Why Content Curation Is Here to Stay 
For website content publishers and content creators, there’s a debate raging as to the rights and wrongs of curation. While content aggregation has been around for a while with sites using algorithms to find and link to content, the relatively new practice of editorial curation — human filtering and organizing — has created what I’m dubbing, “The Great Creationism Debate.”
The debate pits creators against curators, asking big questions about the rules and ethical questions around content aggregation. It turns out that lots of smart and passionate people are taking sides and voicing their opinions.
“Curation comes up when search stops working,” says author and NYU Professor Clay Shirky. But it’s more than a human-powered filter. “Curation comes up when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.”
Part of the reason that human curation is so critical is simply the vast number of people who are now making and sharing media. “Everyone is a media outlet”, says Shirky. “The point of everyone being a media outlet is really not at all complicated. It just means that we can all put things out in the public view now.”
In March at SXSW in Austin, I took part in a session that delved deeper into the issue of creation vs. curation. In attendance were representatives for people from both sides of the debate. This, in a nutshell, is the conclusion that came out of that discussion:
- We’re living in an era of content abundance.
- Even prolific creators are going to end up mixing their created content with a mix of curated sources.
- Creators, distributors, aggregators, and curators are all economically essential parts of the value chain.
- Advertisers will embrace trusted ‘places’ over trusted sources — large curated collections will achieve higher CPMs.
What is clear to me after these past three months of accelerated change is this: Curation is now part of the content equation. It doesn’t kill anything, rather it adds a powerful new tool* that will make content destinations more relevant, more robust, and more likely to attract and retain visitors. Curation is here to say, though creators should have the ability to create boundaries, both editorial and economic, around what they create and how it is repurposed.
Further, the economic models for both creation and curation will continue to evolve. There’s no doubt that economic solutions will emerge around hosts and distributors.
* (emphasis ours, not in original)
+Commentary: Recently we ran across this article again, six years after we’d first posted it. Still believing in much of what is outlined, and trying to take a longer view than the first impressions. Sharing it again now, because questions have arisen as to is this still valid? Has the equation changed? Are these systems and structures adapting, and are the users & content creators evolving too?
These are all hard questions to answer, but in the 6 years since much has changed, is changing, and will continue to shift. This is before chat platforms (WhatsApp…), microvideo or photo apps (Vine, Instagram), livefeed apps (Periscope, Facebook Live, etc…) and so on. All these things arose after, and in so many ways are fueling the age of Influencer Marketing, Curators as Art Dealers, and other odd confluences that are still in their toddler-hood. Yet it is also affecting “news” organizations and journalism.
Armed with mountains of data, most experts put in charge of predicting outcomes still can’t come up with accurate answers. Why? Because most people have a human bias to manipulate data to deliver the outcomes they really want to see.
Yes we’ve all been to a breaking story that is a collection of tweets taken from Twitter, or utilizing a Facebook post embedded or otherwise, and then “reactions” from real people and celebrities alike. This is MSM ‘curating’ the news for you and cobbling it together where a quote or comment on these platforms is treated with all the weight we used to reserve for remarks made in an interview with the actual subjects. They are the new “man on the street” interview style translated for this modern age. It doesn’t matter if it was part of a longer series (on Twitter) or even a private posting which they then make public in a screenshot.
While the last was an aberration, and doesn’t happen often, the fact that journalist arguing first amendment rights, and against safe spaces did think it possible to endanger a person by broadcasting a locked-account tweet. It sets the same bar as allowing users to curate their own lives, and in turn harm others, as was the case in the live-broadcast mass shooting victims, and the gunman who then uploaded it on the run. This requires and demands as with all new(s) systems that things be put in place to handle humans being humans. Doing things that are well beyond terms & conditions. That an over-reliance on self-reporting leads to “real-name” policy debacles, marginalized communities who speak out getting their pages or accounts removed/blocked, and other things where trolls put concerted effort into using those tools as weapons. This hasn’t improved.
Further to this notion as well, the tools there to protect, continually get misapplied in a seemingly arbitrary way. Yet the effect is chilling. A call for diversity will send a person off twitter, because the abuse, which fits in that umbrella called the First Amendment, or other specious arguments is a thin as parchment, are used to protect those already in positions of power, and exclude those that challenge or disrupt those notions.
So by not generating or being a creationist, to paraphrase what the main article says, is to some ways remove yourself from the equation, or insulate in many ways. Growing influence over others by being able to do what no algorithm can, think like a human, not react to human impulses.
This is in some way a revival or morphing of the old “when will we be replaced by a machine,” and in other ways it is newer iteration, or an evolved sense to it. That the algorithm won’t ever write the article, but will decide what others “like” or “view” as a way to determine what is trending. We who don’t always read the top news, want real interactions, find it getting more difficult everyday. Yet again, this blog consists of carefully curated content for years, all put together lovingly to focus and highlight on those things that don’t actually trend, but under-gird them.
Man-on-the-street, viral, Nightly News, short snippets is what they say is popular, but doesn’t account for the undercurrent or underserved who want long-form, analysis, and thoughtful commentary. That is the next revolution. It can’t get here fast enough.