Content Aggregation: Boon or Bane for Publishers?
Another example he gives is executive Q&A forums, where knowledgeable thought leaders are sharing critical advice with their peers. Many of these people do not have blogs or produce content in any other form, and their advice can cover specific situations. Good aggregation, he says, can pull out key content and present it in forms useful to readers seeking to drill down based on industry, business category or location.
Publishers looking to pursue aggregation as part of a business model must be sensitive to the "echo chamber effect," whereby they end up covering the news of an event or topic, rather than the event or topic itself. "Just aggregating other aggregation does not work so well," Travers says.
This might help explain why sites like the Huffington Post are moving to hire journalists, he points out. Even aggregators, he argues, are feeling the need to appear truly on top of—or even ahead of—the game.
As Keller puts it, " … some of the great aggregators … seem to be experiencing a back-to-the-future epiphany. They seem to have realized that if everybody is an aggregator, nobody will be left to make the real stuff to aggregate."
The Quest for More Content
Realizing original content still matters, however, does not necessarily mean adhering to old models. The profusion of "content farm" companies like Demand Media and Suite 101 have put the pressure on publishers to produce more content, whether in-house or by outsourcing. RR Donnelley, looking to expand its suite of services for publishers beyond printing and related solutions, acquired crowdsourced content-creation website Helium in June. Helium allows publisher clients to access stock and custom content created by a large freelance writing community.
"One of the challenges that publishers, catalogers and other organizations have told us that they are wrestling with is the unique demand for content creation associated with multichannel communications," says Ann Marie Bushell, president of RR Donnelley's CustomPoint Solutions Group. Publishers, she says, need to offer Web and social media content that goes beyond print editions; catalogers are looking to make websites destinations for customers seeking commentary and how-to advice; health care institutions are publishing newsletters and other materials for patients. It all adds up to opportunity for providers of inexpensive, targeted content.