I saw this web page on the Huffington Post a week or so ago and saved it to post about it later (much later as it turned out). Take a look at the amount of actual original content on this web page. I call it a web page because there’s no earthly way I can call it a story.
Content creators used to get upset at content aggregators. Now we’re happy when we’re mentioned at all, and some traffic trickles through. But this is just egregious. And it should be embarrassing. Putting that little content on that monstrous a webpage is an affront to every person who doesn’t have a financial interest in driving more pageviews and ad sales on the Huffington Post.
In the words of the recent Windows Phone 7 ad: really, HuffPo? Really?
Link aggregators like Digg, Newsvine, Shoutwire, Fark, Delicious, Reddit, and Spurl are increasingly popular ways to find and track news … but there are some differences between them. Especially regarding how they treat your browser window.
Digg: mine, mine, mine
Digg likes your browser window – a lot. Just like the seagulls in Finding Nemo. So much so that clicking on links in digg opens up a brand new window. After all, why share when you can just have your own?
NowPublic: it’s … my … p-r-e-c-i-o-u-s!
Sharing does suck. But NowPublic would rather share the pie – even the bottom slice- rather than let everyone have their own pie. All is fair in love and war (and aggregating) and memories are short. Maybe you’d forget where that un-freaking-believably great link came from, if you weren’t constantly reminded.
Netscape: mommy, mommy, look at me!
Sharing doesn’t suck if you get the best piece. Why take the bottom of the totem pole? The side – especially the left side – is much more imposing, prominent, and lickable. Err … clickable.
Shoutwire: what do you mean, “your” window?
The bottom of the totem pole? The side of the totem pole? Are you joking? Shoutwire has nothing against sharing … as long as it gets top billing. Right across the top, baby, and yes, that’s our Flash ad making your CPU race. Click on it. Now.
Newsvine: other sites? What other sites?
Aggregator? What’s an aggregator? The news is here – we have the news. We are the news in fact, and there’s no reason to go anywhere else. Just vote already. OK? Or, if you really must, post a comment.
Some context for this post
I wrote this post because I’m tired of going to an aggregator, clicking on a link, and getting my browser window spammed, or new windows generated.
Aggregators, their value, their revenue
Aggregators are supposed to collect news or cool links. Social aggregators apply some mob logic to the equation, but it’s still news or cool links.
The value that aggregators bring is filtering.
There’s a lot out there on the long, long tail of the world wide web. Too much for any one of us to find everything. Too much for any one of us to find everything we’re interested in. And too much for any one of us to find the best of what’s interesting.
Filters let the cream rise to the top. (At least, that’s the theory.)
Since aggregators add value by filtering, they’re entitled to rewards. Money, not to put too fine a point on it. As our eyeballs dangle on strings, fixated on the flickering lights of our favorite filters, they paste ads on our brains. Occasionally, we click on one of them. The aggregator aggregates a few pennies.
That’s OK. That’s cool. That’s good. They’re happy, we’re happy. But. (Isn’t there always a but?)
The map is not the territory
Aggregators are the map. They show us how to get from Bush bashing to techno-hippy news. And we appreciate it. But aggregators are NOT the territory. They’re not the Bush bashing or the techno-hippy news.
The pipe is not the water.
The lense is not the view.
The artery is not the blood.
The reporter is not the story.
When aggregators forget this, they try too hard. They want to be too much. Then they do things like Netscape and Shoutwire and NowPublic: trying to control your browser window.
More than they deserve
When they do this, they are trying to extract more value than they ought.
These aggregators are behaving like old media. They are acting like About, where links always circle the wagon and lead visitors on a merry-go-round inside the walled garden. They are framing other sites’ content … something that I thought we had shunned into nonexistence almost a decade ago.
They are trying to package and profit from others’ work. This is taking more than they deserve. This is hijacking. This is an ownership mentality, not a partnership mentality.
Bottom line: it’s not right.
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The good guys Reddit, Spurl, Simpy, and Delicious all open links in the existing open browser window. This is what they should be doing, and they are to be commended for it.
A final note:
I can’t get too worked up about aggregators that open links in a new window. It’s annoying, but those of us who are not newbies know how to open links in new tabs, or already have our browsers set up to do that. It’s the aggregators who try to control our browsing experiences that annoy me.
It’s worth noticing that popurls, the aggregator of the aggregators, also opens links in the same existing window in which the link was clicked. Way to go.
I welcome feedback, on your blog or in the comments below.