Self-publishing is a great tool. It’s how The Airspace gets all our content to readers. But, without establishing a publication’s role within a community the website is easily lost to obscurity. On Nieman Journalism Lab, David Skok inspects how rising media outlets are more aggregators of news and content than creators of original material.
New entrants to a field start at the low end, establish a foothold, eat away at the customer base of incumbents — and then move up the value chain. It happened with Japanese automakers in the 1980s, who started with cheap subcompacts and moved up to making Lexuses. It happened in the steel industry, where mini-mills began as a cheap, lower-quality alternative to established integrated mills, then moved their way up, pushing aside the industry’s giants. In the news business, newcomers do this by delivering a product that is faster and more personalized than that provided by the bigger, more established news organizations. They also create new market demand by engaging new audiences. (A 17-year-old may not read The New York Times, but they may stumble upon Buzzfeed to see that viral cat video.)
The aggregators of today will be the original reporters of tomorrow. Those of us who care about good journalism shouldn’t dismiss the Buzzfeeds of the world because they aren’t creating high-quality reporting. Their search for new audiences will push them into original content production. Buzzfeed may be focused on cat videos and aggregation now, but disruption theory argues that content companies like it will move into the realm of the Huffington Post — which in turn, has already indicated its desire to compete more directly with The New York Times.
This is undoubtably true and actually a real problem in many establishments who have become so sucked into the aggregation game that they can’t take the next step toward more professional journalism. I think it’s needed to help create the community of readers. So long as you have one group of people aggregating news, and another creating premium content, a new publication has a shot at success