The general manager of hot local-news site TBD, Jim Brady, is out after what sounds like a disagreement with TBD publisher (and owner) Robert Albritton.
The cause of the departure appears to have been an argument about whether TBD should grow by adding more “content” (original reporting) or “aggregation” (links to third-party content).
(Brady disputes this, but Albritton’s memo makes it sound like it was an issue.)
In a reversal of the usual positions in this argument, publisher and money-man Albritton appears to want more original content, and Brady, the former executive editor of the Washington Post, wants (or wanted) content AND aggregation.
In case anyone’s wondering who’s “right” about what TBD should do, the answer is…Brady.
The online medium has made the distinction between “content” and “aggregation” irrelevant. Or, more specifically, it has turned aggregation into a form of content–and a very valuable one at that. The most successful online media companies, such as Huffington Post and Gawker Media, incorporate both original content AND aggregation. And that’s why they are drubbing both the pure aggregators and the pure “content” companies.
And before you fall for the whining about how “aggregation” is a sort of parasitical behaviour that steals the work of others, note that “aggregation as a form of content” is nothing new: TV and radio news outlets have been “aggregating content” for decades–by broadcasting news gathered by newspapers. And newspapers themselves have been reporting the work of other newspapers for centuries.
So this whole argument about “content vs aggregation” is silly, especially in a world in which millions of sources are only a click away.
If Albritton wants TBD to win a couple of Pulitzer prizes, fine, he should hire a few more Washington Post reporters. But if he wants the site to become a huge, influential commercial success that helps support a network of hundreds of local bloggers, he should ALSO keep investing in aggregation and technology.
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