Blog aggregator, content aggregator, RSS aggregator, autopilot blog — these are one of the same (I’ll be using them interchangeably). Unfortunately, since it’s so easy to set up WordPress as a content aggregator, people have been abusing this WordPress capability by scraping content off other people’s websites just to gain those extra cents off Adsense.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.
What is a Content / Blog Aggregator?
A content, in our case, would be any website, preferably one that can provide a feed (or RSS) whenever the site is updated. It’s the same file used when you subscribe to a website using Google Reader, if you’ve ever used on.
An aggregator, meanwhile, is a tool used to collect information based on the preferences you set up.
In essence, we are using WordPress to collect information automatically and display it in our blog. Or, in other words, we’re building a FeedAge lookalike.
In what circumstance would I need a WordPress blog aggregator?
You’ll want to have your own blog aggregator if you want a website that curates related topics for you automatically. Or, not necessarily topics, but related themes.
I use WordPress as a content aggregator for Giuk.net, a website dedicated to broadcasting content by active bloggers from Sabah, a state in Malaysian Borneo (Survivor’s Pulau Tiga is located within this state). Our blog topics might differ, but we share a common theme, that is, we come from the same state (Sabahan bloggers).
How do I set up a WordPress autopilot blog?
You need just one critical WordPress plugin to pull this off — an RSS aggregator plugin (obviously). Would you be surprised if I tell you that not only are there numerous RSS aggregator plugins out there, but they are free? You shouldn’t be surprised. This is WordPress, after all.
I’m using WP-O-Matic for my aggregator. It’s well-supported, easy to use, and it just works.
One optional function you should look into when running an autopilot blog has nothing to do with WordPress and everything to do with your webhosting provider. Look for CRON Jobs in your webhosting control panel (or CPanel). CRON is a built-in function of your web server; it allows you to run server commands or scripts on an assigned schedule. WP-O-Matic actually comes with a CRON emulator script which is run by WordPress and not the web server, but I’ve never tried it. This is why I mention CRON as an optional function (“optional” being the operative word here).
There is no specific theme you need to be using, as you can see from my blog aggregator. However, if you need to group the content nicely into topics or section, I recommend using a magazine theme such as the free Calotropis or Path, which you can get in the WP.org Extend site.
I have blogged extensively in my now-defunct BloggingFu website about how I set up my WordPress RSS aggregator. I’ll re-post it in WebGrrrl.net later (update 13-Sep-12: the WP blog aggregator how-to is up). In the meantime, I advice you to STAY AWAY FROM BUYING THOSE AUTOPILOT SITE / BLOGGING PROGRAMS! You’ll end up owning junk content or getting banned by the search engines if you do. Build one wisely, and within good reason.
Don’t steal content.
This PSA is brought to you by the crazy old lady down at WebGrrrl.net.