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The Amateur Webmaster: Content Rotation for Websites

Content Rotation for Websites

by Vikas Kamat
First Online: October 13, 2001
Page Last Updated: October 31, 2016

Website Design Dilemmas
Balancing Mystery and Usability | Navigational Toolbars | Content Rotation

What is Content Rotation ?

Content Rotation is the technique by which content publishers (TV studios, magazine publishers, websites etc.,) recycle previously published contents, to reach audiences missed during an earlier broadcast. It is an effective way for content producers to get ROI (Return of Investment) on popular content that they own. In the television world it is called the re-runs, in Cosmopolitan External Link it is called How to have Great Sex, and on MSN, Seven Stocks to Watch.

The idea is same -- great content is extremely hard to produce, so sell popular old content over and over again.  

Website Content Rotation

The Internet advertising industry is the champion of content rotation, although it is the advertising banners that they rotate. The decision to show which and how many banners is decided based on sophisticated user and surfing profiles. The Web publishers can learn a lot from their experiences.

A simplistic content rotation just involves picking a random story or picture and displaying it. Picture intensive sites like Corbis External Linkdo this; every time you refresh the page, you see a new picture. An arbitrarily generated number determines which picture to display. Our Kaleidoscope is implemented this way. It is an inexpensive way to amuse visitors for a long time.

But all content is not equal. Some photographs are prettier than others, and some episodes more popular. A good CMS (Content Management System) must adaptively rotate superior content more frequent than inferior or unpopular content. A sophisticated, personalized content server would actually learn users' habits to suggest most relevant content.

Content Rotation Tips

  • A publication based on news has a much smaller place for content rotation (imagine seeing last week's news on news.yahoo.com External Link or last year's weather on weather.com External Link), than a website like ours where the content has much longer life-span.
  • There is danger in rotating just popular content; the users might feel stale. The trick is to blend popular content (most read pages) with quality content (editors' favorites)  that for some reason did not receive the exposure it deserved.
  • The designer should find an order in the chaotic world of random numbers (randomization is the essence of content rotation). For example, on Kamat's Potpourri I have segregated the rotations by the type of media (pictures, blogs, articles), by dates and periods (latest, other), or subject categories (theme or genre).
  • The content can be old, but the packaging better be new. During the rotation, efforts must be made to even appeal to the audience who may have seen the story. Typical tricks of the trade are new teasers, and new look and feel. If you are already using a CMS effectively, you know that the latest rendering of the story is always the best rendering because of the rich annotations the CMS has learnt since the story first came out. For instance, when we first published the List of Festivals in India, it had links to only a couple of festivals. As we've added more and more festivals and pictures, the list has become more and more relevant and useful. The best part, no manual work is required to make that happen, the CMS would take care of the updates.

Website Design Dilemmas
Balancing Mystery and Usability | Navigational Toolbars | Content Rotation

 
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