Create, Aggregate and … Interrelate?

17 03 2011

Do you create, or do you aggregate? That, it seems, is the pressing content question of the day. FirstRain CEO Penny Herscher posted on Tuesday about the seismic shift happening in the media space as news aggregators like The Huffington Post begin to assume market pre-eminence over more traditional content creator/distributors like The New York Times. Even NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller‘s expressions of aggravation, have now had to be moderated as I’m sure his somewhat snarky commentary triggered a wave of exasperation and irritation amongst the New Media community.

In reality, of course, a forced choice between content creation and aggregation is a false dichotomy. The explosion of innovative content consumption platforms has simultaneously sharpened people’s hunger for more quality content and for technology to improve the efficiency and efficacy of consumption. Content creation and aggregation are like conjoined twins with a passive-aggressive relationship. They may share the same heart, lungs and kidney, but that doesn’t mean they have to like each other.

In addition to the NYT/HuffPo challenge that Penny points out, this shift is also well represented by LinkedIn’s recent entry into news aggregation space. In fact, their new feature LinkedIn Today is a great example of several emergent forces coming together, including Web news aggregation, social networking and real-time news. It allows business-focused users to consume an aggregated feed of linked and posted news stories that people within your identified LinkedIn industry are sharing on Twitter or LinkedIn, and lets you further customize by identifying additional industries or incorporating the twitter feeds of a range of news sources from Ad Age to Bloomberg News to Harvard Business Review.

It’s a smart play, because despite Twitter’s protestations, to date they haven’t provided a very robust platform for business users to consume an aggregated real-time news experience (a la TweetDeck). LinkedIn’s move steps in and intercepts that need by leveraging an existing social network that many of us in the business world are increasingly invested in, while also providing a whole new entrée into real-time news for those who haven’t yet jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon.

But with all this focus on the schism between the forces that ‘Create’ and ‘Aggregate’, there’s another critical element out there that’s just as powerful but sometimes is overlooked: let’s call it ‘Interrelate’. It means the unique and powerful value that business monitoring applications like FirstRain bring to the table. Although we do bring together vast amounts of news and other business content from the Web, what we can do that others can’t is interrelatethat content through our (unique and patented) semantic categorization, deliver you some really targeted results, and then show you emerging trends through some pretty nice visualization analytics. What this means to business users in practical terms is quite effectively filtering out Web noise. It makes the time they spend getting up to speed on, or monitoring on an ongoing basis, an industry, market, company or subject, much for efficient and effective.

And not only is this more efficient, but through this type of interrelating of content a new kind value is generated (one that should be of great interest to content creators): the ability to make useful connections between content that may not have been anticipated by the creators themselves. This allows solutions like FirstRain to drive even more high-value traffic back to content creators than conventional news aggregators (or more general-purpose search engines), since we’re making connections for users that others simply can’t.

So as we look at the evolving relationship between content creators and aggregators, let’s resist the temptation to think of this relationship as twin poles between which we must navigate. The key role that ‘interrelators’, like FirstRain, play may emerge as an equally significant link in that chain.

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