Traditional Media Need Google and other Aggregators

Catching up on some interesting blog posts this week, I found this superb analysis by Publishing 2.0 about why newspapers should embrace online aggregators.

Highlights:

  • Many newspaper executives have made an enemy out of Google and other online aggregators who disintermediate newspapers and all other traditional media.
  • These aggregators drive a significant amount of traffic to newspapers.
  • The real fear is that aggregators are destroying the direct brand relationships that newspapers and other branded media have traditionally had with their audience.
  • The problem that newspapers and other traditional media brands have is that they still see branding as a function of controlling the distribution channel, rather than branding each unit of content that must now live and survive on its own in a disaggregated online media ecosystem.
  • The real missed opportunity for newspapers is in optimizing their content to convert user who find their way to newspaper content via search and other aggregators into subscribers and direct users of the brand. (there is an interesting example from The New York Times and some interesting data from Publishing 2.0 RSS subscriptions in the post)
  • Newspapers will also limit their growth by focusing only on their own content — the New York Times and many other mainstream media sites have embraced aggregation themselves, as blogs have done for years, by linking usefully to other sites, which only increases their value as a destination.
  • None of this will save newspapers from declining print circulation, i.e. it won’t turn young people who don’t read print newspapers into print readers. But it can help people discover the newspaper’s original content online — and if they discover it enough times, some of them will start going to these newspapers directly as a source. This is essentially a reinvention of the circulation department.

What it means: a couple of things. First, if you are traditional media, you need to re-think how you see your brand. There is a retail version of your brand (your destination sites) and there is a wholesale version of your brand (rss feed, SEO strategy, content licensing, etc.). Both are as important strategically. Second, the idea of branding content pieces in addition to your destination site is brilliant. Make sure you take that into account when working on your wholesale strategy. Finally, embrace search engines and aggregators to increase your reach.

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