Nice piece from Fred Wilson on online aggregators

I just came across this mini-rant by Fred Wilson in my feed reader and couldn’t agree more. His key point:

“Aggregation is the central element of distributing content on the web. It’s not going to get shut down by calling these services names, suing them, or even worse taking your content out of them. The best and only thing media companies can do is join the aggregation parade, celebrate it, and get good at it.”

Maybe I’ve been on the Web too long, but anyone who can attack “online aggregation” with a straight face strikes me as completely nuts. From big players like Google and Amazon to vertical aggregators like Hype Machine (in music) or Kayak (in travel), the Web companies that deliver the greatest consumer utility are – at bottom – aggregators. And pretty much every other online business – from retailers and content publishers to social networks – depends on the aggregators to help them acquire customers and promote their offerings.

Show me an online content category occupied by hundreds or thousands of sites competing for attention and customers and I’ll show you a vertical that’s ripe for aggregation. And if enough of these competing sites earn good money doing what they do, that market is probably also a good fit for online lead generation.

Several of our investments at Founders Co-op (including Cooler Planet and Frugal Mechanic) are running a version of this playbook, and I’m currently working on a prototype (more on that soon) that’s doing the same. These businesses work not by replacing or competing with the sites they aggregate, but by making them accessible and intelligible as a class, a service that ultimately increases the flow of visitors and buyers to the underlying sites.