Breaking the bank

In April 2009 I wrote a post, "Curation nation", that looked at what publishers, booksellers and journalists needed to be thinking about when it came to matters of content curation.  In it, I noted:

"The lessons [Jeff Jarvis] tried to apply to journalists can apply to book sellers and their advocates, as well.  We have to divine new ways to add value, ways rooted in how people seek and find information.  Those paths haven’t been paved yet, but they do feel much more small-d democratic than the ones they are replacing."

Although I haven't written much about curation lately, I've continued to follow it across various channels. In a recent post, "How to Consistently Out-Curate Your Competitors", Leo Dirr offered a range of ideas on approaches to curation that would distinguish bloggers from one another. The questions he asks are relevant to more than just bloggers, though (verbatim):

  1. Will my audience find this content useful or interesting?
  2. Is the source credible and trustworthy?
  3. What’s the likelihood that the people in my audience have already seen this?
  4. What’s the likelihood that members of my audience will bookmark this or share it with their own networks?
  5. Can I find something better on this same topic?

It's interesting to see how things have not changed much in the last four years. We're still looking for ways to sort through an abundance of content, with an eye toward validating sources and meeting both expressed and latent consumer (reader) demand. Much of the intervention remains manual.

What has happened along the way is often "small-d democratic". As Dirr's post title suggests, there are plenty of competitors in the curation space, so much so that we now regularly curate the curators. While a small number of sites have scaled curation – is a controversial example – a lot of the business remains home-grown.

I think this reflects a challenge we have yet to acknowledge fully. Earlier this week, I captured some of Laura Dawson's thinking about linked data:

"It struck Laura that most publishers are distributing documents today (whether open data or not) at the first level – just put it on the web. Structured formats, open formats, the use of URIs and linking documents to other documents – these are well beyond what is being done now."

Absent machine-readable ways to query documents, we're continuing to make manual decisions about what content matters. This is, in effect, a new gatekeeper role, but (like the old ones) it is unlikely to persist in an era of content abundance. We're at the point where trying to do it all by hand is breaking the bank.

An additional note: A year or so after my 2009 post, Steve Rosenbaum published a successful book, also titled Curation Nation. There was never a link between the post and the book, but he and I have since become acquainted and shared a bit of a laugh about the rhyming overlap.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.