Journalists on aggregators

What do editors think about news aggregators, such as Google News – or social news websites, e.g. Reddit? If Marina Vujnovic is right, they don’t really have a clue.

She wrote about the subject in a chapter of a recent book, dedicated to participatory journalism. The question she explores: what, if anything, motivates journalists and editors of online publications to take advantage of the help of citizen reporters?

Their answers in general are not surprising, but there was one point that made me raise an eyebrow.

“Among the more problematic competitors for interviewees were aggregator sites such as Google News, which were seen as essentially stealing the work of traditional news gatherers.” (p. 148)

The interviewees in question were editors and journalists of online publications, working in a number of different countries. Their view is puzzling. Aggregator sites typically don’t host any kind of content on their own, they merely provide links to the contents of other sites, so not only do they not steal from producers, they provide an alternative channel for them to disseminate their content! To me, there doesn’t even seem to be much sense in considering these aggregators competitors.

On the other hand, what these sites do does encourage competition: they provide an additional channel for product X as well as its competitors. Their filtering mechanisms might even distort competition so that it favors those already in the dominant position; so in this sense, the wariness of less important players of the media industry is understandable.

Thinking about this drew my attention to something I should’ve thought about a long time ago: the differences between the computer-generated and manual filtering and news aggregation. Or, the difference between Google News and Reddit. Let’s find out which one is better!

Singer, Jane B., Alfred Hermida, David Domingo, Ari Heinonen, Steve Paulussen, Thorsten Quandt, Zvi Reich and Marina Vujnovic (eds.) (2011): Participatory Journalism: Guarding Open Gates at Online Newspapers. Blackwell.

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