Content Aggregation: Boon or Bane for Publishers?
Travers describes the type of highly targeted content aggregation undertaken by his editors as "a form of journalism."
"There is a lot of low-value aggregation on the Web, no doubt," he says. "It's very easy [for publishers] to add [a form of] aggregation to the mix that is not adding any [new value], but is consuming time for someone who has already seen those links, or [for whom] those links might be new, but are not covering new ground because it was covered better a year ago by someone else. So you have to know the beat [to successfully aggregate valuable content] just like you have to know the beat to produce original content."
Travers, who prefers the term "value-added aggregation" to "curation," believes smart aggregation can indeed be a cure for the overabundance of information on the Web.
"It's hard to talk in broad terms, but generally speaking there's much more stuff now online than there was eight years ago, so aggregation eight years ago might have been, 'Well, let's run everything we find,' and a lot of [the work involved] was the gathering. Now, you still have to do that gathering, but because of the sheer volume of [content out there] the emphasis is increasingly on the context, the filtering, the perspective."
It's not, he stresses, a job for "a couple of interns on the side."
In the defense industry, for instance, Travers says there are reams of public information that few people have the time or knowledge to comb through to pull out actionable content for defense contractors; in many cases, even official summaries of reports do a poor job of capturing the essential points for a b-to-b audience. In cases like these, where much of the content aggregated consists of primary sources (such as government reports or transcripts of congressional hearings), Travers says it can be tough to distinguish what his company does from, say, Bloomberg News, which Travers says is "trying to get into government" by filing reports based on many of those same primary sources. However, Travers sees an advantage in the expertise of staff knowledgeable about niche industries. "We think we know defense more than they do, and package it in a way that is even more actionable and structured … [and more] effective and useful to people in [the defense] industry."