Is it the blessing bestowed on every marketing manager starving for content, or is it a fig leaf parading like thought leadership?
Content curation’s a funny thing, though. It’s either the greatest thing for content marketers, or horrible malpractice. Or, in fact, it’s both. Here’s a simple post on content curation by Michael Gaasterland describing what it is.
And here is a handful of reasons why curation’s a miserable art, and the arguments that oppose them.
Con Curation: It’s a sorry attempt at looking like a thought leader by doing nothing more than collecting other people’s stories.
Pro Curation: It demonstrates that you follow developments in your field, and understand which stories possess great significance.
Con Curation: It’s filling an already hugely noisy marketplace by regurgitating content that was already out there in the wild.
Pro Curation: Every point of view is unique, and smart commentary on the news can be even more clever (and useful) than the news itself.
Con Curation: No matter how carefully selected and vetted the content, you’re giving away your opportunity to evangelize to an unknown (generally).
Pro Curation: If you curate interesting people and voices in your industry, you build relationships and influence with people who see the world the way you do.
Con Curation: Far too often the original story is 100% better than the attempt at curation.
Pro Curation: A curation points attention at the original story, giving you (deserved or undeserved) reflected glory.
Con Curation: You curate when you do not have the time, energy, commitment or determination to create. It’s well-meaning spam.
Pro Curation: Let’s admit it. Everything’s somewhat derivative. Even the best creation is actually a well-disguised curation. Stories build on each other.
Every time I start talking about curation with a client, it’s with these conflicts in the back of my head. And I disdain anyone who talks about curation in entirely positive terms (jabbering idiot) or negative (stony-faced simpleton).
Curation can be done well, and it can be done poorly. Generally, when it’s done well, someone with a unique slant on a topic selects content of particular value and spends time putting that content in perspective. It feels insightful, and valuable.
At its most basic, it’s when you find a hidden gem of interesting content on a specific topic for a certain person, and you send it to them, with a note. At its most glorious, it’s smart story aggregators like Reddit or genius email newsletters like The Media Briefing.
Given this, a question that stands out for me is this: Do curation tools like paper.li, Curata and Curation Station do it well or not? Can a tool automate and speed up the process I’d described above?
I’m too wise to begin to answer that, but – if you think about it – when did you ever hear about an art gallery owner using a curation tool to create his or her next big exhibition?
Curation is the wrong answer when the question is:
- “How can I fill our sales funnel with cheap content, quicker than quick?”
And it’s the right answer when the question is:
- “How can I give people a deeper understanding of what I know and love?”
That’s what I’m thinking every time I suggest content curation.
Here are some principles I would offer for good curation:
- 1. Keep it 50/50: For every time you curate one story, you should create and publish another. That means your email newsletter would be 50% own content and 50% others’ content (with attribution, of course).
- 2. More than a link: This is the era of frictionless sharing, goddammit. Friction is a demonstration of care. Anyone can send a link. If you’re going to curate and share, add something. Some insight. Commentary. But no more than necessary.
- 3. Slap asses: If you’re going to curate someone’s content, you owe it to yourself and to them to be open about it. Preferably, it’s someone you follow and share comments with. And be sure to give them credit.
- 4. As narrow as possible: If you’re one guy with one hour a week, you can’t curate a good newsletter about cloud technology. The less resources you have at your disposal, the narrower should be your topic, your focus and your audience.
- 5. Give away the reins: To whatever extent possible, allow the people you’re curating for, to influence contents in the future. The likes of Reddit have made this idea their raison d’etre. There’s a reason for that.
- 6. If you doubt, don’t: We’re all overloaded with content. If you have even a moment’s doubt about sharing a piece of content, don’t do it. Better to wait for the right one than more or less spam someone.