“Traditional” media is struggling. Weekly news magazines are declining, newspapers are shriveling, and industry trade magazines are downsizing. Meanwhile, the blogosphere continues to expand and pundits like Joe Pulizzi have declared that we are all publishers now. What do these trends mean for the future of news gathering and information delivery?
David Koretz offered one vision recently on MediaPost, writing:
The news organizations of tomorrow will no longer be loud-mouthed pundits espousing a barely informed worldview. Nor will they still be large monoliths attempting to maintain news bureaus worldwide. There is simply no cost-effective way for them to be on scene in every city, town, or village where the next big news story may break. Instead, successful media will become aggregators and editors of content, rather than creators. The smart money will build a technology to gather, sort, and filter stories from every corner of the world, and couple it with smart and thoughtful humans to do the editing.
Online content aggregation is as old as the Internet itself, beginning with AOL. Examples range from Google News and Yahoo! to topic-focused niche sites such as (using social media as an example) Social Media Today and Social Media Informer. Technology to “scrape” websites and republish content (legally or not) has also been around for some time, but until recently, doing content aggregation well required either a massive investment in infrastructure (like Moreover) or a unworkable level of manual effort.
New tools, however, are bringing sophisticated content aggregation and curation within reach of midsized enterprises. These technologies include Browse My Stuff (which powers both the B2B Marketing Zone and Social Media Informer) and Paper.li, which enables users to create custom online “newspapers” based on a Twitterer and his/her followers, a hashtag subject or a Twitter list. For example, it took me just minutes to create my own newspaper organizing tweets and links from the smart group of local Minneapolis Twitters I follow. The site also makes it easy to promote your newspaper through Twitter and Facebook. Set up properly, this could be an easy yet powerful way for an organization to create and distribute a social newsletter on the fly.
Paper.li is free but doesn’t offer any filtering options for results. Browse My Stuff is fee-based for sponsors, free for bloggers and offers more professional publishing power.
While the use of such technologies is limited only by the imagination, there are three types of entities that could clearly benefit from content aggregation tools: large brands/companies, online publishers and PR firms.
Enterprises: organizations large, midsized or small can aggregate blog posts about their company or industry in one spot as a service to their customers, prospects and other interested stakeholders. For example, the iPhone got huge social media exposure when first released. Apple could create an aggregation site to pull in blog posts and reviews about the product. It’s a win-win-win: the company gets increased exposure; potential buyers get a one-stop site where they can read all independent views of the product; and the bloggers writing about it get traffic. A smaller vendor with fewer social media mentions could nonetheless position themselves as a thought leader in their field by aggregating industry-related posts. It’s particularly important for smaller companies to recognize that they don’t need to produce all of their own material; content written by others can be very helpful to their prospects’ decision making. Direct Message Lab has increased its exposure by sponsoring Social Media Informer.
Publishers: traditional news organizations are losing clout and their audiences to citizen journalists and bloggers with deep expertise, and industry trade magazines face declining influence due to the explosion in content marketing. The cost of maintaining large news and content producing/gathering staffs is becoming more difficult to justify and monetize. Content aggregation offers publishers a way to maintain their position as destination sites, serve readers a larger selection of news at a lower cost, and incentivize bloggers to contribute.
PR firms: as the influence of bloggers increases at the expense of traditional news outlets, PR firms are increasingly pitching bloggers with their “story ideas” about clients, in some cases cleverly, in others more ham-handed. Even many writers of relatively small blogs are now overwhelmed with such pitches. Content aggregation offers PR firms a way to build relationships with bloggers, increase exposure for their clients through more social media coverage, increase billings by providing clients with a differentiated offering, and serve the market by collecting relevant, independent third-party content on one site.
News and content “consumers” no longer want to rely on one or just a few sources for information; they want to hear a variety of voices. Yet they are time-strapped and still value convenience. Bloggers and content marketers want traffic. Publishers want eyeballs. Content aggregation and curation will become increasingly popular as a way to give everyone what they want.
For more on this topic, check out Automated Filtering vs Human-Powered Curation from Tony Karrer.