Opinion

Felix Salmon

Navigating the news

By Felix Salmon
November 19, 2009

The indispensable Abnormal Returns has a smart post up on aggregation:

Aggregators, investment or otherwise, are not the cause of the downfall of traditional news gatherers like newspapers. They are simply a sign that people are hungry for information and analysis presented in an efficient manner. For better or worse, that instinct to seek out order in an increasingly complex world is here to stay.

Of course, the news media has been trying to present information and analysis in an efficient manner for centuries: there’s nothing new there. The difference today is that the internet has brought thousands of different news sources just one click away, and so there’s demand for a new layer of editing. Newspapers have always needed editing to put the focus on the most important news, but different readers want different kinds of news and no one editor can be all things to all people.

On the internet there are thousands of people sifting news through their own particular filters, and some of them, like Abnormal Returns, prove to be extremely popular. That’s partly because they’re simply very good editors, and partly because they’re not artificially constrained in the way that newspaper editors are: they can link to anything they like, not just the product of one news shop; and they can ignore important-but-boring stories in favor of the ones that people actually want to read.

It’s almost impossible for newspaper editors and publishers to compete with that — which is exactly the reason why they should instead be embracing it. Either you can encourage people to read your news, or you can discourage them. Everybody needs some degree of help navigating the vast ocean of news and commentary which is produced every day, and no sensible publisher will come to the conclusion that cracking down on invaluable navigators is a good idea. Instead, they should be encouraging them as much as possible. As the late Sy Syms might have said, an educated news consumer is any publisher’s best customer.

Comments
3 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Aggregators divide into categories. One can aggregate and analyze and comment on reports issued by groups – from TIC data to truck traffic data, etc. One can aggregate news stories and commentaries produced by profit-oriented news organizations. And there are aggregators, such as you, who mostly use material as a source for commentary.

The first group isn’t under the threat. The middle group, as much as I use them, often function as leeches, as free riders trying to make a living off the labors of others. The third group should drive users to the original content, though it does (sadly) seem most people prefer to glimpse an excerpt rather than actually read the links.

Posted by jonathan | Report as abusive
 

good points Felix, never really understood news organizations fear of aggregators.

on side note: check out our ETF/Macro news aggregator @ http://www.etfdesk.com : link ETFs with market moving stories, analysis, economic releases, blog posts, etc.

Cut through the talking heads as we track performance of ETF “plays”

Posted by TS | Report as abusive
 

Aggregation? That makes a nice brand name for a locally focused service. “Where do you get your news?” “I go to the Philly Aggregation.”

Posted by bdbd | Report as abusive
 

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