Americans and the British are quite similar, but also quite different. Jokes that make Americans laugh may not make a British person laugh; food that a Brit might love could repulse an American; and so on. It seems the way the two nations consume news online is different, too.
Aggregation is a big deal right now among those in the media. It's a divisive subject, especially in the U.S., where publishers are accusing Google of being a "digital vampire" for indexing and linking to their news (since apparently it's something to be owned). An industry in a tailspin is desperate for someone to blame for their situation. You know, other than themselves.
The newest round of blaming others for their own ills is coming from what Steve Yelvington, digital strategist at Georgia-based Morris Communications and former director of network content at Cox Interactive Media, calls the "digital latecomers". Among the wingers are The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press and The Dallas Morning News
In the U.S. aggregation has taken off. Some of the major players include Briton Nick Denton, with Gawker.com and its umbrella sites; Arriana Huffington's HuffingtonPost.com; and Britain's Tina Brown, who launched TheDailyBeast.com.
Notice that two of the biggest names in news aggregation in America are British?
Denton was at the Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival in Colorado in June, as part of a panel discussion on how to "save" journalism. He was asked about setting up a Gawker-like site in the UK. Politico reports:
During the panel’s Q&A, Gawker Media’s Nick Denton sarcastically thanked the American newspaper industry for being so unaggressive, making it possible for ‘thugs’ like him to succeed.
Conversely, Denton said he’d never set up shop in England. 'Every single day, those editors get up and try to kill each other,' said Denton. Not so in the U.S."
That isn't to say that news aggregators don't exist in the UK. They do. Just no one really knows about them. A few months ago I had a few bookmarked. One HDD crash later and those bookmarks are no more.
Unfortunately Google is no help either. Search "UK news aggregator" and what comes up are links about aggregators in general. But nothing about a specific UK aggregator. That's telling.
The question of just how helpful aggregators really are in driving traffic is one that comes up often in this argument. And in the UK it will undoubtedly come up as well. To help answer that question, I have a great blog post by Rob Weir, director of digital development at the Columbia Missourian: How aggregators help newspapers (now with real numbers!):
Now this is interesting: only 24.26 percent of our visits are from “direct” sources (i.e., someone typing “ColumbiaMissourian.com” into a browser’s address bar). Of course, if you flip that around, it means that 75.74 percent of our visits are from either search or referring sites
The post features a number of screen grabs from the ColumbiaMissourian.com's Google Analytics account, which will give you a better idea of what the data looks like.
But in the UK, the aggregation scene is changing.
This week I interviewed Peter Clark of the Cambridge-based start-up news aggregation site Broadersheet.com. The public beta hasn't been released, but I was given an invite to have a look around. It's quite impressive and could be big.
Since the digital media market is so rapidly evolving, once something like a Broadersheet.com hits it big, the imitators will soon line up behind it. Believe it or not, that'd be a good thing to have happen.
Look for the interview to go online soon. If you know of a good UK news aggregator, please leave it in the comments or let me know on Twitter.