Do you think news aggregation is evil? "Get over it," Newspeg creator says

byMargaret Looney
Apr 9, 2014 in Digital Journalism

News aggregation is common in many modern newsrooms, but there are still skeptics out there.

Just recently, Mark Potts, CEO of curation site Newspeg, was told "aggregation is evil."

His response: "Get over it."

"The idea that there’s a single source for news is dead," Potts said at a panel on news startups and innovators at last week's Journalism Interactive (J/i) conference, an event where journalism educators and professionals discuss how to prepare journalism students for the digital future.

Curation tools allow news outlets to give people multiple choices and perspectives, said Potts, a veteran journalist and news entrepreneur.

Aggregation and curation simplify content discovery for readers by using algorithms or editors to handpick relevant news from different sources. The terms are often used interchangeably, although technically there are differences between the two.

But not all newsrooms have embraced aggregation, especially those with sites built before the practice caught on widely. “Traditional media’s content management systems are not set up for aggregation and curation. The idea of [an outlet] putting a headline and a link from a different source onto [its own page] is radical, and it may not even be doable.”

Not all platforms may be ready to make that leap, but journalists may be more accustomed to culling through stories and choosing the most relevant ones than they realize. They just call it a different name, Potts said.

"For those of us who started out in journalism a long time ago, curation is what we used to call editing, said Potts, a former Washington Post staffer. "Anybody who's made up a front page has curated. We said, 'What stories do we have today?' We picked those stories, left others off, and put them on the front page. That's what curation is, and these are just better tools for doing that."

Rob Malda, founder of curation site Trove, thinks aggregation will become a staple for newsrooms across the board.

"There's a repeating pattern of nerds with spare time doing things that mortals don't want to do, and then 10 years later you're all doing it," Malda said. "So get ready."

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

_Image CC-licensed on Flickr via Adrian Wallett._