I’ve been getting a lot of “What the heck is curating?” questions, largely in response to my request for votes (“Likes”) on a topic I’m curating at Snip.It, but also because, despite what Forbes has to say about it going mainstream, content curation is a rather “new” thing. I had thought I’d done a rather good job of defining content curation here, but either I haven’t or people haven’t read that post. But that’s OK too, because it gives me a chance to go into a bit more detail.
Content curation is to magazine and newspaper publication what blogging has been to writing or journalism: A digital-age means of self-publishing which is primarily based on platforms (software or code) available to anyone with access to the Internet.
The big names in blogging platforms or publishing software are WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, etc. In content curation, you have Pinterest, Scoop.It, and, my favorite, Snip.It. These content curation platforms are not the first; but like Facebook, which improved (and capitalized) upon the early social networking sites which came before it, these three curation sites are emerging as the top dogs. (Also like Facebook, these content curation sites have social networking aspects — and they do connect to social media, including Facebook at Twitter.) And it’s merely a matter of time before you somehow become involved with content curation sites; be it by curating, subscribing/reading, or, as some forecast, using curated content topics as your search engine.
But what does that mean? How is that really different from blogging? And why on earth would we need another means of adding to information overload?
Firstly, information overload is a myth. Humans have always had far more information and media available then it can devour. (So as not to get too far astray, I’ll send you here for more details on that.) Even if the push of media makes it seem worse, such technological shifts in our relationships to information are, as James Gleick, author of The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood, “part of the evolution of the species.” The true problem is, or remains, that of how an individual human can find what he wants or separate the good from the bad, i.e. a filter.
And that’s where content curation comes in.
Content curation is the process of sorting, arranging, and publishing information that already exists. Like any collector or museum curator, content curators identify and define their topics, select which items to include (and often how they are displayed), while providing the context, annotations, and proper credits which not only assist their readers but identify themselves as more than interested but invested; a leader or an authority.
Content curators are being dubbed “superheroes” (by Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, and others) because content curators are saving humans everywhere from the skill and drudgery of finding and filtering themselves. Rosenbaum even says that people will pay “for clarity, authority, context, and speed” of finely calibrated filters.
If this all sounds a lot like what you (or others) do as a blogger, it just may be. Many bloggers spend their time selecting what they consider the best of what other people have created on the web and post it at their own sites, just like a magazine or newspaper. Or they provide a mix of this along with writing or otherwise creating their own content. Not to split hairs, but curation involves less creation and more searching and sifting; curation’s more a matter of focused filtering than it is writing.
Because content curation is expected to be based on such focused filtering, it begins far more based on topic selection. This is much different from blogging, where bloggers are often advised to “just begin” and let their voice and interests accumulate over time to eventually reveal a primary theme. Perhaps the best way to ascertain the difference is to consider this in terms of collecting styles.
Some collectors just collect what they like as they stumble into it. In fact, many collectors, including myself, began this way; letting their collections evolve until a definition or purpose seems to reveal itself. …Sometimes, collectors just keep piling up stuff, no matter what it is. Even if this isn’t hoarding, it’s not-so-much of a purposeful pursuit. But professional curators, those who manage collections for museums or other organizations, and serious collectors, they maintain a specific focus. And rather than stumbling into items, they continually seek for specific items. The definition dictates the curation — and everything from funding to their continued employment is based on how well their collection meets the collection’s definition.
While blogging success may be thought of in many different ways, the success of content curation lies in how well you define, search/research, and stick to your subject.
Image Credits: Data Never Sleeps infographic via Domo