Friday, February 8, 2013

Some ideas about aggregation and curation

Newspaper publishers and TV news executives haven't been howling quite as loudly as they were a few years ago about what they perceive as piracy by Google News and Yahoo News, which aggregate news from said newspapers and TV news programs but do no original reporting themselves. Maybe it's because the executives realize they're wasting their breath, or maybe they have decided they were actually getting some currency in the click economy.

I haven't figured out why they haven't done more aggregating themselves, unless it's because they have a financial stake in the current system of paid-for content (AP fees, syndication contracts) that's based on information scarcity. These big players ARE the paid-for system.

College papers, including The Orion, are not. So, it makes sense to me that The Orion should think about doing some aggregation of its own.

What might that look like?

How about a website section or home page module devoted to the most interesting stories on other college newspaper's websites? A one-sentence tease and headline linked to the original story that credits the source (as Yahoo News does) would give Chico State readers access to what other college newspaper editors think is interesting on their campus.

What about aggregating stories from other California college newspapers about teams in the California College Athletic Association? I'm sure Wildcat fans would be interested in reading about what other teams in the conference are doing.

A little work with a search engine or Twitter search could easily provide three or four stories a day from other online media about issues college students care about: employment prospects, managing debt, strategies for finding internships, bands popular with college students, etc. Before the Web, a library search of the same sort might have been used as the starting point for a staff-written story on the same subject (and still could), but simply linking to a story can also be of service to readers.

To me, what makes an information provider unique in the digital era, what provides its value in the market, is defining, understanding and serving a particular and specific audience. That certainly includes being the creators of information no one else is positioned to provide (the traditional role of campus and local newspapers), but it can and should also mean being curators of information from other sources of value to the audience.

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