Celebrating Aggregation

Lately, it's been all the rage to bash the services on the Internet that aggregate content. Robert Thompson, editor of the Wall Street Journal, said this about aggregators a few weeks ago:

[they are] parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet

Since I read that, I've been calling every one of my favorite services on the web "tapeworms." It's a compliment of the highest order. Because I love aggregators and they are the only way I get to content anymore. I don't read the NY Times directly, I don't read the Wall Street Journal directly, I don't read any blogs directly, and I don't watch videos or listen to music directly. I've got dozens of aggregators that I use daily and they take me to the content I want to consume.

The Internet and digital media broadly has produced a glut of content. There is no way that anyone can consume all of the content that is available and relevant to them. And no media property, be it the Wall Street Journal or any other content creator, can produce even 5% of the best content I want to consume daily. These media companies used to be the distributors and creators of content. But now they are just the creators and they will never get back to a position of being a distributor unless they become "tapeworms" too. Watching them insult the best services on the Internet tells me that they aren't headed in that direction.

One of my favorite examples of aggregators is Tastespotting, one of the Gotham Gal's favorite web services. Here is the front page of Tastespotting right now:

Tastespotting is like Techmeme or the Hype Machine or Digg, but it is for recipes and the photos that accompany the recipes. If you click thru to Tastespotting, and you should, you'll see that these images all link out to blog posts by regular people. There are millions of people who cook, love recipes, love food, and many of them have taken to photographing their work and blogging about it. The Gotham Gal is one of them.

The food magazines and even the food sections of newspapers could have done what Tastespotting did, and they still can, and they should. Because there is a ton of great food content out there on the web and aggregating it up is more valuable to readers than trying to do it all yourself with your editorial team.

Aggregation is the central element of distributing content on the web. It's not going to get shut down by calling these services names, suing them, or even worse taking your content out of them. The best and only thing media companies can do is join the aggregation parade, celebrate it, and get good at it.

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