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Content Curation Definitions & Context for Content Marketing

Posted on Jun 22nd, 2010
Written by Lee Odden
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    content curationCompanies are realizing the value in “brands as publishers” and are making real commitments to the creation of content in their online marketing mix. It’s no longer enough to provide fundamental features and benefits information about products and services to succeed competitively online. Consumers and of course, business buyers, seek additional information, resources and others to connect with on the topics of interest to them.  Some companies choose a pure creation strategy and find it to be a formidable undertaking, especially creating unique and valuable content over a long period of time.

    Within the field of content marketing, curation is becoming a popular topic of discussion. Blending a mix of new content with the filtering and management of other useful information streams is a productive and manageable solution for providing prospective customers a steady stream of high quality and relevant content.  Pure creation is demanding. Pure automation doesn’t engage. Curating content can provide the best of both.

    As I am prone to do with topics of interest, I reached out to a few industry thought leaders to get their take on defining Content Curation and where it fits within the mix in an online marketing program:

    rebecca lieb

    Rebecca Lieb – @lieblink
    Vice President, North America at Econsultancy and author of The Truth About Search Engine Optimization

    As an editor, journalist and marketer….what a great question!

    Content curation, which can be defined as a highly proactive and selective approach to finding, collecting, presenting and displaying digital content around predefined sets of criteria and subject matter, has become essential to marketing, branding, journalism, reporting and social media – often, to mash-ups of all these different and disparate channels.

    Content curation can takes many forms: feeds, “channels” (such as on YouTube), it can appear on blogs, or even be the links you upload to social media sites such as Facebook. It can be an online newsroom, a collection of links, an assortment of RSS feeds, or a Twitter list. Whatever form content curation does take, it’s around a topic, or a subject, or even a sensibility that speaks to the knowledge, expertise, taste, refinement, brand message or persona of the person, brand or company that has created the particular channel or source of content.

    Why bother? Tons of reasons. It’s a big web out there. More and more, people rely on trusted sources: friends, family, brands, companies, experts, you-name-it, to help keep them informed, educated and even amused. Need proof? Take, one of the web’s most popular blogs whose traffic often exceeds that of This group blog is nothing more (or less), that curated content; items its contributors and often its readers find and share with others.

    Channels of content can be as specific as bee keeping equipment, or as amorphous as “what’s cool.” But they all serve multiple purposes, ranging from informing to engaging to entertaining. In an era where marketing is supplanting advertising and storytelling is an ever-more essential part of the marketing message, carefully curated content – well presented – is an immense brand asset, be it to a humble, over-caffeinated individual blogger or a Fortune 100 company.

    david meerman scott

    David Meerman Scott @dmscott
    Author, New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Rave

    I’ve been working with what I call syndication for 25 years. My first job when I got out of school was a bond trading desk and right after that started working with companies in the financial information space. I worked with Knight Ridder for 6 years and at a company at News Edge for 6 years as president of marketing. News Edge was the first, real serious aggregator of news in the corporate, financial and government spaces. So news syndication, news aggregation has been going on literally for decades.

    What is Expedia, for example? It’s an aggregation of airline and hotel feeds that then get aggregated to create content. What’s Google? Google is an aggregation of a whole bunch of content.

    I’m a fan of doing that but the challenge is how can you do it in a way that’s interesting. You have to make a decision: Do you let the machines do the aggregation and the selection or do you let humans do the selection. It’s a huge decision, humans or machines.

    You also need to think about, how do you create the taxonomy and the folksonomy of how to turn that content into categories? That becomes a really big issue with content curation.

    If you’re a big company and trying to do this, and you have a B2B section, a B2C section, 15 products in 25 markets, in 58 countries, what do we do? Do we have 58 feeds for each country, do we have 25 different things for each category? It really becomes a big issue.

    I’m a huge fan of content syndication, great stuff. Been going on for decades. But the two challenges for people that want to embark on a strategy like that is A: Humans or Technology and B: What’s the taxonomy or folksonomy to put it together.

    brian solis

    Brian Solis – @briansolis
    President Future Works and Author of Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and Measure Success in the New Web & Co-Author of Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

    Marketing in general, which can be content marketing, public relations or communications has a tendency to try and automate things to the point of obscurity or mediocrity. There is a value in curation and a value in creation. But when you start to think of things in terms of automation, I think that we’re just feeding the system for the sake of feeding the system.

    Now I think there’s value in both and I believe that in order to garner some thought leadership, you have to become a thought leader. You can’t do that through aggregating the thoughts and words and ideas of others.

    Obviously you (as a company) have something to contribute, something to say, something of value to offer which is mostly likely why you’re in business. I need to hear about that. I need to understand why I should consider you as a partner or whatever it is you’ve created. Is there something I can use, something I couldn’t do before I came into contact with you?

    Now in terms of curation, where it gets really interesting is that those thoughts, words and ideas of others can be helpful to establish yourself as a value added resource and as a place or destination for information.

    ann handley

    Ann Handley – @marketingprofs
    Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs and Co-Author of the upcoming book, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business

    Defined as it applies to online publishing: Content curation is the act of continually identifying, selecting and sharing the best and most relevant online content and other online resources (and by that I mean articles, blog posts, videos, photos, tools, tweets, or whatever) on a specific subject to match the needs of a specific audience.

    What role should it play:

    All organizations are now publishers — meaning, the company with the most engaging and interesting content is the one who wins. Content curation isn’t necessarily anything new (finding the best stuff to share is what so many of us do on Twitter already, and what bloggers have long done, or what sites like Alltop or Digg have been doing). But recently, it’s getting a little more attention as an emerging field of its own.

    It can fit into an organization’s content strategy nicely. How? It’s a way for organizations to further their role as a resource to their audience. Sifting through the mountain of web content and finding the tastiest, choicest bits for your readers is a great way to build trust and authority with them, and to become a valuable resource for them on any particular topic. What’s more, for organizations just getting into publishing online — for those just starting a blog, say, or a microsite — curated content can allow them to ramp up quickly, both from an SEO as well as content perspective.

    That said, I have two cautionary pieces of advice:

    1. Don’t rely exclusively on automated content curation services to feed your own belly (to fulfill your content needs). I see content services like HiveFire as providing an intelligent stream of curated stuff, but you still need a real, live human editor to pick and choose and order the best stuff for your own audience. Warm-blooded humans still required, in other words.

    2. Mix curated content with original content, and don’t rely on the curated stuff alone. Content curating is a perfectly good way to extend the content of your own site, but only “in addition to” and not “instead of” your original content.

    Joe Pulizzi

    Joe Pulizzi – @juntajoe
    Founder Junta42 and Content Marketing Institute, Co-Author of Get Content, Get Customers.

    Content curation is editing on steroids. In actuality, content curation has been around since the dawn of the publishing industry. The job of the editor was to take the best information from around their industry and present that information in a manner that makes sense to readers.

    The web’s first crack at this was content aggregation, or having computers pull the best links and information automatically to make the “reader’s” experience more fulfilling. But as we have learned, search is not perfect. Enter the content curation specialist.

    As more content floods through all aspects of the web (as well as print and online), we’ll need more brands stepping up to make sense of what we really should be paying attention to. Content curation is as important in the content marketing toolbox as is creation. We need both…and curation doesn’t work without creation (much like Google trying to save the newspapers because they need great news to survive, but that is for another story). For some brands, curation may be enough. You can’t find the resources to develop the most valuable, most compelling content in your industry? Then just tap into your network that does, and package that content to present you as the trusted industry leader. It’s still a needed service, just a bit different from creation.

    Where it will go, no one knows…but I’ve heard from smarter people than me that content curation is the future (even present) of media. I’d rather say curation and creation go together like Macaroni & Cheese…a splendid combination.

    paul gillin

    Paul Gillin – @pgillin
    Consultant. Author of The New Influencers and Secrets of Social Media Marketing

    I define content curation as the process of assembling, summarizing and categorizing and interpreting information from multiple sources in a context that is relevant to a particular audience. I think this discipline will be absolutely essential to content marketing in the future because of changes in the media landscape.

    Just a few years ago, audiences were starved for information and the role of media was to create it. Today, we are drowning in information and the emerging role for media is to filter and organize it.
    This is being handled accomplished on an ad hoc basis by social news sites like Digg and Sphinn; social bookmarking sites like Delicious and Reddit; news aggregators like Drudge Report; link blogs like Metafilter and Slashdot; friends networks like Twitter and Facebook; and even self-curated RSS aggregations. In fact, much of what goes on in social media is various forms of content curation.

    Marketers can build trust with their constituencies by providing focused curation in areas that matter to their constituents. Original content will always have value, but curation is coming to have nearly equal value. The key is to stake out unique topic areas and to become the most trusted source in those areas. You don’t need a lot of money to do this. You just need to know the subject matter very well.

    erik qualman

    Erik Qualman, @equalman
    Author of Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business and MBA Professor at the Hult International Business School

    Today, everyone is a potential media outlet. A curator understands their audience and is able to package created content in a digestible manner for them.

    Creators need to view curators as distribution points for their content rather than as pirates. Content creators and curators that will thrive in this new world understand the importance of this symbiotic relationship. But is it symbiotic? In the end, almost every person is a little of both (creator & curator). After all, there is no such thing as a new idea and imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. These clichés symbolize the irony of the topic being discussed.

    valeria maltoni

    Valeria Maltoni – @conversationage
    Director of Strategy, Powered, Inc., Conversation Agent

    Content curation is one of the keystones in a content marketing strategy. It’s like museum curation — harvesting, researching, tagging, organizing, and sharing — only two-way, because of the digital medium. Thanks to technology it also includes in an out feeds, and moderation and escalation, where necessary.

    To maximize its impact, you want to integrate curation within a canvas of brand generated content and promotions in a forum that also highlights the best brand-related content from your own community of fans. The curator monitors conversations for opportunities to align the voice of the brand with the voice of the customer, to engage outside content creators, to highlight the best third party content within the brand’s sharing strategy, and inspire action.

    pawan deshpande

    Pawan Deshpande – @TweetsFromPawan
    CEO, HiveFire

    Content curation is the cure for a broken content marketing strategy. Content marketing is about a brand producing valuable content, and prospects being educated with that content. It’s valuable, it works and it’s not going away.

    But the only problem is that day by day, it’s less effective as everyone produces more and more content. Brands are increasingly competing to get their content noticed. At the same time, prospects are increasingly spending more time searching for relevant content.

    Content curation has emerged as a new and powerful way for marketers to seamlessly sift through the flood of content available to prospects. Like the owner of a high-end art gallery, you have to sift through the information from across the web and “curate” it to ensure that it is relevant to the customer. You will be navigating your prospects through this sea of content by leading them to the most relevant important information.

    It’s already happened in the consumer world: Sites like Digg (social curation) which have little or no original content have become key resources for information. Similarly we are seeing leading businesses take a similar approach to become the experts for their respective areas.

    marc meyer

    Marc Meyer – @marc_meyer
    Dir.of Social Media and Search, Principal at DRMG

    Content today is not your father’s content… Hell, it’s not even the content from 10 years ago. It’s so much more now. So much so, it should be its own country. Curation for us, is part art and part science. At its core, it has as much to do with maintaining and preserving what has been digitally “created”-as it does in making sure that it lasts longer than a cup of coffee. And that’s the challenge.

    Loosely defined, the curation of content is a company’s ability to create and then manifest digital assets that drive and maintain at the least, awareness. Content Curation holistically speaking, refers to a person’s or company’s ability to stay in front of the digital curve by managing those assets across the board.

    Its role in a content marketing strategy is primary and cannot be downgraded to a perfunctory responsibility. Curation feeds the beast and thus it contributes greatly to a company’s overall digital strategy.

    Have you added a curation component to your content marketing mix? If so, are you doing it manually, automatically or somewhere in between?