Content aggregation: Paving the way through information overload
The explosion of news and other types of content (from media players and user-generated, for example grassroots movements) has had a profound impact on content consumption habits.
Over the years, online aggregators, RSS readers and aggregation apps have become increasingly in vogue for consumers trying to sift through the avalanche for content relevant to their interests and lives.
One of the big online aggregators is of course Google News, while Apple News recently launched to the anticipation of many (and if recent reports are to believed, with varied success). Remember the modest email newsletter, well that, of course, has also seen a revival in recent years.
So while "aggregation" as a concept is not new, it is still an area of interest to many a player, established media companies and startups alike, writes Elisabeth Oberndorfer. Here she considers some of these developments.
Hear from Jan-Eric Peters, chief product officer of Axel Springer's new Upday service at the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin, Germany (20-22 March 2016). (Pre-agenda booking is available until 30 November 2015, with discounts of +€800 on final delegate rates – click here to book).
In the app world, Nuzzel has been a rising star. The app, launched in 2012, identifies the most shared articles by connections in your Facebook and Twitter feed. Users can set up notifications for real-time interaction based on interests or visit the app to catch up on the most shared stories at their convenience.
Nuzzel founder Jonathan Abrahams recently said they are in talks with publishers to figure out how to collaborate on content aggregation. Abrahams did not go into detail about the plans, but this may include some form of widget on external sites.
Tapping into the newsletter revival, Nuzzel also launched a newsletter platform this fall. It collects a user's five top stories, which can then be sent out with a short personal message to their own "subscribers". In doing so, Nuzzel gives users the power to curate and share themselves. "We are expanding beyond a personal consumption experience to also being a platform where people can share stuff," according to Abrahams.
On the publisher side, Axel Springer is working on its content aggregation app called "Upday". The app will provide "access to a range of news content that combines 'Need to Know' information selected by a local market editorial team and 'Want to Know' information, an algorithm-based service tailored to customers' individual interests," as described by the company. In its current early beta-version and only Samsung phone owners can access the service. The service is expected to officially launch in 2016.
Content-driven newsletters have had a great run in especially niche markets, serving as information source and sort of "trade publication" for many industries. These emails often generate high opening and click through rates, but recent times have seen a newsletter revival among more general news providers too – many with great success.
On the startup side, media startup "The Skimm" has built up a subscriber base of more than 1.5 million in the past three years. The concept is simple: “The Skimm” is sent out in the mornings to let their readers "skim" through the most important news of the day.
The target audience are female professionals, people who don't watch "Good Morning America", says co-founder Danielle Weisberg: "We always believed email was the way to reach this demographic."
A fulltime team of 15 curates the newsletter and so-called "Skimm-bassadors" spread the word the service to build audience. The startup also experiments with different forms of sponsorships to build revenue streams.
For Atlantic-owned business news site Quartz, their email newsletter, the Daily Brief, is a significant component of its offering. To do so, Quartz has editorial teams in different time zones, curating news for the Daily Brief, which is sent out in the mornings. As of mid-2015, it had 130,000 subscribers and an open rate of up to 50 per cent.
Only 25 per cent of the links in the Daily Brief refer to qz.com, the other information is collected from news sources around the world. While email does expand their reach, Quartz sees it more as a service to their readers to inform them about relevant stories regardless of where they have been published.
Curating user-generated content
Reddit and Upvoted
Reddit launched way back in 2005, but has scaled significantly in recent years. In October, the San Francisco based company launched a new website, Upvoted. Here editors highlight stories that have been "upvoted" by users on Reddit and therefore tagged as relevant and worthy to read.
The platform players
While social media Facebook and Twitter pretty much relied on algorithms in the past, they have come to appreciate the human editor.
Twitter recently introduced "Moments". These "Moments" are collections of tweets, multimedia and article links referring to breaking news. The feature is one of many efforts to counter the feeling of being of overwhelmed when searching through hashtags and real-time coverage. Only few weeks after the launch of "Moments", Facebook opened its search to public posts to make it easier to find posts on topics of interest. Additionally, an editorial team builds landing pages for these searches, as does Twitter with "Moments".
There are also rumours that Facebook is working on a breaking news app that lets publishers send out alerts to their followers. This follows "Instant Articles", which is being rolled out in the US as a way to improve the content user experience in users' feeds.
Meanwhile, Google's "Accelerated Mobile Pages" is considered a more publisher-friendly version of an open article format. It is open source technology works with Wordpress and other platforms and can be integrated not only in Google search results, but other apps as well.
One of the earliest forms of content aggregation are of course RSS feeds. When Google shut down its RSS Reader in 2013, many people predicted the death of RSS. Though according to popular RSS reader Feedly that has not happened. By early 2015 it has some 50,000 paid subscribers.
The company recently introduced "Shared Collections", another service aimed at paying customers who use Feedly in the workplace. With collections, teams are able to aggregate and share information on various topics and projects they are working on. It has Slack integration now, to foster further content aggregation and sharing in the workplace.
Publishers also use the Feedly to build relationships with its most engaged readers. Feedly users read 200 stories per month, 60 per cent coming via mobile devices.
All of this is a good sign for traditional media. Collecting and curating content has always been the media mainstay for the new world of content consumption is not only about producing content, but also about disseminating relevant content in the most convenient way to users.
Major publishers are getting involved in projects and with their own initiatives, but even smaller ones can benefit from the trend. The cost of reaching audiences has come down, and there is an array of options to build audience. In turn, users can only benefit from these developments.