Lee Odden

Content Curation Definitions & Context for Content Marketing

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 bOINGbOING.net, one of the web’s most popular blogs whose traffic often exceeds that of NYTimes.com. 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?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. darrenlcarter says:

    Hey Lee,

    Good post.I just starting out but I had no clue what content curation was before this. I really got a lot of help reading the answers of all the people who have a lot more experience and advice to give. Thanks for posting this.

    Peace,
    Darren L Carter

  2. Hi Lee, I read and like your post. Content curation marketing is a new term to me. I got to know about many techniques used in market.

  3. John Moss says:

    While I agree that content creation is a great strategy, many companies have difficulty creating all the content that is called for when implementing that strategy. I even have difficulty in finding time to write simple blog posts for my site (http://www.johnmossmarketing.com). But if you have the time, it really drives traffic and readership.

  4. Hi Lee,
    Content curation is certainly a major industry topic right now, and I think we'll continue to see it evolve in the coming months.
    You've provided the best analysis and an excellent example of curation in action.

  5. Hi Lee, thanks for another good post. One of the questions that jumped out for me is: What is the right mix of curated and created content? I know it will differ for each company or organization, but does anyone have any guidelines to go by?

    • If your goal is to be perceived as a news destination, the curated content can be all of most of what is published. If you are primarily looking to engage with readers, then publishing opinion matters most and curated content would be a minority. Adjust as you go of course but think about how you want readers to perceive you and what level of interaction you're looking for. Hope that helps.

  6. Hello Lee. Thanks for this excellent article. I really enjoy.

    One thing that I did not find in the interviews is that when people select content, actually they also select an author.

    There is therefore an overlap between building your list of friends, people that you follow, building communities and content curation.

    Content curation / news aggregation has been integrated into a richer and more complex process that includes community targeting (selecting the people you're going to listen to, influence and the community you're going to focus on) and overall social engagement.

    Best

    That is to me a critical element.

    • I agree on the overlap observation Dominique. Syndication is a form of recognition and when it helps the authors , it can build relationships. So the effect of content curation is not only a resource for prospects on the web, but a relationship building tool with publishers that you wish to connect with. Great point!

  7. Here's an interesting thought: Did the fact that you reached out and asked for original content, as opposed to collecting preexisting content from these thought leaders, change whether we call this post an act of curation or not? None of the content here would exist without you, but at the same time, we can't argue that you created it.

    I've struggled with this very same definition myself. It's not so black and white.

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  10. paulkonrardy says:

    Totally digging Pawan's quote “Content curation is the cure for a broken content marketing strategy.” Not only does the combination of original work with sympathetic outside resources create a workable strategy, it provides inspiration and synergistic (such a 90's word – sorry) paths to better things. Much like a well attended collaborative pulse.

    We've been singing the praises of content marketing for a very long time. The concept of content curation has been explained to our clients and those that take the knowledge and run with it have been an inspiration. I can't tell you how glad I am to read the 10 thought leaders throwing out their thoughts on the subject. It's wonderful to know I'm not alone in thinking this way.

  11. content is the most important part of a website and no matter what you want to say, you need to say it in the best of way to put the message across so as not to offend anyone..its good to know how people think alike and content marketing is something so improtant

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  14. Mark Delfeld says:

    I see nothing in any of these musings that relate to ROI. Rome is burning (aka our economy) and B2B senior management needs help that is actionable. How does curation help?

    • Hey Mark, if after reading the definitions above, it's not clear how content curation helps, I am not sure you're ready for it.

      • Mark Delfeld says:

        Perhaps I was unclear. What is the benefit of content curation to the curator? The closest benefit I can see is that you become a trusted source of OTHER company's content that relates to an important topic for your industry. How specifically does that help the curating company?

  15. Great stuff. Good to see a whole lot of leaders in the field state their take on it. At http://www.idioplatform.com we see curation as part of the mix. Thought leadership is vital to stand out, but curation helps build a destination and involve various opinions and perspectives. See http://idioplatform.com/2011/02/the-content-pyramid-and-the-huffpo/ for a post on how you can “blend” content to maximum effect.

  16. Whatever curation is in this context, it is a recycled word that suggests more manipulation and marketing of intellectual artifacts  than supposed editorial truth, ethics, or canonical law.  A curator in this context is not an editor but may be a digital part-border collie for proprietary internet content.

    I think I’ll wait for consensus and a Wikipedia definition.  Interesting glimpse into your world.

  17. This post was curated on Scoop.it by a great content curator Jan Gordon, and then I shared her curation as a fellow curator on Internet Billboards and then subsequently came to read your entire article and have left this comment.

    My question is how do you feel personally about what just happened? Obviously you have a popular blog and have established yourself as thought leader. You have also gotten 10 influential people and fellow thought leaders to way in and give great insight into the subject matter. How do you feel personally about having your content curated and what do you think about the particular manner in which it was done?

    • Our objective with this blog is to share our point of view on internet marketing related topics. Thoughtful curation of our content is part of the process for our message to travel. I think as a piece of content gets curated, again I stipulate that this happens in a thoughtful way on the part of the curators, then the value of the original content increases and often becomes much more than the original idea.

  18. Tereza Ullinovich says:

    Value is the key here.  Also, when I think of publishing, I would like to start with real human connections and with providing something of real value and not just automation.  Great story, thank you.