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Jan 31 / King Kaufman

Journalism endangered by aggregators! A 90-year-old complaint

I loved this story at last week headlined “Aggregation is deep in journalism’s DNA.”

The piece, by managing editor David Skok (Twitter @dskok), goes into the familiar complaints we’ve all heard about how aggregation, not to mention increased mechanization and the overwhelming influence of advertising money, is killing original journalism.

The kicker is that these complaints were made in 1923, about Time magazine, which began that year, and at the start was nothing more than an aggregator of the week’s top stories from other sources. Skok, on sabbatical from Global News while on a journalism fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Lab, points out that Time, in a move that fit disruption theory perfectly, quickly moved into producing original content:

The aggregators of today will be the original reporters of tomorrow. Those of us who care about good journalism shouldn’t dismiss the Buzzfeeds of the world because they aren’t creating high-quality reporting. Their search for new audiences will push them into original content production. Buzzfeed may be focused on cat videos and aggregation now, but disruption theory argues that content companies like it will move into the realm of the Huffington Post—which in turn, has already indicated its desire to compete more directly with The New York Times.

As Bleacher Report CEO Brian Grey pointed out on Twitter, B/R does both aggregation and original content. The newsletter program and the Team Stream app and links sections on the site are examples of aggregation. And, as disruption theory, as laid out by Clayton Christensen in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” predicts, B/R is moving toward more original professional content with the expansion of the Lead Writer program.

  • Tim Coughlin

    “More” is a key word to highlight from that last sentence. It’s worth saying that we have always been a source of original analysis and other original content first and foremost, even if we aren’t in this to break news. The expansion of the Lead Writer program is another step in the natural progression toward more paid opportunities on the site, but it’s probably worth clarifying that the site’s core is quality original content from our homegrown writers.

    I think we see the Team Stream aggregation as a great complement and a way to make B/R a more attractive, one-stop destination for comprehensive coverage about your favorite sports and teams, and through that we’ve built ourselves up more than we could have as a site only boasting opinion columns and slideshows. And now that we have that complementary content and have bolstered that status as a quality destination for millions of readers, we’re shifting additional focus toward *more* original professional content to continue enhancing the product.

    That’s just some context I felt like sharing as a part of the site since 2008, just to make sure no one accidentally skims over the word “more” there. And we aren’t relying on the Lead Writers for us to take further steps either. I think every writer here is improving and being a part of what more and more readers love about this site. It’s just about adding quality voices to our coverage, making opportunities for quality writers and setting good examples for the writers who don’t have as much experience yet.

    • Guest

      Thanks for your note. It is very much appreciated. The blog, too. I do wonder why, if B/R does truly believe “the site’s core is quality original content from our homegrown writers” why is it ending the paid writer program, especially without even a word of explanation to the paid writers?

      • Anonymous

        Bleacher Report is not ending the paid writer program.

        • Guest

          Many in the program have been told otherwise.

        • Guest

          Many paid writers have been informed the paid program will end shortly and have even been given dates they will stop being paid. If the paid program is not ending, these writers aren’t being told the truth. I hope this reply is answered. It is kind of telling that the line quoted above from the blog has been removed from the blog itself.

          • King Kaufman

            I will look into this and try to get some clarification. In the meantime, nothing has been removed from this blog post.

          • Guest

            I totally miswrote that on the line removal. Sorry. It is in Mr. Coughlin’s note at the top and not the blog. Thank you for looking into that about the paid writer positions. Please let us know what you find, if possible.

          • Anonymous

            Nobody at Bleacher Report can figure out what you’re talking about, as no one I can find is aware of any communication going out about the paid writer program ending. Can you forward me a copy of any email that says this? king at

  • Jude Hilliard

    I love the concept of both types of content in one destination. This type of collective reporting mechanism gives the user’s appetite more variety and control. I have a good friend that started back in the 90′s with great original content and he has developed into a first-class, first-choice niche source for all things hardware and tech. Nice to see that type of community and quality reporting on a larger scale for the sports arena.