Last week, Voxant and The Associated Press announced a deal that will allow Voxant to make AP's licensed content available to other web publishers and bloggers free of charge. The AP is just one of Voxant's partners, though. Reuters, Newscom, HowStuffWorks, Vibe, the CBC, and several others have also signed on as content providers.
What does this mean for bloggers? First, it gives them free and legal access to video, audio, text and photo content that they can use to enhance their own blogs. Second, it offers them a new source of revenue.
How does it all work? It's actually very simple, and it all starts at TheNewsRoom, "the hub of Voxant's Viral Syndication Network". TheNewsRoom is a searchable catalog containing all of the news, entertainment, sports, science, and political stories that have been made available by Voxant's partners. Once you find the story you are looking for, it's a matter of clicking the "mash" button and copying some code into the post you're writing.
Revenue is generated through pre-roll video and banner ads that accompany each "mashed" story. According to Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee, who spoke with Voxant's CEO, Jeffrey Crigler, the revenue is split between Voxant (40%), the content provider (40%), and the web publisher (20%).
Anyone can mash stories or feeds from TheNewsRoom and embed them on their sites, but to be eligible for a cut of the revenue that's generated by those stories, you have to register as a web publisher. It's a very simple process that took me less than two minutes and required just the basic information like name, email address,home address and my site's URI.
I have test-driven TheNewsRoom by embedding a couple of video clips onto my own blog. So far, everything has performed as promised. The Flash-based video player is reasonably plain, especially if you select the compact version, so it does not clash with the look and feel of the site it's embedded on. At least one of the pre-roll ads was interesting enough that I'd probably have embedded it on its own if I'd come across it on YouTube, but the jury is still out on whether pre-roll ads are the way to monetize online video.
I also tested out a couple of text stories, and my sense is that they would work best on a site that was designed to match their layout. They are embedded in their entirety, headline included, and do not necessarily fit with the standard two-column right sidebar layout of most blogs.
What's my bottom line on Voxant and TheNewsRoom? I believe that this is an enormous step toward the future of mainstream news, and Voxant's partner companies should be applauded for taking it. The tumultuous blending of old and new media that is playing itself out in the headlines these days will not end soon, but TheNewsRoom has me feeling more optimistic than I've been in a long time.