Aggregation Primer

Big Data Cartoon
From the Marketoonist

What is Aggregation?

Aggreation is taking various sources and combining them into a useable form. And Aggregation can be used for a variety of purposes.  Some traditional Aggregation type publications are encyclopedias and Readers Digest.  Readers Digest is a great example, because it takes already published articles and places them together in a new binding.  Additionaly Readers Digest makes the content more useable for its consumers by condensing some.

Aggregation online takes the form of sites like:

  1. Google News and Huffington Post which gather news stories
  2. Epinions which aggregates reviews.
  3. Real Clear Politics which aggregates election polls.

And of course there are many more.

Promise of Aggregation.

Aggregators can make sifting through the mounds of data available an easier task. The Yahoo News Digest and Cir.Ca apps are my first stop for news, because they don’t just gather, but they also summarize news stories, and provide links to more indepth articles. They allow me to get a “briefing” and decide what I want to know more about.


Similar technology can be used on large data sets (also known as “Big Data”), to make them manageable and useful.  Having a hundred points of info on a consumer can help you make decisions on what that consumer would respond best to.  But imagine having 1000 points of data on millions of consumers, the task becomes daunting. And a task that if done well could provide extremely effective marketing to individual consumers, decreasing lost opportunities and increasing conversion rates.

Problems of Aggregation

Despite it’s promise, data aggregation is an immature field (Winterberry Group).



And as an immature field, laws, rules and best practices are just now being formed.  And the lack of these clear guides has lead to some terrifying and potentially deadly outcomes, as in the case of the Sunil Tripathi.

Media gathering after the Boston Bombing
Police and members of the media stand in front of the home of Ruslan Tsarni, uncle of Tamerlan and Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, in Montgomery Village, Maryland April 19, 2013 (Reuters)

A Tale of Caution

In the aftermath of the Boston Bombing, a Reddit community member came up with the idea of crowdsourcing the investigation of photos from the marathon. It was done hoping to identify the perpetrators and aid the investigation. Unfortunately, for the Tripathi family, Sunil’s name was circulated as a possible suspect, solely for the reason that he had gone missing a few weeks before the event (and possibly an ounce of racism).  No photos of him were identified, nor any actual evidence. And it got worse when news media started reporting his name.

This caused a nightmare for the Tripathi family and had Sunil been found he could have experienced anger over the bombings explode into a vigilante murder. Eventually the real suspects were located, and days later, sadly the body of Sunil was located as well.

This goes to the point that you need to always find original sources and respect the use of the data.

Privacy Concerns

Privacy is always a concern for businesses that handle Personally Identifiable Information (PII). And with large data sets, and complex legal concerns, Data Governance has emerged as a priority. Marketing data governance is “dictating who may access a given data set, and what rules or rights to data usage, data privacy and data security may be associated with its

deployment“ (Winterberry Group).  So for many businesses, it would be helpful to consult with an expert about your particular situation and needs, especially if you plan to combine in-house data with third party data.


Aggregation can be used as tool to create powerful marketing campaigns and popular websites. But keep in mind privacy concerns, maintaining strong sources and creating policies for responsible data use.  In short, try to be a good aggregator.

What are some ways that you use aggregators daily?  What are some ways you can see aggregation being an addition to your business?


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