aggregation – parasite or opportunity for content providers?

The Daily Mirror has joined
a growing number of newspapers who block a news aggregator, NewsNow,
from crawling it's site. The Sun and Times Online had already made
similar moves.

Having worked in the media industry myself for
nearly ten years, I understand why, on the face of things, content
providers see aggregators as a threat. Aggregators essentially monitor
sites for new content and, like an RSS reader, pull in and display any
new content.

The move to block aggregators is, however, short
sighted. Aggregators, which range from Google News to more configurable
services such as NetVibes,
typically allow their users to configure the content they see via
keywords or tags. Someone who is a regular reader of a particular news
source, say the BBC News website, is unlikely to go off and look at
other news sites unless they are particularly interested in reading
other viewpoints of the same story. News aggregators, however, display
the content from a range of sources, which encourages users to explore
new publications and providers.

One of the workshops that I
frequently run for our clients helps them better understand how to use
the whole web as their canvas. The point of such a strategy is that the
only people who visit your website are people who already know about
you, or who find you through search engines such as google. By posting
content, for example images, video or presentation slides, on third
party sites, then linking them back to the relevant piece of content on
your own site, you're potentially reaching out to new audiences who
have never heard of you previously but who can, nonetheless, engage
with your message and organisation after stumbling upon your content on
third party sites.

Creative Commons Licensing of content is an
important piece of the puzzle as it allows content creators to
determine who can use their content and under what conditions. So, for
example, on flickr I have set my default Creative Commons Licensing so
that it restricts use of my images to those, non-commercial and
commercial, who are willing to attribute me and link back to the
original image on flickr. By doing this, my photos have been used in
powerpoint presentations, a mobile guide to Bristol, and as the derivative basis of a watercolour painting.
Each time this happens, my content is seen by people who would have
never come across it otherwise, potentially inticing new audiences to
visit and consume my other content.

Whilst I understand the
initial reaction of publishers and other content providers to
aggegators, some of which make money by pulling in and displaying third
party content, I also firmly believe that allowing them to do so is a
powerful marketing tool. With newspaper audiences diminishing, and
television audiences fragmenting, it makes sense to do, or in this
instance allow, other sites to display your content so long as they
clearly attribute that content and link back to you.

may very well be parasitic at first glance, but the benefits – greater
exposure to new audiences, as well as SEO gains – mean that, in
actuality, it's a potentially powerful marketing tool for content

(I originally posted this on the Headshift Blog)