Content Aggregation: Boon or Bane for Publishers?
Other examples cited by Robson drive the point home. The website Alltop, "an online magazine rack for your favorite topics," utilizes RSS feeds to compile hundreds of headlines by subject and allows users to create customized collections of feeds. (They call it "aggregation without aggravation.") Social media—especially Twitter—is becoming a primary content-delivery system for many people, as news and trending topics are tracked via a constantly updated feed. Tools are being developed that allow individuals to, in essence, become curators for others, in addition to customizing content for their own use. Sites like Storify and Scoop.it allow people to create their own hubs for information. "What WordPress did for blogging, this new wave of technology is going to do for curated publishing," Robson said. "You're kind of running your own media network."
Publishers must understand these user-driven systems, Robson said, in order to tailor their output to this new reality. In many cases, this means enabling more frequent audience engagement, even if it requires sacrificing some of the emphasis on unique content. "… I believe … publishers are focusing too much on original content," he said. "Particularly magazines will have their features that they write, maybe they get some coverage, maybe they get some people linking to them, [but] the question is, 'OK, I've read your feature, what reason do I have to return to your site tomorrow?' If you are on a 30-day monthly [print] cycle, and you are only publishing a set of features once every 30 days, there is not a compelling reason for me to engage with your brand more than once a month."
To help drive more frequent website visits, companies are beginning to do more linking out to other sources' content, despite a traditional bias against it. "There is a lot of resistance to that model in a traditional media mindset, which is still on the monthly cycle … [but] new companies, tech companies, news aggregators, they are very comfortable with linking out [because] it leads to better content, and people will come back when they know your site is a hub," Robson said. As part of this trend, Robson expects a broader range of publishers to embrace inclusion of links and aggregated content in their products.