During the past six months I’ve become really interested in news aggregators. Techmeme is the first thing I check after email in the morning and it has helped me a lot in finding out what people are discussing about technology right now. It has saved me hours of time and I’ve come across stories I would have missed otherwise.
Of course Techmeme has its problems. Tristan Louis wrote about Techmeme myopia – Techmeme highlights stories that are being discussed right now, but it cannot distinguish between rumor and news or a personal clash between bloggers and really disruptive innovation. But I’m fine with that. It would be great is Gabe Rivera could develop Techmeme so that It could tell the difference. I hope he does, but it will not be easy.
What, on the other hand, is easy, is creating an aggregator around one topic and then cloning it to handle something completely different. That’s what Rivera has done with celebrity gossip, politics and baseball.
A new entrant (at least new to me) to the aggregation game is Loud3r. They have created aggregators to handle such diverse topics as sneakers, dogs and motorcycle roadracing. The most interesting to me are Found3r (about venture capital) and Buzz3r (about internet business & technology). These sites do not quite get to the same level as Techmeme, but they produce somewhat different results, which is always welcome. And I also like that they reveal the score they give to each story and how it is counted from three variables: quality, community and buzz.
In conclusion, aggregators are all the time easier to create, they are easier to copy and they will continue to become a very big part of peoples’ lives. Currently aggregators like Techmeme and Buzz3r are used by only a handful of people, but as aggregators develop to get better results they will eventually be used by the masses who have no time or will to go through the noise.
[Techmeme discussion: Techmeme Myopia]
Fred Wilson has shared where the traffic to his blog, A VC, comes from. He made an important notion on how the majority of users have come to his site through search engines, but their dominance has declined in the past year. He notes that an almost good a source has been from sites he calls smart aggregators. By these he means sites that aggregate either algorithmically (Techmeme) or through user behavior (Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon) the most important new articles. The importance of these aggregators will surely continue to grow especially in topics like technology.
As Fred mentions himself, the traffic from RSS-readers has not increased for him, because they just are too hard for the average user to use. I have to admit that I personally fall into the same category. It’s not that I don’t see the value of RSS-readers, it’s just better (easier, faster) for me to get a pre-prioritized list of the most important news and post through Techmeme or even Friendfeed.
For most publishers and bloggers getting traffic from these smart aggregators is more valuable than getting traffic from search engines using some random keywords. Fred Wilson correctly divides search engine results between “search bookmarks”, which should be counted as direct traffic, and real search. The importance of Search Engine Optimization is not diminishing: see my earlier post about the declining importance of URL’s in navigation as opposed to search.