Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Aggregators Work

I know it’s Blinding Flash of the Obvious Time again here at Mister Fweem’s Blog, so I’ll get it out of the way quickly:

Aggregators work because, given the diversity of the Internet, web surfers like one-stop shopping for the stuff they want to consume.

That’s why Facebook works. One-stop shopping to see what our friends and pseudofriends are doing, or at least what they say they’re doing.

Used under the fair use doctrine for commentary purposes.

That’s why Twitter and Flickr and other such content aggregators work: Want to look at a bunch of pictures or inane babble? Flickr and Twitter are the places to go.

That’s why Mister Fweem’s Blog works for me. I’ve turned it into a pseudo-aggregator of all things Mister Fweem, but, more importantly, all things Mister Fweem wants to keep up with every day. True, I don’t have links to many of the major sites I visit every day, but there are plenty of links here to the sites I might visit on an occasional basis if they’ve got something that piques my interest. All I have to do is a quick scan and I can see in an instant whether or not I need to go further.

Newspapers used to be aggregators of a sort, but they offer things they think readers need, not what readers think they need. That, too, might be part of Uncharted’s slow plodding out of the doldrums: We’re not quite sure who our users are, nor what, exactly, they hope to get out of Uncharted, so the efforts we’re undertaking at the moment are kind of scattershot – and still not even aggregated under our own name.

The Internet is not a mere construct of web pages. It’s a social community. And when sites like Uncharted lumber up to the popular groups and say, “Hey, here I am, can I join the conversation?” we’d better have something to contribute to the conversation. And fast. And topical and pertinent to what the speakers and listeners want to hear, else we’ll be doing that loser walk from group to group and never get invited back. Maybe we need to find a sociologist who is extremely web-savvy to be part of our team, over anyone who specializes in advertising or marketing. Anybody can market something. And nobody but the real big boys are making money on the Internet. If we could but understand what “the people” want, the rest would fall into place. Quickly.

So this is why we ought to worry about things like this.


The folks at whereivebeen are going where their readers and contributors are, rather than making their readers and contributors come to them. They’re hitting on that idea of leveraging themselves socially, rather than trying to concentrate on the brand and conglomerating everything under one roof so “we” can get the credit or the money or the whatever it is we’re after.

So what’s the solution?

Uncharted affiliate blogs. If we can partner with other writers who are already putting stuff together on their own sites in a way that keeps their primary traffic and motivation where it is already – with the advantages of tapping into their audiences for, perhaps, some spillover traffic onto our site, we’re further ahead. We’re tapping into an already travel-anxious audience. Why not, for example, team up with the Don’t Get Bored in Idaho blog, send traffic her way, while at the same time requesting that she put up four or five links on a rotating basis on her site, directing some of her Idaho audience to the Idaho content on Uncharted? That increases her page views and our views reciprocally, and we’re able to tap into different audiences and find – who knows – somebody interested in contributing to our site because they’ve got stuff for bored people in, say, Oregon.

An Uncharted Flickr photo pool. I don’t know why we’re not doing this already. If we collected staff photos and – with permission – photos from our Explorers to put into a pool on Flickr, we’re opening up our photo talent to an enormous audience of photographic talent. Maybe if the folks on Flickr see our stuff and traipse over to our site, they might be inspired to contribute a bit at Uncharted.

All of this needs to be done. And all of it needs to be advertised heavily on Uncharted itself, so that our Explorers and those who wander to our site from the magic world of Google know where they can find us. We ought to have lots of advertising on Uncharted – for Uncharted’s other little ventures into other social media platforms. We need to show that we are where the rest of the Internet is.

There are endless possibilities. The Internet is not a walled garden, where we have to keep everything under our roof in order to prosper. We just have to tap into current audiences and make them aware of our presence. Show that we’re interested in them, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll be interested in us.

But, I can hear you asking – How does that work with the one-stop shopping I talk about earlier? Like this:

Uncharted becomes the place where readers can come to find travel photos and stories, either there or on other sites more localized to their own areas of interest or geographical location. Those sites, in turn, become portals for people who like a specific activity or geographical location but occasionally branch out and find stuff to do in other areas – through Uncharted.

We still have to work hard to build the Uncharted brand, so people will want to come to our site and, more importantly, be affiliated with us and occasionally direct some of their users to us. We, in turn, seek out those who are living the Uncharted lifestyle, but who have web portals of their own. We’re an aggregator connecting people to people through the web. As Alan stated at our last retreat, “Uncharted is more than a website.” We need to leverage that, and show that we are a lifestyle, a place to go for good information whether it’s branded as ours or not.

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