The 8 Questions You Need to Answer to Decide if You're a Curator

The 8 Questions You Need to Answer to Decide if You're a Curator
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An excerpt from the new book: Curate This! The Hands-on, How-To Guide To Content Curation
As the word curation moves to the center of the content world, I get asked every day... "should I be a curator?" There's no single answer, but you can explore it and get to a reasonable conclusion. So, here's the list from Chapter 6 of Curate This!

In this world of too much information, it would be easy to assume you want to be a curator to stay relevant. However not so fast. Let's walk you through a simple checklist of curator attributes and see if you fit the bill.

1. Are you a maker?
Do you create content of some sort? Are you a writer, poet, painter, songwriter, composer, sculptor, journalist, blogger or author? If the answer is yes, then bravo - you've got one of the critical things that all curators need. A voice. A passion to create. To find unusual linkage and eye-opening connections. Curation is the art of creating something new, coherent and meaningful out of an abundance of related information and ideas. The reason why there's no such thing as 'machine curation' or 'algorithmic curation' is that curation, at its core - is an artistic and a human endeavor. So, if you see curation as an extension or expansion of your creative voice, then you're in the right place.

2. Are you a leader? Curation is the art of standing in the front of the room and telling an audience to follow you. You need to be bold, charismatic, fearless and willing to take risks and make mistakes. Great curators will see around corners, embrace and expose unusual and unexpected themes and sources, and make bold predictions about their passions and beliefs.

3. Do you thrive and explore across media boundaries? The ideal curator is multidisciplinary, willing to forage for ideas and wisdom in tweets, Tumblr posts, LinkedIn pages, Flickr images, Slideshare accounts, Facebook posts, G+ Groups and the legion of emerging voices and sources. The tools are ever changing. Your fans and friends don't have the time or tools to go spelunking for content in the dark and unexplored corners of the Internet. If they've chosen you as their curator of choice, then they've deputized you to go exploring for them. That means always being hungry for what's next and what's new, wherever it may reside.

4. Are you a list maker? Curators are more than hunter/gatherers. They are organizers. They bring order to chaos by creating a framework and then presenting their curated output in a coherent and logical frame. If you've found a thousand potential Editorial elements for a curated page on a sporting event, breaking news story or complex medical or social subject, then the art of honing it down to a digestible, coherent arrangement of Editorial elements is often painfully difficult. The art is in the edit, cutting the avalanche of information into a focused, meaty, revealing curated collection.

5. Your place or mine? In the olden days, by which I mean five years ago, Web publishers were all about luring their audiences back to their home (pages). That was where they could grow traffic, monetize visitors and keep return visit numbers growing. That model is gone. Whamo. Now, audiences have settled in to their own consumption patterns, so, for a curator worth his salt, the answer to the question, "Your place or mine?" needs to be a resounding BOTH.

6. Do you have a gut for finding/filtering?
Curators are constantly searching - exploring, searching and ruthlessly discarding.In the world of separating signal from noise, you need to be willing to expose yourself to the relentless din of signal and be able to make snap judgments, often without regard for the granular accuracy of each individual curatorial cleave..

7. What about your members? Do they get a say? If curators have a strong voice and POV, then how do they deal with audience engagement and participation? Audiences want to participate; they want to be engaged and listened to. A strong curator is both a leader and listener. The nature of curation extends beyond the content as curators curate their members as well. Valuable members with strong points-of-view and real insight into the category or community are a treasure to be embraced and encouraged. Outspoken members who make the community less welcoming or downright hostile need to be marginalized or even removed. It's a tricky balancing act to foster open participation, but set clear guidelines and community standards. However, if you can't lead with both content and community, then you're just waiting for the moment when the center of gravity changes.

8. Can you mix? Have you ever tended bar, spun records or set up a photo exhibit at a gallery? If so, good because, when you get right down to it, curators are mixologists. They are tastemakers who specialize in taking elements that may, in fact, be available to others and creating a collection that contains a unique vision and voice. The mix is essential. Add a bit of humor and you may make magic. Overdose on raucous comedy and you may lose the useful balance you set out to achieve. There's no handbook for your mix; it's yours, but be conscious of the fact that a mix is more than a handful of related items set side-by-side. If you've ever had a great Martini or gone to dance club where the DJ was on fire - you know that getting the mix right can make all the difference.

The volume of noise in the world makes a curator's role as an identifier of trends into an important voice. The shift from delivering 'facts' to discerning patterns is a growing and important one. By framing the conversation rather than contributing to it, you're providing a unique and valuable resource, context. Agencies call this 'thought leadership' and it's highly valuable. There's no doubt that audiences are hungry for clarity. As I've said before, viewers don't want more content, they want less. They want highly useful and focused collections.

Curation moves you from a voice in the noise to a leadership role. Curation allows you to define the focus of a conversation and set the tone. Having a defined POV is critical for successful curators. Defining yourself as the ultimate arbiter of what is important and what is not makes you the decision-maker, the central point of power. Your readers and viewers only have so much time to consume content, so your role as the smart filter builds audience loyalty.

This is an excerpt from Curate This! The Hands-On, How-To Guide To Content Curation. Available in ebook or print at CurateThis! on

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