Journalism endangered by aggregators! A 90-year-old complaint
I loved this story at NiemanLab.org last week headlined “Aggregation is deep in journalism’s DNA.”
The piece, by Globalnews.ca 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.