with these raw stats, the a-v company’s PR reps post blog entries about "what these stats might mean to corporate america, consumers, etc."
  • As these entries march into the journalists’ RSS readers, they are struck with inspiration about new stories to write, or, more likely, find ways that these statisitcs might beef-up a story they’re already writing.
  • More often than not, the a-v company gets a hat-tip when their stats are cited.
  • Sometimes, the a-v company’s execs might get a call from these journalists, looking for more context and content re: the stats or story ideas — resulting in feature coverage.

Whaddaya think? I’d love to hear some pushback on this: what are the faults of such a concept? Am I missing something? Is anyone doing this already? (If so, how very, very "2.0" of you!)

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Posted on: February 8, 2007 at 3:10 pm By Todd Defren
4 Responses to “The Storyline Syndicator”


  • Dee Rambeau says:

    I’d agree with John in that I’m still getting questions about RSS in general. That will change. The way we handle it with our several hundred MediaRoom clients currently is that they:
    1. Build a section of content related to that specific topic using the MediaRoom CMS.
    2. Password-protect that page or section.
    3. Offer a feed or even a simple “form” subscription that allows journos to sign up.
    4. Change and/or manage that content regularly.

    Whether it’s a “micro-blog” or a page within their existing CMS, the concept is the same…and the issues are the same. Do they see themselves as content creators offering up second-day story ideas behind breaking stories, or “storylines” as you call them? The good ones do.

  • John Wagner says:


    I’ve had discussions with a number of different organizations about something very similar for top customers.

    The obstacles that derail the idea are always the same:

    1) It’s a struggle explaining RSS, and even when they do understand it, people don’t distinguish a difference between the feed and an e-mail blast.
    2) Most companies don’t see themselves as content creators, especially in some industries.

    Having said that, I firmly believe that somebody, somewhere, will take this idea and really make hay with it.

  • Todd Defren says:

    Very interesting perspective, Tim, thanks for sharing your specific experiences.

    Your point is well taken – once anything is posted, whether “protected” or not, it does find a way into the public ether. Again, that’s why the company who used a Storyline Syndicator would need to post fairly generic concepts, especially at first, as the system got vetted.

  • Tim Verras says:

    I think the idea has some legs but I do see one flaw. I think we are perhaps being a little bit idealistic in assuming that a password protected blog given to x-number of journalists will stay secure. We’ve been trying to push blogs on some of our clients and they usually have concerns about ‘show their hand’ or saying something they’ll regret only to have it forever cached in the annals of Google. If a company has secrets worth protecting in a locked-down blog, I doubt they’d give them to any journalist. The web has pretty much destroyed story embargos and ‘privileged’ information. Look at the Chicago Auto Show, for example, where most of the vehicles that were ‘unveiled’ had been floating around the net for days because Car and Driver or MotorTrend or someone obscure Russian car mag printed photo’s too early or didn’t lock their website down (though this could arguably be a clever marketing tactic on the auto maker’s part, though after working for one of their ad agencies I am wont to credit them with something so slick). That being said, this would probably work for a smaller, niche industry with not a lot of coverage (or audience) but I don’t see it being useful on a wide level. But we’re all experimenting here, right? So lets give it a shot.

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