What Is A Typical Business Model For An Aggregator Site? Here’s How It Works

Can you make money just from curating other people's content? It seems too good to be true, right? While you can find all these examples of high-traffic content aggregator websites, you still might be wondering, "are those sites actually making any money?". And if so, how are they doing it? In this post, you're going to learn how content aggregators work from a business perspective. You're going to learn about some of the time and money expenses that go into creating a content aggregator website, and then how those website owners make money to recoup their investment and, eventually, make a profit!
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Can you make money just from curating other people’s content? It seems too good to be true, right? While you can find all these examples of high-traffic content aggregator websites, you still might be wondering, “are those sites actually making any money?”. And if so, how are they doing it?

That is, what is the aggregator business model, and why are people willing to invest their time and money into creating one?

The concept of the aggregator firm has exploded over the past decade. Airbnb, Uber, Oyo, Netflix, you name it – if there’s a market field that can be aggregated, you’d better believe someone will aggregate it. And that applies just as much to web content as it does to any of the other physical or digital service providers.

In this post, you’re going to learn how online content aggregators work from a business perspective. You’re going to learn about some of the time and money expenses that go into creating a content aggregator website, and then how those website owners make money to recoup their investment and, eventually, make a profit!

Let’s dig in and demystify the world of content aggregators!

What Does It Take To Create A Content Aggregator Website?

Let’s start at the beginning…

Before you can start making money from a content aggregator website, you’re going to need to invest some time and money into actually building out your content curation system.

I know – not a mind-blowing assertion. But sometimes, people like to gloss over the investment and jump straight to the making money part!

So how much does it cost to start up your very own content aggregator website? Well, if you use WordPress, the costs can be surprisingly low. Let’s run through them…

Hosting And A Domain Name – $80 For A Year

First up, you’re going to need hosting and a domain name for your site. The nice thing about hosting is that you can start small and then scale as your aggregator grows. So, in the beginning, you’ll be totally fine with something like the $5.95 per month GrowBig plan from SiteGround (read our SiteGround review to learn why we like it).

You’ll also need your domain name, which will cost about $10 per year.

So – to host your content aggregator for the entire first year of its life, you’re looking at about $80.

WordPress Theme – Free Up To $100

Chipmunk content curation theme

Once you have your WordPress site, you’ll need a theme to make your aggregator look great.

You can find quality free themes to use for your aggregator, but a lot of people will want to invest in a premium content curation theme for added functionality.

If you decide to go the premium route, you might pay anywhere from ~$30 up to ~$100. For example, the Chipmunk theme comes in at around $60.

Add your website features – $69 to $149

Once you have your theme, you’ll need to create your post types, fields, and other features that every powerful website needs. Rather than download multiple different plugins, all you need is Toolset and its suite of plugins.

You can use Toolset Types to create the post type where you will import your aggregated content along with its custom fields and taxonomies. 

In addition to the post content, Toolset Views helps you display your aggregated content easily. The best part is that you will have complete control over how your content appears on the front-end by designing your template.

There are three different accounts that you can purchase with Toolset depending on what you need:

  • Toolset Presentation – this account contains the content types features for one website.
  • Toolset Interactive – the most popular account comes with the above as well as advanced options such as a form builder, maps, and membership control.
  • Toolset Agency – the complete account has the same features, but you can use it on an unlimited number of websites.

WordPress Content Aggregator Functionality – $80 to $150

WP RSS aggregator is an important part of the business model for an aggregator site

Once you have your content aggregator site, you’ll need a tool to actually start aggregating content with WordPress.

By default, WordPress doesn’t include the functionality that you need, which means that you’d need to manually create every single post.

WP RSS Aggregator is a plugin that changes that. It lets you import content from any RSS feed to your WordPress site. This content could be products, videos, blog posts…anything with an RSS feed.

While the core plugin is free, you’ll need some premium add-ons so that you can import RSS content as actual WordPress posts. And you might also want some other premium functionality so that you can filter content, extract the full text, and more.

For just the Feed to Post add-on, which is the bare minimum that you need, you’ll pay $80. However, most content aggregator sites will do better with the Pro Plan.

This bundle ups the price to $150, but it also gives you several other helpful add-ons beyond Feed to Post:

  • Full Text RSS Feeds – this add-on lets you extract the full text from RSS content even if the RSS feed only includes excerpts.
  • Keyword Filtering – this add-on lets you include or exclude content based on specific keywords, key phrases, or tags. This helps you create laser-targeted content without needing to manually moderate everything.

The Full Cost Of A Content Aggregator Website

Ok, so if you put all those together, here’s what it’s going to cost to run your content aggregator for the first year:

  • At the low end, you can do it for $160.
  • At the high end, you can do it for $330 (plus more if you want premium plugins outside the content aggregator functionality – e.g., a premium email list building plugin).

How To Get Traffic To A Content Aggregator Website

Once you have the site, how do you get traffic to it and then, eventually, make money from it?

You have several ways to get traffic to your content aggregator site, and the method(s) that you use largely depend on what type of content you’re aggregating.

While I’ll divide these into different categories, many sites will utilize more than one approach.

The Social Media Approach

Many content aggregators get most, if not all, of their traffic from social media.

For example, ThisIsWhyImBroke curates a vast array of weird, interesting products. That content is like catnip for social media, which is why most of the site’s traffic comes exclusively from social media.

ThisIWhyImBroke

The site has:

  • 312,000+ Facebook fans
  • 10,200+ Twitter followers

Beyond organic social media, ThisIsWhyImBroke also ran Reddit ads, which was a huge boost.

According to the founder’s AMA, “we do very little in terms of advertising outside of Reddit, and social media makes up the bulk of our traffic.”

So if you’re curating content with a social aspect, social media will likely be your major focus.

The SEO Approach

If you’re curating content with a longer shelf life, you might be better off going the search engine optimization (SEO) route.

Although the giant and mysterious algorithms of Google, Bing, etc., can seem like a daunting task for small businesses approach, at their core they work on a relatively simple business model of delivering quality content to their users. As long as you’re providing a good user experience with a solid proposition in the value chain, your site can succeed at SEO.

For example, Jobspresso curates jobs that accept remote workers.

While they do engage in other promotion methods (like social media), they also do very well in SEO, ranking on the first page for important terms like “remote jobs.” 

The Paid Ads Approach

This approach is probably the rarest because it requires a direct monetary investment. But some content curation sites that curate high-value information can even find leads via direct ads.

For example, if you charge for access to your curated content, it might make sense to pay for leads because you can directly measure how much your investment returns.

What are Content Aggregator Sites’ Revenue Streams?

Ok, so once you have traffic coming to your content aggregator site, how do you make money from it?

We have a full post on how to make money from content aggregators, but let’s cover some of the main methods.

Display Ads Like Google AdSense Or Others

Ads are the single most obvious source of revenue generation on the web. For the advertiser, it’s a simple value proposition: you have traffic, someone out there is willing to pay you for access to those eyeballs. 

The exact amount that you earn depends on how valuable your audience/niche is to advertisers.

At a basic level, you can always throw up AdSense and earn something like $1-2 per one thousand visitors (CPM).

On the other hand, if you can work directly with businesses, rather than through a programmatic middle-man like AdSense, you have a chance to massively increase your CPM.

If you have high traffic, this is a good basic way to monetize it.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing makes a great option if you’re curating any type of product or service. Many different providers with a marketplace business model – Amazon, eBay, and more – offer their own brand of affiliate program. With this approach, you receive a commission from any sales that you refer to the e-commerce businesses that you’re curating content from. 

If you go back to the example of ThisIsWhyImBroke from before, the site made pretty much all its money from the commissions it earned from Amazon. The commission rate can vary, but it can really add up – ThisIsWhyImBroke was earning over $20,000 per month from affiliate links at one point.

Subscriptions/Sponsored Content

This is another one that depends on your niche. But if it fits, you can sell sponsored posts or subscription access to your curated content.

For example, the Jobspresso site that I showed you before curates remote job posts at a basic level. But then it also lets companies who are hiring pay for sponsored listings, which runs $199.

Or, you could go the other way and charge regular visitors for access.

For example, if you’re curating high-quality news articles for a very specific business niche, you might be able to get people who work in that ecosystem to pay you for access to serve them relevant content on demand because you save them the time of having to wade through a bunch of irrelevant articles – a win-win situation for all involved.

Content Aggregation Isn’t A Get Rich Quick Scheme, But It Is A Solid Business Model

As you can see, creating a successful content aggregator website isn’t a get rich quick scheme. But the business model for an aggregator site is solid, and there are a lot of different ways that you can take your site to build an audience and generate revenue.

If you’re intrigued by this business model and want to get started with your own content aggregator site, we’ve written a lot about various aspects of this topic.

Here’s your reading list to help you get started:

Do you have any other questions about the business model for an aggregator website? Let us know in the comments and we’ll try to help point you in the right direction.

Colin Newcomer
Colin Newcomer
Colin Newcomer is a freelance blogger for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing, WordPress, and B2B topics.

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10 Responses

  1. The tips and the price you shared for each step was a piece of good knowledge for me. It was a complete and perfect blog that describes how to deal with a content aggregator site including the development, SEO and marketing stage. Keep sharing this kind of informative things.

  2. You should also start backing up the data you store on your device(s). If you don’t know where to start, you’ll want to dig into our guides covering iCloud backups and iTunes backups. Data loss issues are pretty rare, but there’s always a chance something gets lost in the shuffle as you transition to a new version of iOS.

  3. Hi!! Thanks a lot for the article, was very useful for me!! Maybe you can name any mentor(s) who have the experience with this kind of sites and leads mentees?:) will appreciate any information on that from you!!

  4. Great article, but I feel it’s missing one section of information that could really be helpful.

    By it’s very nature, a content aggregation site curates OTHER people’s content. A curated article typically has an image, a title, and a brief summary, more often than not a snippet of the first paragraph from the article collected. So you have two options 1 – when someone clicks the title (image, or whatever) it takes them directly to the article on the other website. Or 2 – you download the entire article and display it on your site when the link is clicked. The big problem with 2 is you just ripped off someone else’s content. Not only is that illegal in most cases, google frowns on it big time. You now have a duplicate content penalty.

    So given this (especially when it relates to SEO), how do aggregator sites overcome these very two real and large hurdles to successfully (and financially) grow a news aggregation site?

    1. Great point! Thank you for the question blue928.

      Firstly, let me point out that there are 3 options, not 2. The third is to show only a snippet of the content when it opens on your site, plus a link back to the original source after that. WP RSS Aggregator achieves that using it’s Word Trimming feature and I’ve seen a lot of sites use it very successfully.

      Now, when it comes to duplicate content, we’re working on a detailed guide about this as the general impression about it may sometimes be wrong. Google rarely ever penalises duplicate content in general unless it’s done in a malicious manner, which is certainly not what this article is promoting.

      Aggregated and/or curated content can add value to both the original source and your website as it increases awareness for both sites, creates mutually beneficial relationships where content can be shared and its audience expanded, and increases backlink opportunities, all of which Google uses as ranking factors in one form or another.

      Ideally, you don’t repost the full content unless you’ve come to some agreement with the source site to do so. You can either link back immediately from the title, or show only a snippet of the content as I mentioned above. At the same time, reach out to the source sites to introduce yourself and work on building up your audience. This will create new referral traffic while building up your reputation and increasing backlinks. The latter will result in SEO benefits that can then also help with organic traffic.

      The website https://eurofinanceblogs.com/ is a great example of this. Since its inception it has helped to create new relationsips with the source sites, resulting in backlinks from them, new partnership opportunities, and a growth in referral traffic. Once that reputation is being built, the site can then be monteized through ads, affiliate links, and so on.

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