Different Styles Of Content Curation
With all the hoop-la about content creation going on at the moment you'd probably expect that the concept is freshly-minted. That'd be a mistake. A few days ago I came across an article from 2009 in which the author was suggesting that content curation was going to become a major force in information management and content marketing. In internet years that's back to Noah and the ark! Here's what he wrote:
The name I would give it is Content Curator. A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.
Fast forward a year and a half and the same guy, Rohit Bhargava came up with five models for content curation. None of them are about using other people's content to save money in outsourcing writing.
Here they are paraphrased from Rohit's words:
1. Aggregation: the act of curating the most relevant information about a particular topic into a single location.
2. Distillation: the act of curating information into a more simplistic format where only the most important or relevant ideas are shared.
3. Elevation: curation with a mission of identifying a larger trend or insight from smaller daily musings posted online.
4. Mashups: unique curated justapositions where merging existing content is used to create a new point of view.
5. Chronology is a form of curation that brings together historical information organized based on time to show an evolving understanding of a particular topic
I can recognise models that I have and do use, others I have not touched but reading the fuller definitions in his article it seemed to me that in order these present increasing challenges in terms of resource requirements and skill levels. For example, back in 2006 I ran a site that used simple aggregation with very little comment to track developments in the social networking sphere at a time when nobody else was offering the service I did. I was able to provide people with easy access to a digest of what was going in in the various businesses and ideas floating around. My curated feeds were picked up and read by some influential sites and people. The difficulty I faced was monetisation and so I let the thing go (yeah, mistake, I know!) Today there are plenty of niches where aggregation is still a viable option and monetisation is much easier today.
From the simplicity of aggregation to chronological curation we can see a huge leap in skills. In order to do chronological curation one must know a good deal of about the topic given that so much of what goes into the mix is dependent upon an clear understanding of context and relative importance of one item over another.
It seems likely to me that some well known names in internet media have traveled along this path of increasing resource and skill from sites where there was little value add from the curators to ones where curation whilst still important is both more complex and at the same time a smaller part of the overall business model. Two cases that spring to mind here would be Tech Crunch and Gawker Media, Gawker in particular with its 'Wonkette' blog was at one time little more than a collection of commented links. Nowadays Gawker's staff consider themselves to be full-on journalists.
So, how does this impact us, the micro-businesses struggling to make an independent living?
Firstly, I think it teaches us that we too can grow our businesses through application of content curation techniques but that it is not a shortcut. We can't use curation to avoid writing new content. Our work as 'digital DJs' requires effort and skill.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly I think that content curation offers a view of content generation that can still be outsourced but that instead of outsourcing our run of site content to article writers, increasingly we will be outsourcing to content curators and we will specify the type of work we want doing, the model to use, the themes and maybe even the sources to be used, but for sure there is not a golden future where we copy paste other people's words and do not worry about original input. The latter will always be required in one form or another.