Aggregation: The Portability of Content on the Web

by Dan Blank on February 23, 2008

Aggregation. In some ways, a threat to any media brand; In other ways, a huge opportunitiy. Let’s take a look at what it is, why it is, who it is. Don’t expect any of this to make sense.

For our purposes, this is a simple definition of aggregation on the web:

  •  A system that collects content from all over the web, and brings it together to create something unique, often a new brand within itself.

The awesome parts of aggregation

  • A way to expose and distribute content throughout the web.
  • It gives readers freedom use your brand in ways that better suits them.

The scary parts of aggregation:

  • Parts of your content is syndicated, without your knowledge or permission. (this is often the headline, abstract and thumbnail of a photo you may have used.)
  • Readers may view your content away from your website, without seeing any other messages or advertising that you intended to expose them to.
  • Brand loyalty can be more difficult to capture, as readers may grow accustomed to finding you through aggregators, where you are mixed in with other content sources.

A couple examples of aggregation:

Techmeme
For most folks in the tech industry, this is your homepage. It is my homepage. It aggregates articles and blog entries based on how popular they are in the online conversation. So, if a lot of people are linking to a certain story, it moves to the top of Techmeme. It is one of the most brilliant sites I have ever seen… you should really check it out. Here is an example of Techmeme aggregating and ranking the Feb 1 news of Microsoft’s bid to acquire Yahoo! Dozens and dozens of links just for this story, all in one place, and organized realy well. This website is automated via an algorithm – no human editor needed.

Pageflakes
This is a page on B2B media put together by a colleague of mine at Reed Business Information – Charlie Tanner out in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. It is kind of startling to see aggregation at work within B2B… check it out, to see how easy it is to bypass the homepage of so many brands and blogs, including my own.

Hype Machine

I have written about Hype Machine before, and I will write about Hype Machine again. Hype Machine aggregates MP3 blogs, and has become a primary way to discover new music.

RSS

Most people don’t use RSS feeds, don’t fully know what it is, and quite frankly, don’t care. I admire those people, because RSS feeds have taken over my life at one point or another. Ignorance is indeed bliss. But if you must know… RSS is a way for you to aggregate “feeds” from almost any news source on the web. In one simple page, you can easily scan through thousands of articles or websites, never once leaving your RSS reader, or being exposed to their websites.

So what does all this mean for a publishing and media company? It means there is an opportunity to explore how aggregation can fit into editorial strategies. It means that you must rethink how you market the content of your brands. It means you need to study how others are using your content, to see if there is a need you are not serving. It means that you must be aggressively innovating in monetization strategies on your web properties. It means that the paradigm of media consumption has changed. And it means that you are likely seeing tons of new sites pop up within your industry… a thriving echosystem of content and conversation.

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