The Key Benefits of Content Curation

Advantages of collecting, adding value and sharing with intent

If you search on Google for the benefits of content curation, you will find tens of articles that praise the advantages that curation can bring to the world of marketing and specifically to the universe of content production.

But besides the doubtful truthfulness of their claims, none of them, is written by a content curation expert. They are all written by “interested” parties. Either by content marketers with little or no experience in practicing curation, or by founders or stakeholder in companies that sell “content curation tools” as a service.

I started noticing this pattern of bloggers and content marketers heavily promoting content curation as a cure-for-all medicine, when I saw that among the key benefits listed, there were always three totally misleading promises:

a) curation can save significant time (to those who do it).

b) curation is a piece of cake. Easy to do. Anyone can do it.

c) curation will automatically increase your online visibility and reputation.

None of them is true. They are false promises made to lure individuals and organizations interested in those three benefits.

Although curation can save very significant time to those who benefit from it, it positively does not save any time at all to the curators who exercise it. It does to those who benefit from it.

Curating content takes significant time, compared to typical blog or article writing, because it requires the author to find, vet/verify, organize high quality information from multiple sources, and to add value and perspective to it before deciding how to present it in ways that make more effective.

Curation is a complex and challenging activity.

It requires competence / experience in the field being curated, as well as great familiarity with the players, the issues, the trends and the tools that define its space. To curate requires above average skills (research, vetting, writing, presentating) and strong knowledge of the matter at hand.

Curation does not automatically guarantee extra visibility and higher reputation to those who practice it. While it certainly can help achieve those results when properly practiced, truth is that it can also, turn out to be the most effective way to lose them when done without competence or attention. Sloppy, unprofessional curation can rapidly and silently ruin the reputation and credibility of anyone.

While I would like to make no public reference to such cases, I have come to filter out many people that I was previously following because they lost credibility for these very reasons.

Unless it is done with the integrity and ethics of a true investigator / scientific researcher, curation will always appear as a content marketing tactic utilized precisely to avoid in-depth research and true insight.

Thus, anytime I read an article praising the qualities and benefits of content curation, I stand cautious and skeptical.


For the same reasons I have listed above, I have felt that editing an independent list of content curation benefits would probably be a good analytical and research exercise for me, as much as a useful reference for those looking to learn and understand more about content curation.

What follows is thus a first attempt at identifying the true benefits of content curation from an uninterested, outsider viewpoint. I look forward to keep revising and improving this document with the suggestions and comments that I will receive from you.


Like quarterbacks, radiologists are experts in seeing things quickly. What is invisible to us is obvious to them.

They can diagnose a disease after looking at a chest X-ray for a fifth of a second, the time it takes to make a single voluntary eye movement.

As they become more trained, they move their eyes less until all they have to do is glance at a few locations for a few moments to find the information they need.

This is called “selective attention.” It is a hallmark of expertise.

Source: How Experts Think by Kevin Ashton, 2013


23 Key Benefits of Content Curation

a) Information Management

1) Separates Signal from Noise — Sense-Making

2) Gives Way to the Creation of Useful Information Resources

3) Helps in Detecting Patterns and Trends

4) Aids in Comparing and Evaluating

5) Summarizes, Synthesizes, Distills Complex Information

b) Knowledge & Culture

6) Creates Knowledge

7) Builds (P2P) Collective Intelligence

8) Preserves our Cultural Heritage

9) Is an Ethical and Socially Valuable Practice

c) Search & Discovery

10) Augments Content Discovery

11) Supports Emergence of Independent Authors and Voices

12) Complements Online Search

13) Saves Peoples Time

d) Education and Learning

14) Is an Effective Learning Approach

15) Helps To Stay Informed and Up-to-date

16) Provides Context Explanation

17) Develops Critical Thinking

18) Forces One To Be Thorough

e) Reputation & Visibility (SEO)

19) Increases Credibility

20) Builds Authority, Reputation

21) Increases Online Visibility (SEO)

f) Relationships & Community

22) Helps To Build Relationships

23) Is Critical in Building Communities of Interest


In Detail

a) Information Management

1) Separates Signal from Noise - Sense-Making

Content curation is a practice that helps to identify valuable resources and information in a world of overabundant and shallow information. It helps to separate the wheat from the chaff. To make sense of the world around us.

Tim Berners-Lee described three principle functions of the Internet:

- Allow anyone to access any type of document

- Allow everyone to disseminate their own documents

- Allow everyone to organize the entire collection of documentations [curation]”

References:

Examples:

The ability to take data — to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids.
Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data.
So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.
I think statisticians are part of it, but it’s just a part.
You also want to be able to visualize the data, communicate the data, and utilize it effectively. But I do think those skills — of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis — are going to be extremely important…”
Source: Hal Varian on how the Web challenges managers
Google’s chief economist on how technology empowers innovation.McKinsey&Company, 2009

2) Gives Way to the Creation of Useful Information Resources

Content curation by virtue of its own definition aims to create shared value, by gathering, vetting, organizing, adding value and presenting collections of information artifacts that address a specific topic for a specific audience.

Content curation comes into existence only when “shared value” is generated. Something from which everyone who gets access to can benefit.

Examples:

3) Helps in Detecting Patterns and Trends / Predicting the Future

Content curation makes it easy to spot and identify patterns and trends ahead of others simply because it forces the curator to continuously search and sift through tens of potentially relevant artifacts. By doing so, the curator gets a much higher sensitivity than the general public in being able to detect interesting and valuable stuff. It is like as if he had a higher resolution lens through which to see the content he is an expert about.

The curator gets to see more of the forest, rather than the individual trees.

Indeed, to effectively detect patterns and trends it requires to see more of whatever is being researched and to look for subtle, little differences, changes, starting to emerge here and there. It follows, that by looking at the big picture, curation can be of great help in detecting changes, anticipating trends and predicting the future.

Examples:

4) Aids in Comparing, Evaluating

Content curation can facilitate evaluation and comparison among multiple resources, tools, viewpoints and ideas.

By bringing together different voices, perspectives, reviews and opinions, curation offers the perfect playground to start comparing and analyzing different items in the same realm.

Examples:

5) Summarizes, Synthesizes, Distills Complex Information

Curation by way of its analytical, 360° degree questioning, investigative research approach produces so much organized and well structured information that it can be effectively utilized to synthesize and summarize long, rich and complex bodies of information.

References/ Examples:

“We live in an age of ubiquitous information, and sort of “just add water” expertise, but there’s nothing that compares with the presentation of significant objects in a well-told narrative… what the curator does, the interpretation of a complex, esoteric subject, in a way that retains the integrity of the subject, that makes it — unpacks it for a general audience.

Thomas B. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, TED video

Thomas B. Campbell, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, TED video

b) Knowledge & Culture

5) Creates Knowledge

Content curation is a practical approach to create “explicit” knowledge by researching and thoroughly understanding a specific topic and by sharing the results with those interested in it.

Knowledge as an understanding of a specific subject matter.

Content curation goal is transform information into knowledge by connecting dots, identifying patterns, seeing relationships, uncovering rare gems. Its ultimate mission is to to make sense, understand and share that understanding with others.

References:

Eric Beherns — presentation was first given at Swarthmore College’s Staff Development Week on January 11, 2011

6) Builds (P2P) Collective Intelligence

Content curation is an independent, distributed and spontaneous act of collective intelligence whereby many individuals spontaneously contribute and co-operate to the vetting, filtering and organization of the world information.

Social and collaborative content curation will allow human beings to collaborate into organizing and making sense of the world information not in search of one ultimate truth, but by providing multiple paths and perspectives for anyone to find his own.

References:

What should happen, what is already happening, is that a large network of sites like Edu_RSS should emerge, forming in essence a second layer in the network.
The result of this second layer is that the internet will self-organize, that information generated in a thousand or a million places will cluster, become composite, interpreted, specialized, and produce highly targeted, highly specific resource feeds at the output end.
The Network Second Layer, Robin Good / Stephen Downes, 2004.
Collective curation — Crowdspoke
Pierre Lévy on Collective Intelligence Literacy — a video interview by Howard Rheingold

7) Preserves our Cultural Heritage

Content curation core mission is also one of archiving and preserving the best and most representative content produced by society and to make sure it will be accessible generations from now by the nephews of our nephews.

This is the role traditionally carried out by museums and libraries.

Content curation extends those missions, by working to preserve, add value and extend the life and discoverability of quality content.

References:

8) Is an Ethical and Socially Valuable Practice

Content curation is a practice that has both personal and social values for human beings.

It allows the effective understanding and mastering of any subject one wants to learn.

It creates shared high-value resources that can be of benefit to many people at no cost.

It instills and models a spirit of cooperation and collaboration in an effort to make sense of the world we live in. It models respect for sources and tippers and for supporting the full crediting and attribution of anyone that contributed to the creation of any curated collection.

Reference: Curator’s Code

Curation Techniques Types and Tips, Steve Buttry, 2012


c) Search & Discovery

9) Augments Content Discovery

Content curation is key in helping to uncover rare gems, content that would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

References: “The Rise of Pinterest and the Shift from Search to Discovery”, 
by Semil Shah, Techcrunch.com, 2011

Examples:

10) Supports Emergence of Independent Authors and Voices

Curation, in whichever field it is utilized, helps the small, the independent, the unknown quality authors to emerge.

Examples:

  • DJs
  • Film & Book critics

11) Complements Online Search

The area in which Google cannot compete with humans when it comes to providing relevant advice, is trust.

Content curation complements online search by vetting and organizing results according to expert human views.

Differently than Google, which relies on algorithms to pick and order search results, expert curators vet, pick and select according to their own personal openly disclosed standards and viewpoints. Thus, they are inherently more trustworthy as they publicly disclose their selection criteria, prejudices and objectives. Google on the other hand is a publicly shared company which has vested commercial interests connected to what is shown in its search result engine pages.

Wouldn’t a mix of the two be beneficial for both and for searchers as well?

For these reasons, as the quantity of information in any given field keeps increasing at a frantic pace, information curators may likely become an indispensable complement to Google search.

When there is an overabundance of results for search, curation becomes indispensable.

References:

“The concept is simple (which suggests, but does not prove, that it may be profound).
The amount of information online is unfathomably vast and dreadfully disorganized.
Web-search technology is miraculously effective if you already know what you’re looking for, but if you need to stay up-to-date on a handful of topics, search engines suffer from clunkiness and redundancy.
What you need is a team of human beings who monitor a topic for you, select the best and most relevant data on a regular basis (preferably around the clock), and present it in a meaningful format.
You need curation."

source: J.D. Hildebrand via Scoop.it

  • Curation comes up when search stops working”, Clay Shirky, NYU
Original tweet: https://twitter.com/benedictevans/status/677977465373896704

12) Saves Peoples Time

Content curation saves a huge amount of time to those who benefit from it.
In finding tools, resources, guidance on any topic or subject, curation provides tremendous time savings as one or more experts have already gone through the task of researching, vetting and organizing the available info / resources.

Google saves you time when you know what you are looking for: an address, a product, a company, a person. But when you search for the best information to learn and understand / make sense of a subject, Google is hardly useful. In the best cases in fact, Google itself will point to you curated collections and in-depth resources curated by subject-matter experts.

Curated content can indeed save significant amounts of time when searching for specific information.

References:

Tom Foremski explains the role of content curation in online searching

d) Education and Learning

13) Is an Effective Learning Approach

Content curation is a very effective approach to learning and mastering any subject that stands in sharp contrast to the standard school practice of having students memorize information at face value.

Curation helps to learn and to “know”, as it requires the curator to question, investigate, explore and experiment to construct a personal understanding of any subject.

Curation stands in sharp contrast with the dominating educational approach consisting of memorization of pre-selected information sets at face value (with no critical questioning) used by most of the world school system.

Curation is also the natural approach that an individual takes in an ideal situation to learn anything he needs. He goes out to find and interrogate all of the experts, he reviews their work, tests and verifies their claims, to arrive at his own conclusions and understanding of it.

References:

14) Helps To Stay Informed and Up-to-date

Leveraging expert content curators is, in my experience, the most effective way to keep oneself updated. Instead of visiting tens of websites and blogs and reading social media posts left and right as well as email newsletters, one can save a lot of time, while gaining much deeper insight by subscribing to a few experts in the sectors that one is interested in.

References:

If I was starting The Village Voice today, I would not print anything. I would not hire a ton of writers. I would build a website and a mobile app (or two or three). I would hire a Publisher and a few salespeople. I would hire an editor and a few journalists. And then I’d go out and find every blog, twitter, facebook, flickr, youtube, and other social media feed out there that is related to downtown NYC and I would pull it all into an aggregation system where my editor and journalists could cull through the posts coming in, curate them, and then publish them.
Fred Wilson, VC, AVC.com, 2009

Examples:

15) Provides Context, Explanation

Content curation is the perfect road to provide information on a topic, to those who are interested in learning and knowing more about it. Content curation is a learning and explanatory device as it is designed to gather and organize multiple resources and viewpoints on a topic while weaving an explanatory path through them.

Examples: Wikipedia

16) Develops Critical Thinking

Content curation helps to develop a critical thinking approach by forcing the curator to explore, vet and evaluate personally what is of relevance.

To curate means to critically think. To critically think means being able to question reality and to have the skills to analyze and scrutinize any type of information.

But to do this, the curator is forced to clarify his mission / objective, and the specific issue and audience he chooses to inform. With these in mind he can then identify the specific criteria he will use to filter and separate what is relevant from what is not.

Curation trains the naturally curious to explore with a more systematic approach, while maintaining a skeptical, investigative attitude.

For all of these reasons curation is an excellent method to develop a personal viewpoint and to become an insightful and critical observer.

References:

Critical thinking principles

17) Forces To Be Thorough (instead of superficial)

Curating content is like doing a criminal investigation. It requires analyzing, searching, gathering lots of information, leads, proofs while systematically asking questions and evaluating different viewpoints.

One cannot curate by looking at the surface, at the appearances or at the elements that are in easy reach. To curate it requires to look in depth, beyond the obvious, in search for higher value and meaning that has not already been discovered.

A curator is someone who goes in-depth and looks at all of the aspects of any issue before drawing any conclusion.


e) Reputation & Visibility

18) Increases Credibility / Boosts Reputation

Curation is a way to demonstrate one’s own expertise in any given field.

Content curation aids in building personal and brand authority. It does so by providing a tangible demonstration of superior knowledge within a certain subject-matter area.

By creating thematic collections that showcase “the best” or “most relevant” artifacts on a specific topic, while providing context and value for a specific audience, the content curator provides tangible demonstration of great familiarity with the topic perimeter and with its individual constituents.

References: “Want Some Attention? Tell Your Readers To Go Away”, 
Robert Scoble, 2004.

How To Provide Unique Value in Your Content”, MOZ, 2015.

Source: Content Curation Biggest Benefits

19) Builds Authority

Content curation by way of sharing, adding value, and crediting only the best sources, provides such a useful, practical and time-saving service to those interested, that if one is consistent in doing so, he is increasingly perceived as an authoritative source of information.

By showcasing publicly explicit knowledge of an area, curation becomes a fundamental approach to highlight and increase one’s reputation in that field.

But beware: Curation confers authority to those, who demonstrate the ability not only to find and share relevant news and resources, but who can add value by explaining the why and how these have value and usefulness within a specific context (interest + audience). The authority arises from the fact that curators help others gain a better understanding of issues that confuse them.

By helping others understand difficult or complex subjects, content curators can demonstrate their competence and understanding, while gaining credibility and trust from those who follow them.

By being a trusted filter, a curator becomes like a sommelier, a subject-matter expert, a trusted guide.

References:

Anne Handley explains in simple words how you can get going with a blog or new web site and become an industry resource in your area of specialization

20) Increases Online Visibility (SEO)

Content curation positively impacts search engine optimization and visibility as it typically generates content that has the following positive SEO traits:

- In-depth: Substantial, well written and researched content

- Multiple outgoing links to highly relevant sites

- Citing of other authors, titles and products highly relevant to the subject covered

- Transparency (dates, signatures, bio)

References:

21) Gives Voice to A Brand

Content curation is an opportunity for any company to create value while making its voice, opinion and perspective, be heard. Rather than resorting to marketing and sales messages, or leveraging shallow content articles and blog posts, brands can curate specific information spaces by finding the best and most valuable resources on a topic and providing valuable commentary and perspective to them.

References:

“…social media and search directly impact Brands. In […] the age of conversational media, Brands must become Publishers.”
(John Battelle: Toward a new understanding of publishing,
Part 1 and Part 2, 2010)

Rohit Bhargava: “Content Curators will bring more utility and order to the social web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers — creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.” (source: Content Curation Manifesto)


f) Relationships & Community

22) Helps To Build Relationships

One of the positive consequences of curating content is the natural development of relationships between curators and those being curated. By citing, referencing and mentioning other authors, a content curator signals his presence, appreciation and viewpoint to them.

In turn, this helps individuals highly interested in the same topic, to discover and to connect to each other while peer reviewing each other’s work.

23) Is Critical in Building/Creating Communities of Interest

Content curation is a strategic communication approach in the development of communities of interest, as it provides the core content, news and discussion subjects that can attract and hold a community together.

As a content curator researches, finds and brings together valuable content from different sources that is of keen interest to a particular audience, he and the public outlets where he shares his curated work, become meeting points for all those interested in that space.

Curation helps to foster interaction with a community of people who share specific interests.

Example: NomadList.com

References:


Summary

Content curation is a practice that generates numerous positive benefits both for the curators as well as for any of their intended audiences.

The key benefits of content curation that are generally reported in the media, are often not true and need questioning:

  • time saving
  • easy to do
  • automatic boost of credibility and reputation (for who curates)

The first two, are certainly not true, while the third one happens only when true value is added to a curated collection.

This chapter is an early crude attempt to identify and document as many benefits and positive advantages that curation brings about as there effectively are.

The goal is to help other people interested and fascinated by this practice to learn and find out more about it.

It does not pretend to be a final, comprehensive or ultimate list, but a work in progress to arrive at it.

I am looking for additional references, examples and insights from you, my reader, to further improve and refine this chapter.

Thank you for reading.

Robin