Does the term news aggregator mean anything to you? If you spend any time on the website Newser.com, it should. Note the Huffington Post-esque layout, a swanky grid that is heavy on the images and headlines and light on text. Must take an army of reporters to generate all this coverage, right? Not exactly. Newser is at the forefront of a revolution (some would say de-evolution) of the news industry. They specialize in aggregation and it’s beginning to aggravate traditional newspaper publishers.

What is a news aggregator?

The short version is this. Newser’s handful of editors spend their days trolling the Internet for news tidbits and stories researched and published by organizations like The New York Times, Washington Post, and other old-school reporting fishwraps. They condense the story into a couple of paragraphs and – along with either a link or reference to the original story – post it. Newser’s slogan is “Read Less Know More,” which pretty sums up their approach.

But wait, isn’t this simple theft? Founder Michael Wolff doesn’t try to hide what’s going on. In fact, he challenges the traditional newspaper publishing industry to put up or shut up on the matter of whether or not they will begin charging a fee in order to read their publications online. Speaking at the Changing Media Summit, Wolff predicted the result of such a step.

“Here at Newser, we’re particular eager for the charge walls to go up. You’ll be able to pay to spend more of your time and effort reading the New York Times, or you can come to Newser and for no money at all spend less time and effort getting the news in the Times.”

In case you didn’t notice, the gauntlet has been thrown down with that quote. Wolff states that information esteemed outlets like the New York Times publish behind a pay wall will be (in shortened form) published on the Newser website. As to the question whether or not this is theft, there haven’t been any direct legal challenges to Newser’s aggregation tactics but a Federal judge rendered her opinion in an unrelated case that a news aggregator “free-rides” on the coattails of others’ research and has a “profound effect on their business model.”

Right now, Newser’s website traffic isn’t impressive enough to incur much more than an angry glance from its story sources, but if that ever changes, expect Mr. Wolff to find himself in court defending his business model in front of a judge, and then we shall see what we shall see. Until then, Jason Hartman reminds interested readers to be able to discern the difference between community reporting and news aggregating. We’ll talk about both in greater deal in upcoming articles here at Speaking of Wealth. (Top image: Smabs Sputzer)


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The Speaking of Wealth Team

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