The Small Wide Web

All Hail the New King -- Aggregation

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Welcome to 2007. If you thought the media environment was fragmented last year, just wait. Things are going to get a lot more micro.
Steve Rubel
Steve Rubel Credit: JC Bourcart

In the new millennium, we've witnessed an absolute explosion in digital media. The barrier to becoming a member of the Fourth Estate has been completely obliterated. And although the phenomenon outlined in Chris Anderson's book "The Long Tail" is a reality, we're still left with a lot of unwanted content.

Consider this: If you subscribe to your local newspaper, you get the funnies -- like it or not. Got cable TV? Then you still have to pay for ESPN as part of your package even if you couldn't care less about sports. Even your favorite blog is occasionally irrelevant.

In the next few years, the "microchunking" of the content will take us deeper into our interests even more than the recent niche boom has.

Technologies such as RSS and web widgets are already enabling millions to digest only the slivers of content they care about on an a-la-carte basis. People are forgoing the rest.

Microformats, another emerging standard, will make things even smaller. The technology allows publishers to categorize information within a web page, such as event listings, so that they are more easily discovered through niche search engines.

Media brands that ignore this trend will become irrelevant in a world where aggregation is king. Several key players, such as Google, have embraced the opportunity to take microchunking mainstream. Google's personalized home page (, one such platform, is already one of its fastest-growing services.

But the aggregation opportunity is everyone's. Marketers must recognize that people increasingly will consume content in small bites, not large. Brands have an opportunity to introduce consumers to this content by creating platforms where people can aggregate the niche content they care about. In addition, they should move now to make sure existing online investments are ready to be chunked down so people can integrate it into other platforms.

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Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.
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