Can aggregators help digital publishers find new readers? The answer to that question in its most simplistic form is yes, but dig a little further and it becomes a bit murkier.
Aggregator apps pull together news and other content from a variety of publications with the aim of keeping readers better informed.
They are a great way of getting content out into the wider market and introducing readers to new publications with the potential of kickstarting a long-standing relationship.
It sounds like a win-win situation, but John MacFarlane, publisher of New Scientist, reckons that publishers should only consider working with aggregators if they have a paid-for model in place in order to build sustainable brand loyalty.
Aggregators are constantly evolving, and will continue to do so going forward, in order to provide better personalisation and help consumers find more of what interests them. The fear is that consumers build up a stronger relationship with the aggregator, so there is not necessarily any brand loyalty, and then what happens if that company ceases to operate? All those readers could well be lost.
Talking at today’s PPA Digital Publishing Conference, MacFarlane said, “An aggregator’s role is to provide us with a way of sharing content with new readers and building relationships. [But that is only effective] if you have a solid paid content strategy and bring together all chances of converting those readers to paid customers.”
Aggregators should be treated as a relationship instigator to ultimately secure that reader as a subscriber, rather than a way to communicate with readers in the long-term.
Publishers should also be wise and ensure there is a clear call to action for consumers to subscribe, register or download a digital edition, so the brand message is clear and readers are well informed about where the content has come from.
New Scientist is a paid-for title, but despite that it no longer works with aggregators because MacFarlane said the publisher needs to perfect its offering and get “all our ducks in a row” before doing so as lots of money has gone into developing aggregator apps and he doesn’t want readers to get a better experience on them than they do on its own products.
That’s another problem entirely, but it’s a valid point.