What do you think about content curation? I must admit, it took me a while to figure out exactly what it was. I thought it was an odd expression – it struck me as a bit suspect. I wondered if, like ‘extraordinary rendition’, it was just a fancy name for something naughty.
When I first heard people talk about curating content on their blogs, I’ll confess I was pretty dismissive – it seemed like a lazy way to write articles, basically hi-jacking other people’s work. This view was probably reinforced by the fact that the first curated posts I saw weren’t anything to write home about.
I wanted to create my own original content and thought I’d be compromising my integrity if I resorted to curation.
But that was before I really understood what it meant.
So What Exactly IS Content Curation?
The MacMillan Dictionary defines content curation as “the process of analysing and sorting Web content and presenting it in a meaningful and organized way around a specific theme”.
If you’re curating content, you’re doing the same kind of job as the curator of a museum or art gallery when they put an exhibition together. Having decided on your topic, you trawl the web for relevant content, select the best pieces, then arrange and present them in a coherent way, adding explanatory notes and your own commentary.
Here’s one of the best articles I’ve come across on content curation, on Beth’s Blog – Beth gives the clearest definition you could hope to find, plus a whole host of links to useful resources.
What Content Curation is NOT
- It’s not copying or plagiarizing other people’s content.
- It’s not simply providing lists of links.
- It’s not an automated process, like the feeds of categorized content you get via a service such as Google Reader or Google News – the ‘human’ element of content curation is crucial.
Is Original Content Superior to Curated Content?
There’s a brief video here in which Storify’s co-founder, Burt Herman, talks about the comparative value of authors and curators. He concedes that, at the end of the day, creators of original content have the edge. However, he feels curators also have an important role to play, particularly in this age of information overload. As well as helping people find the information they need, Herman suggests curators actually have a lot of influence as ‘taste makers’ –I wonder if you agree?
Curators select, review and guide us towards the kind of content they think we should be reading – just like the curator of an art gallery, who decides which pictures to buy, which to put on the wall and which to leave in storage.
In my view, curated content isn’t necessarily any less valuable than original content. Let’s face it, there are some pretty appalling articles and blog posts out there – they may be ‘original’, but that doesn’t mean they make the world a better place. On the other hand, I’ve come across some amazing curated articles that I wouldn’t want to be without.
One of the most useful posts I’ve read this year was Demian Farnworth’s Content Marketing Codex – a superlative piece of content curation, which went straight into my Evernote collection. Demian hasn’t just copied a load of links – he’s acted like a great museum curator or librarian, cataloguing the posts into different topics, for easy reference, and adding his own explanatory notes.
Benefits of Great Content Curation
- It signposts you to relevant content, helping you find what you’re looking for in that vast encyclopedia we call the web.
- If done well, it sifts out the rubbish, so it should save time you might otherwise waste wading through tons of duff or irrelevant articles.
- The curator’s accompanying notes and commentary should help you decide which links are worth following up.
- It helps ensure that high quality content is shared more widely – so it benefits the original creators of the good stuff.
If there were no librarians or art gallery and museum curators, it would be much more difficult for artists and authors to disseminate and display their work. A piece of art is far more likely to be seen and appreciated if it’s properly catalogued and well displayed.
Similarly, if there were no curated articles, a lot of great content on the web might never see the light of day. That amazing post you’ve written will get much more exposure if it’s shared in a well crafted piece of content curation on a popular blog.
Content Curation – Easy as Pie?
Having said all that, content curation is a real skill in its own right. And there’s a danger that some bloggers, particularly novices on the look out for push-button solutions, will see it as a route to ‘quick and easy’ content.
Good curation takes time and effort – it’s not an easy peasy shortcut to generating a load of content for your blog. Every curated article you write should offer something of unique value to your readers. You still need to come up with a great headline and your own original angle or proposition.
So don’t use content curation to sell your readers short – believe me, the savvy ones won’t be fooled. But if you serve them up some top quality curated content on topics you know they’re crying out for, they’ll love you to death and keep coming back for more.
Over to you: do you see yourself as an author or curator? Or maybe a bit of both? What are your views on content curation – do you think it’s a force for good, an irrelevance or a plague? Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below – I’d love to hear from you.