Current Awareness Strategy Blog

Information experts outline 8 essential “must have” capabilities of a premium content aggregator

must have functionality checklist

This post was inspired by the AALL 2022 Conference session called “Aggravation or Aggregation: Managing News Information Overload”, which examined current awareness development and delivery in the legal information world. I have expanded on some of the ideas and highlighted the essential functionality expected of a premium news aggregator platform.

The point of information systems like this is to circulate quality actionable content around your organisation - and beyond. Specialist application of knowledge is what professional services sell to clients. Knowledge must be timely, accurate, relevant, tailored and proactive. This is what will set your organisation apart from your competition. 

“Knowledge, for the professions, is not simply an enabler; it is fundamentally what is on offer. The professions have knowledge that those they help do not, and their role, in large part, is to develop, curate and provide access to that knowledge.” (Susskind & Susskind, 2015)

No aggravation, just a need for actionable content

Current awareness and related updating activities are central to the library and information role. According to the 2019 BIALL survey, 95% of information people are involved with delivering current awareness and updating services. In the AALL State of the Profession 2021, it says 30% of law libraries are responsible for curated newsletters, competitive intelligence, and conflicts/new business intake.

Clearly, current awareness is considered vitally important but why is this? When we speak of an organisation having good client current awareness, we are saying that they are acutely aware of the ins and outs of their client’s activities, industry and any other factors that may impact their client, either now or in the future. Client current awareness builds up the reputation of client-facing employees and, in turn, the reputation of the organisation.

Reliable, actionable content is essential. The right current awareness technology provides you and your team with options. Automating the majority of your alerts means that you are able to fully focus on adding value to other types of newsletters. Curated newsletters require specialist subject knowledge so that your end-users receive exactly what they need to do their job. 

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What functionality do you expect from your news aggregator?

The AALL session highlighted content aggregation platforms' “must have” functionality. 

Newsletter Curation

People want to move articles around a newsletter prior to publication. There should be freedom to upload articles, as well as edit any/all text which appears in the completed newsletter.

Newsletter Delivery

People want to apply flexible timing for newsletter delivery. There should be functionality for end-users to choose when they want to receive it - independently of the information team.

Newsletter Sources

People want to include all types of structured and unstructured data, from websites to APIs, RSS feeds to internal know-how. There should be flexibility to aggregate everything required.

Newsletter Branding

People want to include logos and organisational colours/branding in the newsletter templates. There should be built-in flexibility to include ToC, headings, headers and footers.

Privacy & Licensing

People want to ensure publishers/sources are restricted where necessary to meet the terms of licenses and subscriptions. Other sources can be made private to your organisation. 

End-user Access

People want to implement SSO / IP authentication for convenient and effortless end-user access. 

Analytics & Reporting

People want to download reports to view clicks, opens, usage and any other information required.

Customer Support

People want unlimited access to customer support as well as webinars and product updates.


These were specifically mentioned in the session but information people need to be aware of other functionality available from premium content aggregators, such as Vable Inbox for email content extraction and end-user portals such as MyVable. You need to do your research and see which service suits your organisation’s requirements the best.

Need more on how to choose a current awareness platform?

Best practices for working with content aggregation vendors

These are points taken from the AALL presentation and Team Vable can agree on all of them. 

  • Know your limitations regarding budget, staffing and technology.

Projects are held up by one or all of these issues - don’t underestimate how much time and resources you will need to invest in a current awareness roll-out. Talk to people who have done it and they will give you the low down!

  • Know your endgame goals regarding your finished product. 

Although you should have a clear idea about what you want to achieve, don’t be held back by a lack of imagination! Again, speak with people who have implemented automated current awareness platforms and ask what functionality has surprised them (in a positive way!).

  • Know your core audience and get them excited about the benefits.

Start with a small group of “project pioneers” and develop a good quality assurance process. As the service grows in popularity and success, your champions will talk to colleagues and the wider community. This will generate interest and guarantee higher rates of take-up and engagement later on.

  • Know your vendor’s roadmap and what is on the horizon.

Does the product have features to grow into and how often does the product get enhancements? If you are in close communication with the vendor you can not only get advance warning about updates but you can potentially get involved in product development. You can keep wowing your end-users with your efficiency.

Investment in current awareness technology is instrumental in building up a stronger knowledge set within your organisation. We have established that everybody needs actionable content which requires less aggravation and more aggregation. But do you have the best system for the job? We hope that these points give you some ideas 1) about software expectations and 2) the best way to approach working with vendors.

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