The major problem with UGC is not the blurring of lines between journalist and ‘user’. Instead it is the dotsam and websam we have to wade through to reach quality new sources.
Matthew Yeoman mentioned the two forms of aggregation he has been engaging with: private journalism and The Ag. While we have all been introduced to RSS feeds, Netvibes and YahooPipes Mashups in an attempt to source our news effectively, news aggregators with analysis are the lazy person’s option….and keeps the journalist very much in the frame.
One of the most sucessful news aggregators, The Daily Beast has a layout similar to most of the others. It has ‘Beast Originals’ offering independent opinion and analysis as well as links to the biggest current stories. My assertation that aggregators are the ‘lazy person’s’ option for sourcing news is exemplified in their ‘Cheat Sheet – Must Reads From All Over’.
Hitwise UK published results last month that showed news aggregator use has increased dramatically recently. They are also responsible for 26 per cent of traffic sent to news and media sites. Googlenews, NewsNow and Stumble Upon make up the top three. Their definition of what an aggregator is was fairly loose, and included sites like Twitter. Perhaps a look at the direction of traffic to and from more traditional aggregation sites including Yahoo News and the Huffington Post would be revealing.
Its interesting that this rise has happened at the same time that blogging is declining. It is also interesting to note how similar some aggregators, especially specialist content aggregators, are to blogs. There is very little difference between The Ag and some of the broadsheet’s blogs. Gizmodo, a gadget website calls itself a weblog and has been referred to by others as a news aggregation site.
OJR talked about news aggregators as a way of taking RSS to the masses back in 2005. He also points out that they are the answer to the time required to sift through vast amounts of niche news sites. As the most successful blogs have generally been the blogs associated with traditional news sources, aggregation could be seen as a mere extension of professional blogging, and one which journalists are very much in control of.