Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Blogging: Aggregation

A question facing any blogger these days is what kind of site does he or she want to run. Basically, it breaks down to two different schools of blogging: Aggregation or Commentary. Occasionally, you will see “old-school journalism,” but this usually require a budget, something most bloggers are lacking.

I was faced with this question earlier tonight, while driving back from my office. Dave Sutor over at phugit mentioned something about how he rarely Aggregates. (Aggregation is the practice of just linking to a bunch of articles written by others).

I, on the other hand, try to balance the two. Why? Is regurgitation of other’s work easier? I’d be lying to you to say that it wasn’t. But there are other reasons this is done.

If you have been living under the rear axle of a Ford 150 for the past three months, you probably haven’t noticed that the only subject in the news has been Iraq. For the rest of us non-axle dwellers, this has been all we have been fed by mainstream media. You almost would believe that nothing else is occurring except for the troubles in Iraq. How many times did you see mention of the Northern Ireland Peace Process breaking down on TV? Did you even know that there WAS a process to be broken down?

But, that’s only half of the problem. Although the cable news networks have been devoting 24/7 coverage of the Iraq crisis, they are doing a rather horrid job at it. The “story cycle” goes like this: (using WMD as an example only)

Story 1: Embedded Journalist locates POSSIBLE weapons find in Iraq.
Story 2: CENTCOM cannot comment on possible weapons find.
Story 3: CENTCOM can confirm that there is a possible weapons find.
Story 4: CENTCOM announces that the find was not weapons.

Not only is that list in chronological order, it’s in the order that the media networks “play” the story.

Aggregating allows the fourth story, which is JUST as important as the first, to get some much needed attention.

Call the mainstream’s practices what you will, but the truth is that it is a failure of modern journalism.

It’s this failure that has caused blogs on the left AND right to gain popularity. Doubt this? Take a look at the “hits” on the king of conservative aggregators, Matt Drudge.

Drudge proudly displays that his site has had 9.5 million hits in the last 24 hours, 192 million in the last month, and 1.3 billion in the last year. Granted, Drudge uses a sneaky practice called a meta refresh to boost these numbers (sit on his page long enough, and it will reload in your browser, allowing you to register another “hit”) But regardless, these numbers are just one example of how we are only getting 1/3 of the story from mainstream TV media. The far left and the far right? That’s up to us to find.

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