Thanks to the ease of publishing online, virtually anyone can do it now. As a result, the volume of content available on the internet has skyrocketed in the past few years. Back in the early nineties, you had to know how to run a Web server if you wanted to publish online. By the late nineties, sites like GeoCities meant anyone with HTML knowledge could be a publisher. Now, with the growth of simple drag-and-drop blogging tools, all you need is the ability to type on a keyboard (or not, thanks to voice dictation software).
This means we're now inundated with hundreds of news articles, emails, tweets, status updates and more every single day. On the plus side, the online conversation is a lot more dynamic than it was in the early days of dial-up and chat rooms. There are more diverse voices participating in the conversation and it moves much quicker. But let's be honest: the vast majority of online content is irrelevant at best, drivel at worst.
How do we cut through the noise and find content that's truly worth reading? Enter content curators; subject matter experts who have a knack for finding, organizing, contextualizing and sharing the best and most relevant content on a given topic. While the concept of curation is nothing new -- museums and art galleries have been doing it for centuries -- online curation is really coming into its own on several different fronts.
Top media destinations such as Yahoo!, Reddit, Digg, and yes, the Huffington Post have built a solid curation foundation by sharing third-party content that's irresistibly clickable. Curation also plays a major role in social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn Today, and most recently, Facebook's Collections feature. Sites like AHAlife and Svpply (acquired by eBay) also allow ecommerce brands to harness the power of curation. Even search companies are getting excited about the human element of curation. Just look at Yahoo!'s recent acquisition of Snip.it and Google's incorporation of Google+ posts into its search algorithms.
In addition to sites in the media, ecommerce, social media and tech space, content marketers are also embracing curation. Marketers who try to create all their own content from scratch can quickly burn out. Creating enough original content for blog posts, guest posts, podcasts, infographics and social media feeds just isn't scalable for most brands. But they still need to publish new content on a consistent basis or their blogs and social media feeds will grow stale. Curating the best third-party content and adding their brand's perspective to the mix offers the best of both worlds: a steady flow of brand-appropriate content and a workflow that's sustainable without working around the clock. Some marketers use curated content to complement their original content, while others focus primarily on curated content.
Here are just a few of many examples of brands using content curation. A few years ago, when the FAA reauthorization bill threatened to bail out a competitor, FedEx launched a site called Brown Bailout where it curated articles from mainstream media advocating against the bill. (Admittedly, the concept behind Brown Bailout is a little self-serving but it gave readers a centralized place for reading about the issue.) Adobe's site CMO.com acts as a single resource for all major digital marketing news that its target audience of chief marketing officers need to know about. Earlier this year, Intel launched a site called iQ, which features interesting tech articles crowd-curated from its employee base.
Content curation lets marketers create a conversation around topics relevant to their brand while providing a value-added service to their audience, helping readers discover content worth reading and sharing. As the number of online publishers and platforms increases, I predict that we'll see even more innovative uses of curation to help readers cut through the clutter.