Journalists Are Aggregators Too (And That's A Good Thing)

from the yes,-they-are dept

A few weeks ago, when the NYTimes’ Bill Keller bizarrely compared Arianna Huffington to a Somali pirate, we noted that journalism is a form of aggregation as well. After all, you’re taking content from the people who actually make news, and aggregating it into a publication. It appears that others are catching on to this as well. A bunch of folks have passed along this blog post from the Zunguzungu blog, which notes that journalists are aggregating too. I don’t like the use of the word “thieves” here, as I believe (yet again) that it’s a misleading and wrong use of the term, but I believe the usage here is in comparing the claims of some journalists that aggregators are “thieves.”

The real problem, however, is that journalists are, by their nature, thieves of words. You can call it what you like; you can say “Possibly I am old-fashioned,” and talk about how “actual journalists are laboring at actual history, covering the fever of democracy in Arab capitals and the fever of austerity in American capitals” (Keller) or you can brag about the “148 full-time editors, writers, and reporters engaged in the serious, old-fashioned work of traditional journalism” (Huffington), but all this “old fashioned” stuff is just a way of covering over something really basic about what “actual” journalists “traditionally” do, all the time: write down what other people say. They can exercise editorial discretion in how they integrate and harmonize the various quotes they’ve aggregated. They can confirm, they can contextualize, and they can (very rarely) manage to witness something with their own two eyes. They can produce collages out of stolen scraps. And they should do these things. But at the core of the journalistic process is the act, inescapably, of taking other people?s texts, weaving them together, and then placing them under your byline (with appropriate citation) and profiting from the activity.

This kind of thing gets old fashioned journalists quite upset. When I published that last post, I had a long time journalist send me a very, very angry email, quite upset about the idea that I would diminish his profession by comparing it to aggregating. But, as the blog post notes, the definition is pretty arbitrary. The problem here is twofold. First, everyone likes to think that their particular role in something is, perhaps, the most important. In a news story, you have the folks actually involved in the story, the people who write/report on the story, the people who distribute that story, people who comment on it and more. Is one role more important than others? I think it’s difficult to say definitively, but many people in each of these roles want to insist that their role is the most important. “Without us,” they say, “you wouldn’t have x.”

The second issue is that there’s been this denigration of the word “aggregator,” as if aggregating is a bad thing. But, of course, it’s not. Aggregators have always served an important purpose, and that’s true today more than ever. In today’s world, the old school journalism folks always seem to be complaining whenever anyone points out that “the news” is appearing more and more like a “commodity.” It sounds insulting, but that’s missing the point. It’s factual that news can now be copied at a zero marginal cost, making it effectively infinite once created (and yes, creation still has a cost). But the problem that the news guys are facing is that the content is no longer scarce and a lack of scarcity makes it quite difficult to charge prices above marginal cost. That’s just fundamental economics.

But you know what is scarce? Time and attention. People are inundated with abundant information these days, and what they look for are trusted aggregators, curators and filters of that information. They seek those out because it saves them time, and lets them direct their attention more efficiently. In other words, people value the aggregation, because it serves a valuable role when the content is infinitely available, but time is not.

What’s problematic is that these old school journalism types don’t recognize this. They’re in the prime position to be the “aggregators of first resort.” They’re in the prime position to do what they’ve always done, which is act as the useful filter, but instead they talk up the importance of the content itself, rather than the aggregation function, because they have this irrational dislike of the concept of aggregation. It’s really unfortunate, because getting over that hump — as a few publications certainly have — would make it a lot easier to embrace 21st century digital business models.

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Comments on “Journalists Are Aggregators Too (And That's A Good Thing)”

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42 Comments
Anders Chan-Tidemann (profile) says:

Aggregators vs. journalists

It would seem fair that those people that “aggregate” other peoples work should compensate those people that created the work in the first place. However, in this case, the journalists should also understand that perhaps the aggregator is better at getting the material out than he or his platform, whatever it may be, is themselves, and that in the aggregation role lies that of an editor…at least to a degree.

The problem, of course, is that the more middle men that have to be paid, the more cost has to be passed onto the end consumer. And the end consumer may not value the final product enough to compensate all of the people involved, or may simply not have enough money even he/she does. The ease at which things are copied (or stolen, depending on point of view) drives the price toward zero, which drives a lot of good people out of business.

There’s a catch 22 in the above scenario that has not been resolved yet, neither in the music biz nor in media.

athe (profile) says:

Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

It would seem fair that those people that “aggregate” other peoples work should compensate those people that created the work in the first place.

Then doesn’t it also then seem fair that those creating the news should be paid by those reporting on it?

If the aggregators are driving more traffic the way of the newpapers, how can that be bad? I think tha they just need to find a better way of monetising that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

If the aggregators are driving more traffic the way of the newpapers, how can that be bad? I think tha they just need to find a better way of monetising that.

Newspapers are aggregators that pay for original content. They take some of the money they made from advertising and subscriptions to their aggregated content, and paid reporters to generate a substantial portion of that content. For content individual newspapers could not generate, they created collectives like the Associated Press, where each newspaper contributed their reporting and got the benefits of the reporting of all the others. Those that did not contribute reporting contributed money directly.

Internet aggregators are, by and large, different. They take all of the money they get from advertising and subscriptions and keep it for themselves. They do not employ reporters. They do not pay other people to employ reporters.

The newspapers do have a real problem, though. In the heyday of newspapers, it used to be that aggregators could be separated geographically and still coexist. If the Tampa Bay Gazette and the Kansas City Star ran 80% of the same content from the AP, that was OK because it was unlikely people from Tampa Bay would subscribe to the Kansas City Star and vice-versa. With the Internet, content of interest to all does not need to be replicated in Tampa Bay and in Kansas City. Eyeballs that used to be uniformly distributed can now be concentrated.

And who is doing the concentrating? It’s not one of the newspapers, it’s Google and Yahoo, and other aggregators that don’t employ reporters and only minimally contribute to adding news into the news ecosystem.

The aggregators have ads of their own. They get paid for those ads even if the reader only reads the first paragraph of a news story without ever clicking through. Aggregators and blogs and everything else on the Internet have drastically increased the supply of advertising, but have they also increased demand? Direct advertising (e.g., direct mail) was already eating at the heels of newspaper advertising revenue even before the Internet came along, and has shown remarkable growth since. The Internet is decimating print advertising revenues, and the online advertising revenues are being shared among zillions of players. Chief among them, Google, who has snapped up more than 2/3 of all the advertising money on the Internet. How many reporters does Google employ?

The money is going elsewhere.

I think tha they just need to find a better way of monetising that.

That’s a nice thought, but that’s like me telling you that you could be making 4 times what you make now if you “just found a better way of monetizing your labor.” It’s not helpful. It’s actually insulting.

Google has a money-printing machine in the form of AdWords. They use it to fund all sorts of random crap – email services, a news aggregator, an online office suite, and so on. All that stuff increases the value of the AdWords machine. All those things collect eyeballs and funnel them to ads. It’s a virtuous cycle.

According to the popular hypothesis around here, good content also collects eyeballs. In fact, the hypothesis is that good content collects eyeballs really, really well. So, if that’s true, why isn’t Google hiring reporters left and right to write up news that they can post?

Because they know that the hypothesis is false: hiring reporters is a really expensive way to collect eyeballs, far more expensive than doing many, many other things – like running an email service or an on-line office suite. In fact, they can – and do – simply collect the eyeballs of people looking for stories written by reporters that are employed by companies other than Google.

If good reporting is so valuable and so monetizable by people who “get it,” why isn’t Google hiring reporters? Why isn’t Yahoo? Why isn’t Slashdot? Digg? Techdirt?

Because they know someone else will give it away for free right now. Their business models bank on there being enough people willing to do the work and give it away for free. They are hoping to continue to capitalize on the kindness (or dumbness) of strangers. Hope there are enough strangers to go around.

It seems also that those with demand for news are willing to accept a wide variance in quality. People may want objective, well-done reporting, but they really want inflammatory opinions that agree with theirs more – even if the news is less factual or entirely one-sided. Combine that with the fact that doing bad reporting is far cheaper than doing good reporting, and there’s really very little motivation to do good reporting at all, especially if you are interested in making money at it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

Newspapers are aggregators that pay for original content. They take some of the money they made from advertising and subscriptions to their aggregated content, and paid reporters to generate a substantial portion of that content.

Bull. Newspapers rarely pay the original news creators for the content they use. That they almost never pay the original creators but then want everyone else to pay them is the height of hypocrisy.

Gordonofhaddam (profile) says:

Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

Consider Reader’s Digest. Arguably the mother of all aggregators. For about 40 years RD was the world’s most successful publishing enterprise. The recipe there was simple, the cooking took skill. RD paid the originating publishers but also endeavored to have the rights owner split the take with the author. Some publishers actually did. My father, Bill Hard, was one of the cooks, masterful at trimming fat and boiling things down. Nothing New Under the Sun was his motto, and usual response to any breathless announcement of a Next Big Thing. Sic transit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Aggregation is the Wall Street of information. Sure, it doesn’t really make anything new, but it moves (money, information) to where it’s needed, so it’s adding value, and that’s a good thing, right?

Sure, it’s a good thing – to an extent.

But we have seen what happens when it becomes far easier and more lucrative to move value around than to create it in the first place.

Why should a brilliant young mathematician go to work for a company developing new products when he can go to work for a hedge fund instead? Both jobs are stressful, but one is going to pay him six-figure bonuses at the end of the year.

Why should a brilliant young journalist go out and risk her neck in the field trying desperately to squeeze out a few articles when she can sit at home with a copy of Slashcode and just collect news other people write on the Internet and republish it? The money’s about the same, but one doesn’t involve living in faraway, dangerous lands.

But you know what is scarce? Time and attention. People are inundated with abundant information these days, and what they look for are trusted aggregators, curators and filters of that information.

What people are looking for is news that is inflammatory and biased in the favor of their personal opinions. The top 12 news programs on cable are all on Fox. Every single one of them. This will not make for a better-informed society. It will not make for a more tolerant society.

For all of you just itching to hit the reply button and start crying about how I’m an idiot for defending the old system because it was no better, please stop. Note that I haven’t said anything about the old system at all. The old system was flawed, too. What I am saying is that this is not making it better.

As we saw with Wall Street, “creating” value through moving it works really, really well and you see these constant incremental improvements in overall value. That is, until it stops working really, really well and shit hits the fan.

Margin calls are a bitch. In both the worlds of finance and information.

Ken Taylor (profile) says:

Journalists and Newspapers

I have always had a great admiration for real journalism – always for me meaning 40 years of reading newspapers. To me a good journalist is someone who has great sources and contacts and an analytical mind that can pull together strands of thought to create an informed opinion on a particular subject. I carefully use the words ‘pull together’ but it could just as easily be replaced by the tainted word ‘aggregate’. I am sorry if it offends but it is a fact good journalism necessitates the aggregation of ideas, opinion and facts.

However, that is not the real problem. The real problem for journalists is that they continue to associate their work with a traditional business model that has no place online.

A newpaper is a concept that evolved to make the best of a certain set of circumstances. The finite limitation imposed on the amount space available for articles and advertising in turn limits the range of subjects that can be covered and the depth of subject coverage offered. That also dictates the style used to deliver the limited content.

Online the concept of a newspaper is irrelevant because these limitations do not exist. Add to this that Google has taught Web users that it is possible to find lots of sources of information on any subject and you get increasingly sophisticated Web users looking for a format that matches their needs.

Now add the growth of Blogging. A lot of blogs are of little interest; being uninfomed opinion with little substance. However, the ability to blog has attracted many real subject experts to start sharing their views with the world. These are, in some cases, the sources that journalists would have cultivated in the past and they are certainly people that should be listened to today.

So, what is the format that should have replaced the ‘newpaper’? A single subject web site that aggregates and curates the best sources, opinions and information and makes this available in a user-centric format so that web users can visit a range of speicalist sites and pick up depth coverage on the subjects that interest them.

Oh, just one thing more. The radical change in the ;last decade from disruptive marketing techniques to engaging content marketing methods means that there are people with money out there looking for sites that have focused quality content and a community of regular users that they can engage with. A business model that has a viable monetisation method built into it?

Maybe the future for journalism is working for Brands that become publishers, not newspapers that are dying?

Anonymous Coward says:

Really why would you pay for news. I have a hundred different places on the net to read the same exact text and get my news. In that search I am forced to view advertising in the form of overlays, popups and who knows what else is being sent to my computer. So as far as I am concerned I paid and paid a lot for that info. So what’s the beef? I am paying for free stuff. The internet is inundated with advertising and I am forced to look at it constantly.
Stop whining about your profits and start looking at it my way. I pay with my time to read news and have to look at advertising as part of the bargain.

Khstapp says:

Aggregators are the modern day water cooler

In the old days (I hate that trite phras but it serves) you would read an article in the newspaper or see it on TV news. The next day, if the story was compeling enough, you would likely strike up a conversation with your friends/colleagues on the topic of the news item. For really big news you might clip out the article to pass around or post it on the office bulletin board. You discussed, debated, yelled, laughed, got angry, disgusted, saddened as you bantered with each other over the news – you conversed. No one had a problem with our analog conversations because no one truly realized how much value the was in the conversation itself.

Jump forward to today and you see how the aggregators are the internet version of the water cooler. They provide the facility to carry out the conversation – and they found a way to monetize that very valuable aspect of news consumption.

Content creators, particularly old school media, believe all the value in the news is in their content so they are blind to the value of facilitating (and monetizing) the conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Creators

The “creators” are the ones that actually “make” the news. Everyone after that, from the reporters on down the line, are just taking that content and using it for their own gain with no payment to the original creators. And that’s just fine. But then those very same down-the-line people (reporters, writers, etc.) turn around and complain if anyone else does the same. What makes them think they’re so “special”? A bunch of hypocrites is what they are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Creators

Generally speaking, the “creators” are the ones that actually “make” the news. Everyone after that, from the reporters on down the line, are just taking that content and using it for their own gain with no payment to the original creators. And that’s just fine. But then those very same down-the-line people (reporters, writers, etc.) turn around and complain if anyone else does the same. What makes them think they’re so “special”? A bunch of hypocrites is what they are.

Gwiz (profile) says:

It’s also interesting to point out that newspapers have traditionally embraced aggregating the news if it benefited them.

News agencies (aka: wire service, newswire or news service) like AP or Reuters have been around for a long time. Their main purpose is to provide another entity?s content for use in your publication.

Is that not aggregation?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

The AP is a collective. To get the use of other people’s news you must contribute your own.

Reuters employs thousands of journalists.

If they are aggregators, they are not aggregators like Google News is an aggregator. You cannot do the jobs of these organizations entirely from the comfortable confines of a cubicle in the Silicon Valley.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

If they are aggregators,

And they are.

… they are not aggregators like Google News is an aggregator.

An aggregator is an aggregator.

You cannot do the jobs of these organizations entirely from the comfortable confines of a cubicle in the Silicon Valley.

Plenty of “old school” writers work from cubicles. Try again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

An aggregator is an aggregator.

Ah yes, the time-honored Techdirt strategy of defining the broadest possible equivalence class that encompasses two unlike things, and then saying BUT THEY’RE THE SAME!

BLACK AND WHITE ARE BOTH SHADES OF GRAY! DON’T YOU SEE! BLACK IS WHITE! WHITE IS BLACK! THEY ARE EXACTLY THE SAAAMEEEE! THEY ARE JUST THINGS THAT REFLECT CERTAIN WAVELENGTHS OF LIGHT! PURPLE IS ORANGE!

Plenty of “old school” writers work from cubicles. Try again.

Try reading all the words next time:

You cannot do the jobs of these organizations entirely from the comfortable confines of a cubicle in the Silicon Valley.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Ah yes, the time-honored Techdirt strategy of defining the broadest possible equivalence class that encompasses two unlike things, and then saying BUT THEY’RE THE SAME!

I will concede that a wire service and Google News are not completely analogous. There are some differences, although it seems those differences appear to be mainly about how the monetary compensation is worked out.

My main point was that news aggregation is a traditional part of the newspaper industry, but now that someone other then themselves has figured out how to monetize it, it’s trying to be spun in a negitive light.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

There are some differences, although it seems those differences appear to be mainly about how the monetary compensation is worked out.

This is exactly the point. That is the difference that makes a difference.

My main point was that news aggregation is a traditional part of the newspaper industry, but now that someone other then themselves has figured out how to monetize it, it’s trying to be spun in a negitive light.

It is being spun in an negative light because one type of aggregation sustains journalism while the other feeds off it.

1. How many reporters does Google employ?
2. How many reporters does Yahoo! employ?
3. How many reporters does Reuters employ?
4. How many reporters does the AP employ?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

1. How many reporters does Google employ?
2. How many reporters does Yahoo! employ?
3. How many reporters does Reuters employ?
4. How many reporters does the AP employ?

I don’t know and honestly, I don’t really care.

I do know that as a consumer I am one of the people that prefers my news from multiple sources aggregated in to one place.

If the newspapers don’t want to adapt to changes in consumption habits, fine, that’s OK. It just means the reporters will be working for Google and Yahoo sooner rather than later.

Correct me if I am wrong here, but don’t these sites like Google News actually drive page hits back to the orginal source, therefore increasing eyeballs on the advertisements since you need to click through to read the entire story?

Ecks says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Let’s clarify this with an example:

Something of potential interest to news consumers happens in, say, Iraq. US soldiers torture a civilian or save someone important from getting raped, who knows. Or someone in a city counsel in Kansas City embezzles a whole bunch of money.

To turn that into news you need
1) Someone in Iraq taking photos, talking to witnesses, interviewing army soldiers and spokes people, or sitting in on council meetings, going through public records, interviewing bureaucrats, etc. This step is indispensible, but is is also very expensive, because almost nobody will go to Iraq to chase this stuff for free, and NOBODY is going to sit through city council meetings for free (at least nobody sane enough to be worth listening to). So costs are incurred here.

2) The story is written up, packaged with other stories, and placed somewhere consumers can find it. When consumers look at it, they also see ads, and this generates revenue to the person who owns the ads. Usually this is done by the same people who paid for the story to be collected in the first place. But aggregators like HuffPo are taking these news stories without giving any money to the original reporter, and posting a selection on their own websites. They collect all the revenue and pay none of the costs. Sometimes they’ll link to original news stories, but you can get the entire story reading only the HuffPo page without ever following it back, and this is what most people do.

The problem is that the people who do hard work collecting the original story incur costs, but if they are no longer getting paid, then how are they going to KEEP financing the collection of those stories? They aren’t. And then what are the aggregators going to have to aggregate? Nothing. So you see the problem.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

The problem is that the people who do hard work collecting the original story incur costs, but if they are no longer getting paid, then how are they going to KEEP financing the collection of those stories? They aren’t. And then what are the aggregators going to have to aggregate? Nothing. So you see the problem.

First off, my question pertained to Google News which is defiantly setup to drive hits back to the source, not the HuffPo.

But, still, I see this more as a shifting business climate due to technology that many, many industries have faced more than the end of the world scenario you think it is.

There will always be reporters being paid to find and write news. They are not going to vaporize into thin air if all the newspapers go under.

Whether they continue to draw their paychecks from the dead tree news organizations or start getting paid by HuffPo or some other new business model not yet thought of, all remains to be seen. It’s a brave new world out there and newspapers and reporters will need to adapt to survive.

Ecks says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

You have this faith that reporters will keep getting paid… It’s a statement that seems sensible on the face of it, because after all they’ve always found a way to get paid our whole life, who can imagine them not being paid?

The problem is that the economic model that supports reporting (by which I mean specifically the “going out into the world and uncovering material to report” part, not the “disseminating words” part) is breaking. Online ads provide some revenue, but not NEARLY as much as print newspapers do. Even if google directs some page views to your website, you make a few pennies, but not the regular ad dollars that newspapers commanded.

Eventually if “normal” reporting dries up enough, someone will start investing SOME money into it from somewhere else, and that might be enough to get some reporting on some of the major stories… but it’s NEVER going to be enough to cover town corruption in Kansas City or Wichita or Randomsville Maine, or Barrie Ontario – places that lots of people live.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Online ads provide some revenue, but not NEARLY as much as print newspapers do. Even if google directs some page views to your website, you make a few pennies, but not the regular ad dollars that newspapers commanded.

True, but the total amount of sponsor dollars remains relatively consistent, it’s just being spread amongst more players. That’s why I included the possibility of new and different business models.

The “out in the jungle” reporter will always remain a scarce commodity and if the market craves it, the market will pay for it. There just may be different middlemen between them and their readers.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Eventually if “normal” reporting dries up enough, someone will start investing SOME money into it from somewhere else, and that might be enough to get some reporting on some of the major stories… but it’s NEVER going to be enough to cover town corruption in Kansas City or Wichita or Randomsville Maine, or Barrie Ontario – places that lots of people live.

Actually, the local hometown news coverage is the place that I worry about it the least.

That vacuum would be filled very quickly by the bored soccer mom who does it for free to the young entrepreneur trying to make a buck and everyone in between.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Something of potential interest to news consumers happens in, say, Iraq. US soldiers torture a civilian or save someone important from getting raped, who knows. Or someone in a city counsel in Kansas City embezzles a whole bunch of money.

In other words, someone creates some news.

To turn that into news you need

Bzzzt. The story has already been created, and often at great expense by the original actors/creators. What you describe next is basically recording, packaging, distribution, presentation, etc.. Kind of like recording a play. Those who record the play did not create it, even if the try to pretend otherwise to justify not paying those who actually made the play.

The problem is that the people who do hard work collecting the original story incur costs, but if they are no longer getting paid, then how are they going to KEEP financing the collection of those stories?

The problem is that the people who do hard work creating the original story incur costs, and then the newspapers just KEEP ripping them off.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

1. How many reporters does Google employ?
2. How many reporters does Yahoo! employ?
3. How many reporters does Reuters employ?
4. How many reporters does the AP employ?

I would bet that Google and Yahoo contribute far more to keeping reporters employed than Reuters and AP do.

I’m reminded of all the news sites that like to scream about Google searching their site, but then won’t set the robots file to stop it. Why not? Because they know that turning up in Google searches is a great benefit to them that they don’t want to loose. Hypocrites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Response to: Gwiz on Apr 9th, 2011 @ 10:05am

Ah yes, the time-honored Techdirt strategy of defining the broadest possible equivalence class that encompasses two unlike things, and then saying BUT THEY’RE THE SAME!

Ah yes, the time-honored denier’s strategy of defining everything in the narrowest possible terms so as to deny that they are alike, and then saying BUT THEY’RE NOT THE SAME!

No two ducks are exactly the same either. Or most any other two things. But for the purposes of many discussions, they are close enough to considered the same. Such is the case here. Trying to deny that the AP aggregates news is ridiculous but typical of certain groups.

Ecks says:

Redefining the problem

The problem is not that aggregation isn’t useful work for consumers (it is) or that content creation (aka “journalism”) isn’t useful work for consumers (it is too).

The problem is that revenue is only generated by advertising that is placed next to the content at the time it is viewed. So aggregating produces revenue, but content creation does not. When different people create the content from the ones who show it, only the latter gets paid. That means that the market does not pay for the creation of content. Content creation has become a “market failure” – like national defense or volcano monitoring it is a useful public good that can no longer be monetized. And if it can’t be monetized people aren’t going to be able to produce it without some external source of money, or another more creative solution.

Ken Taylor (profile) says:

Curation and Aggregation

Quality curation is certainly a human driven function. However, there is a lot than can be done by computer processing to assist curators cope with the volume of content that they need to handle.

Also giving site users really effective access to a large amount of quality curated content gives the site user the ability to dig deeper and check out the quality of the curation being offered. The Web is beginning to understand customer service – the site user is the customer.

Aggregation is the tool that curators use to bring together quality relevant content. I agree that how that aggregation is done and how primary source content is displayed has an impact how news gatherers can recoup their costs. This is still a problem that needs understanding. The traditional news agencies (AP, Reuters, PA, AFP, etc) were set up because it was not longer possible for every newspaper to have journalists everywhere. That model no longer fits the online world in the same way that the newspaper itself is defunct on the Web. There are new models to be tried out and this is what is happening now.

Journalism will not die but it has to accept that times are changing and it has to adapt. The malor problem here is getting the traditional sources (large publishers and agencies) to adopt models that actually work. One thing is certain – the quality of content produced will have a part to play in finding the solution!

Jean Sievers says:

Journalism

Yes we do have lots of information around to read and most of it is lies and rubbish. Take reporting in a war zone. It is impossible to be truthful because journalists are ’embedded’, need protection and are in need of a pay check. So what we usually get is imperialist propaganda supporting the super powers interests..ie U.S., Israel…
We hardly ever hear about the indiscriminate killing of women and children and don’t get a fair assessment of the situation because we only ever hear one side of the so called story.
Now if you removed money from the equation, politics, reporting for the government who are paid off by the corporations ..campaign donations.. ie the weapons industry and others who have a vested interest in the outcome of these wars…we might have a chance at knowing what is really going on. The financial aspect of journalism always determines the outcome..private profit motive…I dare you to publish that. I couldn’t care less about how the news industry works I’m more interested in the TRUTH which you do not tell. If you don’t get some integrity and morality you will become irrelevant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Seriously?

You guys have got to be kidding me. Trying to compare aggregators to actual journalists? Really? There’s only a couple levels in journalism that truly deserve respect, but for simplicity lets take this in ‘story’ timeline format.

There’s the news makers. Obviously no one’s saying that they don’t deserve respect…or derision…depending on what they did or didn’t do. Then, there’s the investigative journalists who actually do the research into the story. The people who make phone calls, write letters, conduct interviews anbd assemble the story. Then, if you want to take it to the multi-media level, I’ll even throw in the -first- set of delivery professionals. The talking heads. That’s it.

If you’re not writing the original story, or a followup story, or otherwise producing -original- work based on the current state of the story, then you’re not a journalist. This isn’t to say that aggregators are bad people, indeed, they have their place, but they are not journalists.

Gordonofhaddam (profile) says:

Aggregators vs. journalists

I started my career at Reader’s Digest, a pioneering “aggregator.” We reserved the term journalist for the writers and columnists. We were just editors. We selected stories from all over the place that we found fascinating or funny or inspirational. Stuff we thought anyone could identify with. It was a bit like a managed mutual fund, a lineup of what you think are the best stocks to spread the risk and reap some gain. For a “news” aggregator the value you add is the taste and skill you bring to the selection process. If you’re good at it, you can charge money. Otherwise you’re going to need some sponsors.

Ecks says:

Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

The problem is that with the modern version, the editors collect all the money, and the journalists get none. The journalism part is expensive to produce though (gotta pay someone to go out and actually find and corroborate those stories). And if the journalists can’t get paid, eventually most of them are going to be forced to do something else for a living. And then what do you edit?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Aggregators vs. journalists

The problem is that with the modern version, the editors collect all the money, and the journalists get none.

Oh, really? Do you mind telling me just how news sites don’t make any money from Google sending them traffic? If the news sites then don’t pay their journalists, maybe they should quit. That’s not Google’s fault.

David Muir (profile) says:

Aggregation and Driving Traffic

Several people have made the point that newspapers should be monetizing the traffic that Google sends them. This should absolutely be true.

However, the dead tree side of the business is still in charge at most newspapers. They dictate the nature and quality of the digital presentation of the news. And they get it wrong more often than not. So all this traffic is arriving at a site that is underwhelming at best. The concept of engaging the conversation is lost. Building a community is lost. The value of a loyal and committed readership is lost.

It’s a good guess that if AP or Reuters had jumped on digital aggregation in the first place, there might have been less of a role for Silicon Valley based aggregators. But even now, the content destinations are sorely lacking… no matter who’s doing the aggregating or driving the traffic.

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