How Slate First Came Up with the Idea of Aggregation

If you want someone to blame for aggregation, it might be Slate. As editor David Plotz has discussed in the past, Slate “actually pioneered” the aggregation type of web journalism with its Today’s Papers, which has since morphed into The Slatest. So this is all Slate’s fault! (Also, as FishbowlNY is itself an aggregation site, thank you!)

Plotz gives an interview to Columbia Journalism Review where he explains a bit about how the whole aggro-craze got started. Interesting fact: Slate’s first aggregator was almost the most successful traffic-driver in the business, Matt Drudge.

“Today’s Papers” started, I believe, a year after we launched, in 1997… We actually asked Matt Drudge to do it, but Drudge recommended Scott [Shuger]. But in fact, in our very first issue, the very first thing we did was, we had a column called “In Other Magazines,” which I wrote. That was an aggregation of what was in the main print magazines. The notion was, we would read Time and Newsweek and all the others so you wouldn’t have to bother…

So we were doing aggregation right from the very first day of Slate… But “Today’s Papers” became the most important and best version of that in the first years of Slate… It was never simply an act of finding the one story on the front page of the Times and summarizing it; it was about contrasting how news coverage was happening in different papers.

So it all began innocently enough! But times have changed. How do you keep yourself honest in the sleazy world of aggregation? Plotz explains:

The question is, How much of this kind of thing is your secondary work, and how much is your primary work? … I think that the best media sites find a way to combine aggregation-like features with their own unique strength … That’s true of The Huffington Post, which does a ton of aggregation but also has a very organic set of blogs and articles, it’s true of The Atlantic Wire, it’s true of The Daily Beast…

And FishbowlNY! He meant to add us to that list, we just know it.