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Aggregation vs. journalism ?

August 3, 2009 1 comment

I was having a conversation with a publisher of an independent publication.  He said that “my employer and you guys at foldier are on the opposite ends of the spectrum.”  He meant to say that aggregation and his contributions to the world were incompatible.  His attitudes irked me.

Aggregation has been labeled as parasitic, preying upon the newspaper industry.  AP’s and other new sources view point compile information and contribute their own opinions and attach a value to it.  These people fail to see the mutually beneficial relationships between the aggregators and publishers.

Personally, I aim to gain as much attention from this website and to my own writings and musings.  If anyone ever re-tweeted or linked to my website, I would be touched.  I make no money on my writing, but continue to write regardless.

Journalists rightly feel an ownership of their writings.  Aggregators never want to present it as their own information.  They attempt to draw attention to valued pieces of writing.  Aggregators complement the original content as being worthy of being read.

Aggregation as contextualization

The fact remains that there are so many different viewpoints on a topic that a journalist would have to publish a book concerning any subject to capture the entirety of an issue.  A writer that want to complete a simple piece about the importance of the protest after the Iranian elections would have to give context to the history of Iran, Iranian-American politics, Iranian and global relations, demographics of the Iranian population, etc. That context would be aggregated content from other sources.

Furthermore, bias within journalism runs rampant.  Matt Taibbi was singled out for his Rolling Stone articles where he blamed so many financial institution’s greed (particularly Goldman Sachs) for our present economic debacle.  Everything Taibbi wrote seemed to make sense, but the article showed only one side of the story.  It is simply too easy to blame one or multiple financial institutions for what is occurring.  Any student of history will tell you that no matter how simple a cause seems for something is there are deeper more complex issues at hand.

Aggregation done well and from an edited perspective can add depth to an issue.  If I had enough time, I would read both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, watch MSNBC and Fox News, and somewhere in the middle of what is being said and reported I would find a grain of truth.  However, aggregation does not rely upon a certain news network, news organization, talking heads, or time constraints to provide the depth necessary to find answers to today’s questions.

Aggregation without compensation

The major issue about aggregation is the lack of compensation.  There have been many articles written exploring the poltics and economics of free.  Bill Maher wrote on the Huffington Post (a site that use a lot of aggregated content) a piece decrying that seemingly everything in America must make a profit or is considered a failure.

Simply put, no one told newspaper or magazines to publish their material for free. To my knowledge, no one put a gun to newspaper owners’ and demanded free news. Conversely, it seems patently unfair for an outside service to co-opt ideas, words, and in some very rare cases art for profit especially without even mentioning the original source of the content. That is not aggregation – that is stealing content.

Shifting towards a symbiotic relationship

Newspapers should not silo away information only for those willing to pay a subscription fee.  Information from different newspaper around the world enrich the public discourse.  The average reader may be faced with the dilemma of sacrificing the excellent writing of the New York Times or the political insight of the Washington Post.  However, the newspaper must have the incentive to continue to keep covering these issues and be compensated.  Beyond the incentive, they must have the means to continue publishing.

Somewhere between the benefits of aggregation and excellence of individual writers and newspaper, there is a compromise to be had.  Mirroring the differing opinions of politics lies the ability to compromise for the sake of perpetuation.

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Introducing The sPressionist

The sPressionist

The sPressionist

The sPressionist is the first online aggregated newspaper dedicated to following printed news media and exclusively powered by foldier.

Our focus is how the print media, media in general, and journalism are shifting from the printed form to the digital age. ThesPressionist.com went online just a couple weeks ago.

We created this site because we wanted to showcase the power of foldier’s sPressions to create a fully foldier-generated site. Choosing a topic for the site was easy. Dramatic changes in delivery and consumptions of news are currently happening due to Internet and new applications like foldier.

Watch this video segment where technology journalists, Jeff Jarvis and Michael Arrington discuss the future of news reporting.

There is a whole new class of people that don’t necessarily blog but all they do is read everything, constantly, on Google Reader or whatever and they disseminate that on twitter or whatever… and those people are an increasingly important part of the ecosystem

Well, foldier is a great tool for those people that read everything. And foldier is the tool that is making those people (the disseminators) increasingly important.

With foldier you can aggregate and discover new content on the Web, then you select and publish (sPressing) what is interesting. And then, when you sPress a link, an article or a video that action can be broadcasted to Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook. So you become a “news disseminator“!

foldier is more powerful and way more useful of a simple RSS reader because (1) it filters incoming articles and separate them using keyword matching; (2) it aggregates more than just RSS feeds, in fact it allows to add simple links (pretty much like a bookmarking tool), or to connect services like Flickr, Delicious, Facebook and Google Docs; (3) it offers the capability of publishing (syndicate) worthy items hence giving its user the power of expressing their opinions on what is available over the Web.

The sPressionist is an example of what you can do if you have interest and you want to follow a particular topic or an entire subject area. All content published on the sPressionist is driven by foldier.  Every heading is a different sPression with aggregated data from multiple websites varying from blogs to century old newspaper institutions.  We created a widget for each sPression, gave it the “News” look and feel and set them up in a simple three column page.

And of course, you can follow The sPressionist on Twitter.

The whole process is not complicated and can be easily replicated by anyone with a little HTML know-how!

Started as an example the sPressionist is already capturing a lot of interest. Few sites on the web have such up to date information and collect articles from such a wide array of sources. We look at how the traditional media is shifting and its future. We believe foldier is part of that future. So we hope that you enjoy the capabilities of sPressions, but also hope you enjoy the content!

The foldier team