Content Types in User Portals

Von yawave
am 17.03.22

Communities thrive on content. What types of content are there, what aspects can they be classified according to, and above all: which content types are most successful in communities? I have identified four types of content, which I would now like to introduce to you.

1.  Accessibility

Content can first be differentiated according to accessibility. For freely accessible, public free content, no one needs to become a member of a portal. Exclusive content, on the other hand, is the main motivator and loyalty driver for user portals. Users become members of communities especially to have a knowledge advantage, be it regarding brands, products, clubs or sports associations.

This content, like the user portal itself, is protected as gated content behind a barrier. This can be a data barrier or a payment barrier. For companies, sports clubs or associations, it is usually sufficient for users to register with their personal data, such as name, e-mail address, company, and the like. In the case of publishers and media publishers, a pay barrier is drawn in for particularly lavishly produced content. This is referred to as paid content.

2.  Authorship

Community content can be created by the users of a user portal themselves as user-generated content (UGC). This is how forums or wikis are created, for example. The incentive of membership then lies not only in access to exclusive content, but also in the exchange with like-minded people, in the possibility of becoming an author oneself, and in thus acquiring benefits, new roles, and responsibilities.

Paid content is created as editorial content by journalists, copywriters and content managers who are employed by the operating organization. The quality of this content is generally higher than UGC because it is produced by professionals who draw on years of experience in content creation and adhere to journalistic and grammatical standards. Content editorial teams can only be afforded by media houses where the content itself is the product, and organizations that give professional content a high priority in their corporate image because they have recognized it as a revenue, community and conversion driver.

User portals are attractive to third-party organizations for several reasons. In the case of media subscribers, this can be purchasing power as well as sheer quantity of addressees. In the case of sports clubs, users are interesting because they represent a particularly pointed, loyal and committed target group. In the case of associations, on the other hand, members are often distinguished by their decision-making powers, and in the case of specialist forums by their expertise, multiplier effect and great interest in community content. When third-party organizations place content in return for payment to the operators, this is referred to as sponsored content. Such contributions are comparable to “advertorials,” paid articles in print magazines that are not immediately recognizable as advertising. As a result, they have greater credibility and impact with target groups. 

When external content is collected, prepared and published by third parties, this is known as curated content. This should not simply involve sharing the link to a social media post or landing page. Rather, there are different forms of content curation. In content distillation, the most important data from various sources is aggregated and published centrally in the user portal. Content aggregation is similar, but rather than reducing content, it collects it and publishes it in whole or in large chunks. Content mashup recombines collected content, for example, as side-by-side contradictory statements. The continuous collection of content on a particular topic is called content elevation. If the collected content is presented in chronological order, it is called content chronology.

3. Format

Content can have many different formats. These depend on the technical capabilities of the portal and what kind of content users expect to find there. If it is a technical forum or a wiki group, the content format will be predominantly simple text, enriched with images.

In user portals that offer more technical possibilities, multimedia content is common, including video and audio files, streams and live tickers. Such portals thrive on attracting content such as social media posts from other channels, but also publish such content themselves. This makes the user experience more varied and compelling, enticing them to visit the portal more often to access the latest multimedia content. 

Rich media content is a special content format. The term originates from the field of online advertising and refers to multimedia content that allows interaction and aims to increase the user’s attention. It is used in user portals for sponsored content. For example, it can be clickable banners or videos that allow users to follow a company on social media. Or they are linked to a calendar, which marks an appointment in the user’s smartphone calendar. In e-commerce, these can be product displays in 360-degree view (“product spinners”), virtual dressing or videos with options for choosing how the action continues. Here, user interactions are often enhanced by gamification elements and the user experience in portals is made more immersive. If this is successful, sponsored content is perceived by users as enriching. 

4. Language

Multilingualism is relevant for all forms of content, especially if a user portal is internationally positioned, i.e. target groups, but also operator organization and subsidiaries are distributed across different countries and languages. Especially – but not exclusively – a monolingually operated user portal can curate content in other languages by translating it completely or in parts or by adding a commentary in another language.

As important as it is to speak the language of the target group, multi-language content is very costly. For one thing, the number of staff required increases rapidly with each new language that is added. On the other hand, the technical requirements must be met in the user portal platform. How are language variants linked with each other? Is content simply translated or does each subportal create and curate its own content? Can automated translation workflows be incorporated, will they be post-edited by motworkers or users who are elevated to moderators? These are just a few of the questions that multilingual user portals bring with them. In general, the more complex the content format, the more difficult its translation and localization.

Which content is most successful?

Finally, I would like to take a quick look at all the content types presented to see which ones promise the greatest success for portal operators.

  • Accessibility: Free content does not help people sign up for a user portal. Therefore, the choice should be gated content. Whether this is exchanged for data gold or hard currency depends on the business model of the community and the industry of the operating organization.  
  • Authorship: Regardless of the industry, it makes sense to build the foundation of a new user portal on editorial content. While this means an investment in time and personnel costs by the operating organization, it allows them to directly influence the direction, tone, and goals of their community. In the next step, it makes sense to add UGC. This actively engages users, reduces content creation costs, and aligns the brand presence with the target audience. In parallel, curated content on relevant topics can be republished. Once the community is large and active enough to be of interest to advertisers, sponsored content can be added. However, this should be used sparingly and not be excessive, so as not to annoy users and alienate them from one’s own brand.
  • Format: The format depends on the content. The more varied and informative the content offered, the better your users will be entertained and the more often they will visit your portal. Multimedia content already offers a high entertainment value, but rich media content is even more immersive and enables real interaction.  
  • Language: This point is easy to answer. Content should be in the language of the target audience. Whether this is always feasible is a resource consideration.


User portals live not only from content, but also from its diversity. The selection of the appropriate content types and their sequence has a great influence on the success of communities.