The first question I asked Mr. Collings dealt with the issue of original reporting versus news aggregation.
1: So, on the topic of the future of quality journalism, how do you see the gathering and aggregation of news online affecting traditional newspaper sites like nytimes.com, that are known more for content creation, as opposed to aggregation, like what the Huffington Post does so well?
A: So, we don’t know how this is going to work out, but we do know that the Huffington Post is a combination of original reporting and aggregation, whereas the nytimes is primarily original reporting. And, whether there’s enough room for both models or not, we just don’t know. Right now, the Huffington Post is very successful, and that aggregation model seems to be working. The nytimes is trying to find a way to survive in this new environment. They’ve just put up a paywall, and we’ll have to see whether they can generate enough income.
- I think Mr. Collings is correct when he says that the aggregation model seems to be working. Enough consumers want their news delivered that way, and don’t care much for what source it comes from or how it is delivered to them. He’s also right in his observation that we really don’t know how this will play out. While most newspapers are struggling to earn a profit, especially online, they are just beginning to experiment with the idea that their content should be paid for, not simply aggregated everywhere across the internet.
- Personally, I don’t think the Huffington Post model is as bad or as harmful as the model of a site like Newser.com. Like all aggregators, Newser pores over countless sources and links to the trending or important articles across the web. However, in addition to that, it uniquely reduces these stories down to two paragraphs, eliminating the need for most people to even click on the link to the original article. This reduces the number of people visiting original creation sites, like nytimes.com, cutting back on advertising revenue, their main source of online revenue. I have come to believe that this kind of work is very damaging to newspaper sites that continue to give away most, if not all, of their content away online, like the nytimes or the Washington Post. Michael Wolff, the founder of Newser, believes strongly in the necessity of his company’s formula of using technology to provide a smarter news experience:
- The debate over aggregation unfolded in the public sphere recently between Arianna Huffington and Bill Keller, the managing editor of the nytimes. Mr. Keller wrote an article for the nytimes Magazine, in which he argued that the future of serious journalism lies with traditional content creators like the nytimes, rather than with aggregators like the Huffington Post. Arianna quickly responded with a viewpoint of her own, defending the work of the HuffPo, and claiming it does have significant full-time staff of original content creators. Instead of this back-and-forth that gets us nowhere, I would rather see some collaboration between these two media giants with a common goal of preserving online hard-hitting, investigative journalism.