Thank You For Aggregating Us!

henry blodget

I just wanted to post a quick note of thanks to every blogger, media organisation, and reader who has ever shared our work and spread the word about Business Insider.

Thanks to you, we’re now privileged enough to have more than 23 million unique readers a month–a milestone we would never have achieved if so many of you weren’t writing about and linking to our work every day.

We occasionally hear other media organisations speak ill of such “aggregation,” as though it’s some sort of a bad thing. This has always been mystifying to us. 

It is not mystifying because we have a large readership. It was also mystifying five years ago, when we were a tiny tech site and needed every reader and page view we could get. We were thrilled when our stories spawned a follow-on story that earned us a mention in, say, the New York Times, even without a link. The New York Times chose to share our existence and story with their readers! Cool!

Now, to be clear, there are good and bad forms of aggregation, and we’re certainly not in favour of the latter. If another site completely rewrites one of our stories and doesn’t credit or link to us, we get frustrated. Our policy here is to use others’ work the way we want our own work used–which is usually to say, “provide full credit with our names and a link” or just “direct-link.”  If a writer who chooses to aggregate us in that way gets more pageviews from our story than we get from it, that’s fine. It takes the writer and publication time to write their article, and we’re grateful that they found our work important enough to share it with their readers.*

We assume the knee-jerk anti-aggregation attitude at some companies stems from the era in which big media organisations were like hydrants in the desert–the only place to find news and information–and therefore came to view their immense power, control, and profits as something they were entitled to.

Now, of course, media organisations are like hydrants in the ocean and readers are drowning in choices  So the idea that we would frown on someone for recognising and highlighting our work sounds not just ungracious, but self-defeating.

Another thing to remember about aggregation is that media companies have always aggregated from each other. When I worked at CNN in the early 1990s, much of the news we reported came from Reuters. The New York Times frequently runs stories on stories that were first reported by the Wall Street Journal (and vice versa)–and the Wall Street Journal doesn’t get anything more than credit for that. TV networks constantly broadcast news uncovered by print and digital publications, often without credit. The fact that digital companies often build on each others’ stories, therefore, is certainly nothing new. The key is to do it in a way that is a win-win for both sides.

In short, your aggregation of our stories helps spread the word about our work to a wider audience. In the past, publications like ours would have had to hire PR firms to send their articles around and beg other journalists to write about them. Now you not only choose to read our posts with no prodding, you write about them, link to us, raise awareness of our brand and writers, and make it easy for more readers to find us.

And we’re grateful for every mention and link.

We know that you and your readers are busy people with millions of articles and sites you can visit every day. So the fact that you’re reading us and telling your readers about our work is a huge compliment.

We’re thrilled you enjoy our site, and we look forward to continuing to get better every day.

In the meantime, thank you for aggregating us!

* Yesterday, for example, I had a back-and-forth with the editor of an excellent ad-industry site called Digiday, Brian Morrissey, who was unhappy with the way we had written about one of his stories. This is rare for us: Other publications email us frequently in the hope that we will write about their stories, and normally we get thank-you notes from other writers for highlighting their work, not frustration. We gave Brian enthusiastic and full credit for the story, but we used a screenshot from his story and more people read our story about his story than clicked through to read his story. Brian felt both were unfair. We would not look at it that way, but we’re not Brian, and we never want someone to be frustrated with our use of their work. So on behalf of Business Insider, I apologise to Brian for that.

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