Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Curation Is Not Cheap Content...

Posted by Tom Foremski - May 16, 2011

There seems to be quite a few people in marketing that look upon "curation" as an inexpensive and quick way to get content onto a site.

After all, how hard can it be to collect a few links and publish them?

However, "cheap" content doesn't mean it's good content. Cheap content is easy to spot because it carries little value. Curation, is more, much more than just finding some links and publishing them.

For curation to be done well it needs context. Publishing some links is of not much benefit to anyone if you can't explain why this content has been chosen, it requires some rationale for the choice and also: it needs to take the story further.

If you take a look at the work of museum curators, for example, the fantastic Balenciaga and Spain currently at the DeYoung in San Francisco, you see a tremendous amount of context around each exhibit. The curators of that exhibit show off their mastery of the subject by creating a compelling narrative around the works of art.

That's what curation online also has to demonstrate: mastery, passion, knowledge, and expertise. Without such additional layers, a curated collection of links is just a collection of links. Which is why curation cannot be easily handed off to a junior, or an intern, unless they really know their stuff.

Otherwise, you could simply create curated content via some filters, some keywords, etc. That's a task better accomplished by a machine, and that's what "aggregation" is, it's machine made, it's not curation.

I've written about this distinction before, aggregators versus curators and it is worth repeating because it is the human labor that's important, that's where the value will be found in any online enterprise. Servers and software can accomplish many wonderful things but there are many human activities that they are not good at doing.

You have to figure out where the value of your curation is, what can you provide that an aggregator cannot? Human labor is not cheap but it's how value is created and if you cannot determine where the human value is then you are in deep trouble.

Also, the Googlebot won't give you a higher rank if all it sees are a bunch of links. Google loves original content and it loves new content.

Curation is most definitely not a source of cheap content and it will be readily obvious to readers if some sites try to use curation in a way that adds nothing to the original content.

The point of curation is to provide meaning to the deluge of content out there, not to add to it.


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