Aggregation: How to Use Your Newsroom Resources Wisely [VIDEO]

Jul 3, 2013

Aggregation allows you to be nimble and provide your audience with a variety of sources and information in one post.
Credit Jim Hill/KUNC
Whether it's breaking news or a slideshow of audience-submitted photos, aggregation is a great tool for getting information published quickly. But there are few best practices you need to follow so that your audience understands where the information came from and why you're including it. So, let's start with the anatomy of an aggregated story and then we'll jump to reasons to aggregate.

1. Source is named: This is the most basic part of an aggregated story. You're incorporating material from a variety of places and you need to make it crystal clear where that information is coming from.

2. Source is linked: Building on number one, you want to provide your audience a way to check out the source material.

3. Quoted text looks different: You want to make sure that external materials are noticeably different from your own reporting. Whether it's blocked or italicized, do something to the text so that the audience knows the content is from somewhere other than your station.

4. Keep it short: Generally you don't want to clip more than 200 words at a time from a source. The idea is to give the highlights to your audience, not the whole thing (a slice of pizza versus the whole pie). You're acting as the curators and pointing out the relevant bits and tying together multiple sources to create a narrative. If your audience wants the whole pizza, remember you've linked back to the source material. See how it all comes together?

5. Keep it together: Don't hack up quotes to make a point. When you aggregate, make absolutely sure the content your including is kept in context.

Okay, so you have the basics down. Now what to do with that digital pile of videos, tweets, images and PDFs? Aggregate, I say. And here a couple of reasons if that's not enough for you.

Breaking News: a story breaks in your community and you're stretched with resources. Start pulling tweets, live streams or other elements to give your audience the information they need while you mobilize reporters.

Contextualize: A big, number-heavy report is released by the federal government. As you go through it, you find a bunch of information that's meaningful to your community. Use aggregation to pull in the locally-relevant material.

Audience Input: You notice a lot of photos that really capture the essence of your community. Reach out to the creators and build a slideshow with their work. Or utilize Twitter to help tell a story. Your audience is there and wants to help. Aggregation is a great way to bring them in.

Attribution: Think of this like the hat tip. Sometimes other news agencies do a great job on a story. Instead of trying to compete or re-report, give the content context and provide a link back to the original story.

Resource Allocation: This ties back to breaking news, but it's important enough to reiterate again. Aggregation helps your newsroom stay fast and flexible on everything from a major story to a curated piece on local sculptures. Aggregating is like making your reporter's notebook available to the audience.

So that's how to do it and why to do it, now check out a few examples:KPLU, St. Louis Public Radio, NewsWorks and NPR.

Oh, and one more thought. Embed, embed, embed! Videos, tweets and photos are all available for you to add to your post. They help streamline your workflow. You can use tweets from verified accounts like a local police department or the governor's office to save time, for example.

Speaking of embeds, here's an embedded recording of our webinar from this week.

Highlights (timestamped to the video)

This is an interactive webinar so Will Snyder and Teresa Gorman ask questions of the live participants. This timstamped guide will allow you to get the maximum benefit from this webinar and focus on sections that are of interest to you.

  • 4:00 What is aggregation? An overview of the technique and how it allows newsrooms to cover more events and use resources wisely.
  • 5:15 Gorman and Snyder present the rules to follow to create good aggregated posts. They also show examples of aggregation, from NPR and from station sites. Gorman and Snyder use the examples to highlight the common elements that define what aggregation is. They also answer a question about the legality of quoting other publications.
  • 14:50 The five reasons to use aggregation in news coverage: the story is valuable to your local audience; you can add context or more reporting to your audience; aggregation allows newsrooms to stretch resources to cover more stories; it’s a way to note good reporting elsewhere, with proper credit; and it acknowledges other expertise in the community.
  • 22:05 Tips on how to gather photos and videos for aggregation. Gorman explains how to search for Creative Commons photos using Flickr.
  • 27:00 The four questions to ask yourself before you use a Creative Commons photo: what is the editorial relevance of the image? will the visual illustrate the story well? will the caption add editorial relevance? is it ok to use an out-of-date image for this story?
  • 29:20 Gorman shows how to search for Creative Commons photos, select them, name them, and attribute them properly. She also discusses using Wikimedia Commons for photo search.
  • 38:20 Snyder shows how to search for, and find, videos. He begins with a checklist of reasons to consider using video rather than photos. Snyder has a lot of great advice in this section for when you need to find news videos on Google and YouTube, including setting up a list of local or other feeds to watch for content, using RSS in YouTube. And don’t forget Vimeo! And Snyder demonstrates a search on YouTube and shows the power of filters in searches.
  • 51:50 There are times when the video itself can be the story. Snyder talks about when this is a good idea. He also presents the questions you need to ask yourself as you consider whether a video would be an effective element in your story.
  • 54:10 Snyder shows an excellent example of aggregation from KUNC. He wraps up the webinar with a summary of the main points of aggregation.
  • 55:40 In response to a question, Snyder shows how to embed a tweet.
  • 59:00 Snyder whips up a quick example of an aggregated post, with links and an embedded video.