News is delivered in many different ways via the Internet. With so many blogs and news sites, it is sometimes hard to keep up and know if you’re really getting all the day’s top headlines. That’s where content aggregation comes into play. Aggregators are sites specifically designed to bring multiple news sources together and repackage them in a more convenient form. These sites make it possible to track and digest the day’s top news with minimal effort. But there is more than one method of aggregation, so which is right for you?
Below, I will take a look at five different techniques for aggregating the day’s top news: Single Stream Aggregation, Single Page Aggregation, Meme Aggregation, People Powered Aggregation, and Edited Aggregation. For this round up I will use only sports-related sites.
Single Stream Aggregation
Single stream aggregation, like SportSpyder takes multiple sources and combines them into a single stream. This is a great method for tracking more than one feed and keeping on top of breaking news. SportSpyder itself aggregates from a large number of varied sports news sources and filters them by team or player. The site also lets users create custom mashup feeds of news for multiple teams.
I use SportSpyer indirectly through a module on my MyYahoo! page to track Yankees team news. And while it certainly reports on-topic news from various papers and blogs well, there is one major drawback to this model: duplicates. Because a single stream aggregator simply mashes up a single stream from multiple feeds, there will often be duplicate stories reported from more than one source. Currently in my stream, for example, I have 3 or 4 different stories about Phil Hughes’ rehab start from different sources.
Single Page Aggregation
A single page aggregator puts headlines from more than one source onto a single page. Sport Snipe, for example, lists 22 sources on its main headlines page (and also includes specialized areas by sport). Singe page aggregators keep feeds separate and let you sort out the news. These are basically simple RSS readers, and the benefit is that you get a lot of sources on a single, convenient page. However, that’s also the drawback. This method of aggregation puts a lot of information on the page at once and it can be overwhelming.
Meme aggregation attempts to cut down on the signal to noise ratio by figuring out what is the most talked about news (and thus, hopefully, the most important). Megite Sports is a good example of a meme aggregator. The day’s news is distilled down into the top 20 stories based on what is being linked to. (Note that Google News is similar, but relies less on linking and likely more on keyword analysis and comparison to group stories into memes.) Gabe Rivera’s BallBug is another example – it is similar to the tech news favorite Techmeme, but focused on baseball.
This is a great way to get a quick glimpse at what are very likely the top stories of the day. The biggest problem with this method is that it is not always super fast at catching breaking news. Meme aggregators will only update with new memes as fast as bloggers and news writers can create them — in other words, breaking news won’t be noticed until enough people are talking about it.
People Powered Aggregation
Yardbarker is an example of a sports-themed people powered aggregator — which of course means a digg-clone for sports. People powered aggregation decides the top news by letting people submit and vote on stories. These sites are great for finding interesting and often overlooked content, and the biggest stories will usually get play fairly quickly after they break, but people powered aggregation is generally not great at reporting the day’s news. The crowd can be fickle, and a lot of times selections on these sites seem random, if entertaining.
Edited aggregation, like Yahoo! Sports News combines news from trusted sources and is vetted by human editors. Yahoo! for example, takes news from the wires — the Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, and PA SportsTicker, among others — and aggregates them into a single stream. Editors keep duplicates to a minimum and decide which stories are the most important to be listed as top headlines on the main sports page.
The benefit to edited aggregation is that the signal to noise ratio is great, and you don’t have to do much sifting to find the top news. The drawback, of course, is that you are getting your news through a filter based on the opinions of a few people.
So which is the best? It’s really very difficult to say. Each method above has both positive and negative characteristics. The best solution will be the one that you think gives you the best headlines according to your tastes and needs. That very likely could include more than one of the above types of aggregators.