What is Content Curation?
Although content curation is a relatively recent term associated with marketing, it has been around for a significant amount of time, in particular for as long as museums, libraries or galleries have been in existence.
In that context a curator is a manager or overseer of a cultural heritage institution. He is a content specialist responsible for the institution’s collections and involved with the interpretation of heritage material. A Museum Curator looks after, manages, organises, displays and develops museum collections, and conducts related research. A typical job description would focus on the acquisition of items for the collections in their care, the careful examination of items to determine their condition and authenticity, the maintenance of records about all items in the collection, the initiation and maintenance of research and publication programmes, the establishment of networks and assistance of other professionals on request, etc. According to Beth Kanter, a content curator cherry picks the best content that is important and relevant to share with their community. It isn’t unlike what a museum curator does to produce an exhibition: They identify the theme, they provide the context, they decide which paintings to hang on the wall, how they should be annotated, and how they should be displayed for the public.
In particular, Content Curation is not simply about collecting links or being an information pack rat, it is more about putting them into a context with organization, annotation, and presentation. Content curators provide a customized, vetted selection of the best and most relevant resources on a very specific topic or theme. As Rohit Bhargava points out in his post via Robin Good, a content curator continually seeks, makes sense of, and shares the best and most relevant content on a particular topic online. Content Curators have integrated this skill into their daily routine.
Content Curation is also firmly rooted on another discipline, Information Literacy. It is defined as a set of of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.” Information literacy also is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources. The American Library Association has identified the following standards:
The information literate professional determines the nature and extent of the information needed.
The information literate professional accesses needed information effectively and efficiently.
The information literate professional evaluates information and its sources critically and incorporates selected information into his or her knowledge base and value system.
The information literate professional, individually or as a member of a group, uses information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose.
The information literate professional understands many of the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information and accesses and uses information ethically and legally. (adapted from Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, American Library Association, 2000)
What steps to Content Curation?
This set of standards can be applied to Content Curation to form the framework of skills required by a content curator. Content Curation Skills involve the Three S’s of Content
Curation: Seek, Sense, Share. Harold Jarche’s model describes Content Curation as a three part process :
Seek. This step echoes the first two standards of information literacy. Finding the information or “searching for” is only one third of the task. It presupposes knowledge of what is needed and where relevant information can be researched.
Sense. This step echoes the third and fourth standards of information literacy. Sense making can be a simple as how you annotate the links your share, the presentation, or what the content curator leaves out. No matter how meaning is created, it has to support the organisation’s objectives or the professional’s goals.
Share. This step echoes the fifth standard of information literacy. Sharing is about giving the best pieces of content to the relevant audiences in a format that they can easily digest and apply both ethically and legally.
What is Quality Content Curation? According to Robin Good, the following criteria can be used to identify the best curators. A good, value-creating curator, can be easily recognized by looking at the work he does. If he does one or more of the following he is likely to be a true, value-creating, sense-making curator:
Quality Content Creators optimize titles as to make them relevant to their audience. Titles are often still badly written, by using either a classic journalistic approach or by using tricky psychological approaches to make them appear more interesting. The curator’s task should be to make titles relevant to the specific audience, by making the title highlight and explain what the content is truly about.
Quality Content Creators edit / rewrite titles, descriptions and more, to further customize the message relevance, language and focus for a specific audience.
Quality Content Creators format curated content with microscopic precision by utilizing character styles, chunking, and use of bulleted/numbered lists to provide greater legibility and to communicate more effectively the key concepts present in the original content.
Quality Content Creators select and add relevant images, photos, illustrations that fully complement and reinforce the content they are associated to.
Quality Content Creators excerpt selected text and passages from the actual content, to help the reader understand as rapidly as possible what the content is about and why it would be relevant to read it.
Quality Content Creators write their own intro, to contextualize and explain the relevance of the content to their specific audience. They bring in a “personal voice” that threads together news or content coming from many disparate sources. They thread and guide the reader through content like a museum guide. Quality Content Creators classify content. They curate their channel and content metadata. They provide comprehensive tags, titles and classification categories for the content curated.
Quality Content Creators integrate extra links to extend-expand the scope of the article or to provide further reference to specific concepts.
Quality Content Creators personalize each curated item differently for each social media channel/audience when needed/ appropriate.
Quality Content Creators vet and verify the original source for quality and integrity (for instance by reading all of the original content) and exercising a critical role in deciding what to publish and what to censor.
Quality Content Creators credit and provide full attribution to all sources used. They go out of their way to reference and cite personal sources (when appropriate) and always give credit for received leads, tips and suggestions showcasing the transparency of the author-curator.
Quality Content Creators spend most of their time vetting and filtering out most of the incoming content, not approving for publishing most of the incoming stuff.
Quality Content Creators tap frequently into a personally selected circle of trusted curators in related, complementary, or similar topics.
Quality Content Creators suggest and recommend in turn to other curators specific stories for their newsradars.
Quality Content Creators spend time searching for more content / context to add to any item when this can help enrich, or make more interesting and valuable an existing story. They look for additional references, reviews, citations or stories that can help complement the existing view.
Quality Content Creators scout for new, credible and interesting content sources. They are never happy with the sources they have and love to discover new ways, tools and networks where useful sources can be found.
Quality Content Creators engineer filters and specific searches to help themselves find always highly relevant and useful content to curate.
Quality Content Creators publicly state focus, target audience, communication objective(s) and criteria by which content is selected or excluded on their newsradars or curated channels. Quality Content Creators publicly recommend other newsmasters, curators and specific newsradars.
Quality Content Creators crowdsource recommendations, tips and suggestions from their readers always acknowledging their contributions.
A content Curator should approach his job with a thirst for information. He should exploit the available resources to the maximum. He should evaluate and exploit results while maintaining ethics and legality. He should share and communicate results serving the interests and needs of his organization and his audience.