DigitalScirocco Inks Deal with US Presswire, Plans Expansion into Tech Content Space

9/7/10

Bruce D’Ambrosio wants to make online content sharing easy. Eager to bridge the gap between content owners, and publishers, the 63-year-old serial entrepreneur and computer science professor at Oregon State University founded DigitalScirocco in 2009, and rolled the startup out of stealth mode in March. Since then D’Ambrosio, who serves as the company’s CEO, says the venture has only been growing. Fast.

The Seattle-based startup jumped into the digital content marketplace, positioning itself as a middleman between website owners, and media organizations. The idea is to make mainstream content published online more readily—and affordably—available for website owners, bloggers, and publishers who would like to repost the content on a secondary site. For example, if a local chef wants to publish a related article or photo from, say, The New York Times food section, on their blog or website, they would have to first contact either the Times, or a third-party media organization like the Associated Press or Getty Images, to negotiate a deal and buy the rights to republish the content.

This can be not only a long and difficult process, but an expensive one as well. That’s where DigitalScirocco comes in, providing an automated marketplace for website owners and content owners to connect. Using an online auction platform, websites can search for and purchase rights to content they want, at cheaper prices, while DigitalScirocco earns a cut of the sale for facilitating the transaction.

After being online for a few months under stealthy cover, DigitalScirocco tipped its hand, making its services publicly available five months ago. At the time “We were then in the ‘I know there is a market somewhere’ mode, and, I have to admit, a bit stuck looking under the streetlight,” D’Ambrosio told Xconomy via e-mail. But after carving out their first three partnerships—with global news organization Thomson Reuters, San Francisco-based technology and business news site VentureBeat, and city-specific entertainment information site BeDynamic, DigitalScirocco found new areas for expansion.

“We’ve now found several markets we can reach at a viable cost of sales and are ramping up sales efforts,” D’Ambrosio says.

And as of today, the growing company has teamed up with Atlanta, GA-based sports newswire service US Presswire, to build a sports photo news service targeted at small-market news organizations, bloggers, and personal websites. Through the service, DigitalScirocco and US Presswire will be able to automate and track delivery of recent and historical photos and edited captions to purchasing websites that have limited or no in-house editing resources. Conversely, these sites will have access to all of US Presswire’s new and archived photos almost immediately, with no first-use wait times that many media organizations employ.

“We are building an end-to-end workflow such that images can appear on our client websites within minutes after photographer submission of the image from the venue,” D’Ambrosio says.

The service was scheduled to go live on September 1, but has seen some last minute delays. It will allow website owners to select photo feeds to match individualized topics based on a variety of categories, including geographical area, sports teams, and college and pro sports athletes. Once the photos and captions are placed on a site, all other photos matching the category will automatically flow from the DigitalScirocco catalog onto the site. Already, ESPN.com columnist Paul Lukas uses the service for his own Uniwatchblog, a website dedicated to what the tagline calls “the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics.”

And to help smaller websites have access to great (and affordable) content , the pricing structure will be based on the website’s traffic, rather than the amount of published content. Website owners will be able to sign up for a variety of packages, with prices calculated based on traffic, the number of photo placements on a page, and the depth and catalog of access. These packages will range from $1 a day to $150 a month. This way, D’Ambosio says, “small sites can place one piece of content (e.g. one image) per page, from a relatively limited set of “canned” streams—for example, by sport, team, player, etc.” For a higher price, the “pro” package  gives customers full access to the catalog, and optional site moderation.

“For example,” D’Ambrosio says, “Pricing for a site with under 10,000 placements a month will be less than $1 a day.”

This is only one of many new ventures the company will be rolling out over the next few weeks. But of all the markets, why did DigitalScirocco decide to go after sports content first? That, D’Ambrosio says, was “largely serendipity.”

“Our first (and still a primary) focus in on finance, with content for finance sites like banks, investment advisers, and B-to-B financial information services sites,” he said. “Sports came along in discussions with various content creators. Like finance, imagery has a history of behind-the-paywall content, and so it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.”

In a couple of weeks’ time the company plans to roll out a new service, this one focused on the technology/startup sector, covering content from current partners Reuters, VentureBeat, and financialContent.com, as well as from Internet television company Revision3, and other “tech-oriented article sources.”

The company will also be expanding its content catalog with “aggressive recruitment of leading-edge blogs,” and developing application programming interfaces (APIs) that will integrate with e-mail, mobile applications, and social-site widgets, according to D’Ambrosio. Beyond that, who knows? D’Ambrosio answered this question about future plans, in an e-mail, with an ellipsis…

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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