Thursday, July 28, 2011

News aggregators: the good and the bad

Websites that aggregate news and other online content are here to stay.
Some are beneficial to the websites from which they source articles by driving traffic to those sites. Those aggregators provide snippets of articles and if readers want to learn more they have to go to the source.
Other websites push the boundaries of fair use by writing their own articles that borrow heavily from the source material. They take so much detail from the original articles that readers feel like they’ve gotten the whole story and don’t need to check out the source.
Media pundits often divide aggregators into good ones and bad ones.
The good ones are those that drive online traffic back to the source of the news, commentary, photos and other content.
By that standard, Drudge Report is one of the good aggregators.
Drudge Report drives way more traffic to news sites than Facebook and Twitter, according to a Pew Research study. (See articles by PBS, GigaOm and the Associated Press.)
Drudge Report is curated with an eye toward attention-grabbing news articles. It links to source websites with simple headlines.
Google tops Drudge as a traffic source to newspaper and other content sites. But it also keeps a lot of web surfers to itself. Google News runs the headlines and first paragraphs for news stories and that seems to be enough for a lot of readers.
Another good aggregator is Techmeme, which covers the information technology industry. Its website and Twitter feed provide just enough information in a headline and summary to get readers interested in clicking through to the source sites to find out more.
Among those singing the praises of Techmeme have been the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Silicon Valley Watcher. I’m a fan as well.
The most often cited bad aggregator is AOL’s The Huffington Post. It has made a business out of condensing long newspaper stories into easy-to-digest articles. In doing so, it stretches the definition of “fair use” in copyright law. It satisfies visitors with its summaries of the news and keeps the traffic – and advertising dollars – mostly to itself.
MondayNote and eMedia Vitals have put together their own lists of good and bad aggregators. Both articles are worth checking out.

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