In general, syndication is the supply of material for reuse and integration with other material, often through a paid service subscription. The most common example of syndication is in newspapers, where such content as wire-service news, comics, columns, horoscopes, and crossword puzzles are usually syndicated content. Newspapers receive the content from the content providers, reformat it as required, integrate it with other copy, print it, and publish it. For many years mainly a feature of print media, today content syndication is the way a great deal of information is disseminated across the Web. Reuters, for example, provides online news content to over 900 Web sites and portals, such as Yahoo and America Online.
Online content syndication is a growing industry sector, in terms of both content syndication and hardware and software development. In the early days, online content syndication was a cumbersome manual process: after an agreement had been reached between the supplier and their customers, the customers would simply copy the desired content from the supplier's Web site and paste it into their own. All related activities - such as content updates, for example - were also manual, and dependent upon the user to track and perform necessary tasks. Electronic content syndication can potentially automate every aspect of online content syndication.
Two crucial components for the further development of the industry built on online syndication have been cited as: the need for a standardized data exchange mechanism, and the need for a standardized metadata vocabulary (since suppliers and subscribers are often using different and incompatible technologies). The Information & Content Exchange (ICE) protocol was developed as an open standard for data exchange that enables the automation of all processes involved. An organization made up of content providers and vendors, the Publishing Requirements for Industry Standard Metadata (PRISM) working group is collaborating to develop a standard vocabulary.