Scott Karp's back with a follow up to his post on aggregators (a post I responded to here). In it he says...
OK, so here comes the really counterintuitive part — a news site does NOT have to choose between being a pass-through content publisher and a starting point aggregator.
A news site can be BOTH.
Imagine if the NYTimes.com put above the fold on its homepage a continously updated list of links to breaking news around the web — and then set the homepage to auto-refresh, like Drudge and Techmeme.
Instead of checking NYTimes.com once or twice a day, I’d probably start checking it constantly… obsessively.
And each time I came… I’d notice any new NYT content, along with new links.
I think this approach is a lot more realistic than what he seemed to be suggesting before. But I still think it's off-base.
The problem with this theory is that he's assuming the role of aggregator is an easy one when every bit of evidence we have suggests otherwise. I mean, how many other sites have tried to steal Techmeme's audience away from it? I can think of at least 5 off the top of my head.
But none of them succeeded because, though it appears deceptively easy, being a good aggregator is actually a fairly hard thing to do. In fact, I'd argue that its appearing so simple is exactly why it's so very difficult. Because there's no set rule to what does and does not make a great aggregator. It's an instinct (or in the case of sites like Techmeme an algorithmic imitation of an instinct).
Ironically Mr. Karp acknowledges this in his post (though probably without realizing it) when he says...
P. P. S. It just occurred to me after posting this why Drudge has such a huge audience — because Drudge has NO COMPETITION!
Geesh. You’d think some highly trusted traditional news brand would roll up their sleaves and take on Drudge.
Well, why do you think that is? You really think it's because no one ever thought of it? Or could it possibly be that what Drudge does actually requires a great deal of skill?
Again I say, aggregation is a skill. Once you accept that fact, the idea of news agencies just "tacking on" aggregation starts to look unrealistic. It would be like me walking into my local auto shop and telling them they should write software because there's more profit in it. It's silly because they don't have those skills available to them even if they wanted to do that.