How to Be a Good Content Curator

Being a good content curator or curating good content is one of the latest social media buzz terms to emerge this year. While I loathe actually using the term, the concept is good, and I think it’s something everyone can use to add value to their blogging, social media, or outbound marketing strategy.

What is a content curator? At its core, it’s sifting through the mounds of information, separating the good stuff from the bad stuff, and giving it some context. A good real world example of content creation everyone is familiar with is Reader’s Digest. Social bookmarking sites like Digg, stumbleupon, and reddit do this to a certain extent, using social proof or the wisdom of crowds to accomplish this goal. But these things are subject to voting cabals or other attention- and monetarily-incentivized groups. I know for a fact that, for a 6 month time period, the homepage of digg was controlled by a handful SEO/social media consultants who could almost guarantee a front page placement for a fee.

 

If the editor is able to maintain journalistic integrity and not be influenced by nepotism, their value within the community rises… 

Techmeme is another example of content curation. While it sounded good on paper and worked well for a short while, pretty soon it became an incestuous, ego fueled orgy of a select few high profile tech bloggers (looks in the direction of Robert Scoble and Techcrunch). While there are a few good articles on Techcrunch from time to time (hi Alexis ), by and large it’s like watching a once great journalist who lost the battle with drugs and is going through withdrawals (metaphorically speaking–I’m not implying in any way that anyone has a problem with substance abuse). It simply doesn’t deserve to be on the leader board or rewarded for its page view journalism.

While it’s easy to sit around and pick apart others and what they are doing wrong, I think it’s just as important to highlight someone who is doing it right. For example, SAI business insider sends out an early morning email of the top 10 things I need to know in tech.

SAI 10 Things in Tech I Need to Know

It gives me a one or two sentence summary of the most important tech news in the past 24 hours and link to a more detailed complete story if I want to read it. By having the stories chosen and vetted by a human editor, I know the information wasn’t biased by a voting gang. If I trust the editor, I know the information is important and trustworthy, and that is the key to the role a curator serves. A curator can use automated tools to filter what might rise to the top via social proof or the wisdom of crowds, but they still need to use some level of judgement to determine if it deserves to be there. If the editor is able to maintain journalistic integrity and not be influenced by nepotism, their value within the community rises.

As the barrier to become a publisher drops to near zero (see Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus Book Review), we need human curators, not machine coded algorithmic ones, to overcome filter bubbles. If you are willing to invest time and resources in creating/hiring or becoming a curator, you can solve the problem of readers having a limited amount of attention in a world where more and more people are competing for it.

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