Curating curated content isn’t just a tongue-twister. If past curation patterns are a guide, curating curated content will be an upcoming trend. (I talk about that history in my book.)
What does this mean?
Well, when you’re curating curated content, you’re surveying sites that have curated content, and you’re referencing that curation in your own curated article or post.
In other words, you’re not referring to a link you found at Drudge Report; you’re actually mentioning Drudge Report, perhaps quoting their blurb or editorial reference to the original content, and linking to the Drudge Report instead of (or in addition to) the site they linked to.
Confused? Maybe this will make it clearer: You’re surveying sites that include curated content, and including links to specific posts/articles at the curated sites, when you talk about your niche topic.
In simple terms, it’s next in a series of steps in content development, online.
Phase one was original content: Articles and other content that were created by an individual for his or her own website.
Phase two was derivative content: Sites that referred to that original content, with or without links, and sometimes without mentioning where the information came from. This includes quoted content, referenced content, and — a particularly grim example — “spun” content.
Currently, derivative content may make up 80% of existing websites, or more. Google and other search engines try to filter out blatantly scraped content. The task is daunting, and search engines often lose the battle.
Phase three — growing rapidly, as of 2012 — is curated content. That is, annotated content gathered (and linked to) from other sources. Most curated content includes excerpts and/or references to at least two or three other resources, most of them online.
Tip: Often, search engines can’t respond intelligently when someone is looking for the latest news and trends in a particular niche. A curated site can. It’s current and it has a bias. The latter is important.
Phase four will be a response to the explosion of curated websites. It’s becoming necessary to curate those resources. For example, you might create an article about a political issue. You’d include comments about relevant content at curated sites such as Drudge Report and Huffington Post, and videos at Newsy.
And, because there may not be enough good curated sites to link to, you’d probably include some original content links, as well.
It might be a little early to start curating curated content in your niche. But, if you niche is something like politics, it might be relevant now. In that field, you’ll find many posts at a wide range of excellent curated sites.
In turn, those need to be filteredto meet the specific interests of your readers.
Should curating curated content be part of your future? Maybe.
In business, it’s essential to be an innovator or an early adopter of trends. Watch for upcoming trends in your niche, in general. Keep them in mind as you plan what’s next — and what’s after that — for your business.
In the field of curation, those who curate curated content are among the innovators and early adopters. It may be something to watch for, in your niche.
“How do you drive traffic to your curated sites?” That’s what a reader asked me today.
It’s a good question. Here’s what I told him:
The great thing about having powerful, well-curated content is that it’s easy to attract traffic. Word-of-mouth spreads quickly, so you just have to get the ball rolling. That can be done in whatever way works for you.
The content should attract and drive traffic. If it’s not good enough to stand on its own, you probably need to improve it.
However, even the best, new website needs to send signals to the search engines so they find you. For small businesses, online, my defaults used to be a Squidoo lens pointing to the site, some intelligent articles at eZineArticles.com, and a few Facebook posts. If I had time (rare), I’d comment at related blogs, especially if they had CommentLuv.
Now, I’m more discerning about where I post. G+ has been good, but nothing stays constant, online. So, keep your ear to the ground and see where most related discussions go on.
From my experience, once a dozen or so people have visited a site with rich, juicy, intelligent, and original content, they’ll tell others in that niche. (Don’t expect similar results if you’re automating your content. For this laid-back approach to work, your posts must stand out in the crowd.)
It’s key not to devalue your site by looking spammy or desperate for traffic. That’s not just being mindful of Google’s Penguin update. It’s also part of the impression you’ll make on potential clients and customers. As Clay Collins commented, even new, kitchen-table businesses need to look like businesses, not garage sales.
I try always to put a Feedburner sign-up form on each site. Really, the vast majority of subscribers seem to think I’m emailing them, personally, when I post a new article at the site they’re following.
For my sites featuring curated content — not books — I’ve tried email lists. I know that many people swear by them for income. So far, I’m not impressed.
I tried Aweber lists for about four years and my results were equally good with Feedburner emails. Once again, this is about important content, not an ongoing garage sale or pitchfest.
Likewise, I don’t aim to get to “#1 at Google in 24 hours,” like a lot of people do. Instead, I go for steady, increasing traffic that grows organically.
That makes my sites pretty much immune to algorithm changes at search engines. Example: One of my sites currently gets 80k visitors/month… not huge, but it’s pretty good for a site I’ve never promoted at all.
Remember: Good, unique content is the Holy Grail of the Internet. It’s not quite “if you build it, they will come,” but it’s pretty close. Aim for great content, including lots of curation, and — with minimal effort, just to let people know your site exists — I think you’ll attract traffic.
Driving traffic is important, but a good website can be close to self-sustaining. When my numbers aren’t as good as I’d like, I add powerful content and I try to be one step ahead of popular trends. (In technical terms: I try to be at the “early adopters” end of the Diffusion of Innovations bell curve.) Then, I make sure people know about it.
Once people decide that they can’t afford to miss my posts, and sign up for Feedburner emails or add my RSS to their reader, word-of-mouth takes care of the rest.
If you want powerful content that earns raves and links in social media, you’ll need to be an Early Adopter or even an Innovator. (That refers to the Diffusion of Innovations, also called Diffusion of Ideas, meaning: The ways in which new ideas travel organically through a community.)
Innovators are the people who go way out on a limb, testing new ideas. The vast majority of those ideas will fall flat, but a sparkling few will be picked up and adopted by Early Adopters. They’ll explain the idea, and perhaps modify it slightly, so it’s more appealing to a broader audience.
That’s your job as a curator of news in your niche. You’re an Early Adopter… one of the first 20% (or less) who spot what’s important in your field, and tell others about it.
This means being one step ahead of the trends. You’ll need to keep your virtual ear to the ground. Stay on the alert (or at least on Google Alerts) for things that can spark interest, trends and even fads in your niche.
Find important, breaking news. Share it. Then, comment on it, explaining why it’s important and what you think of it.
That can make your curated content extremely valuable to your readers. It’ll turn visitors into rabid fans who never want to miss one of your posts.
The focus for most successful curators isn’t on traffic, marketing, outsourcing, or the latest bells-and-whistles for website design. (Take a look at the Drudge Report. That guy hasn’t significantly changed his website design in over 10 years.)
Curators focus on what’s new and important. They’re Early Adopters or — at the very latest — early members of the Early Majority.
By the time you’re on the down side of the Late Majority, you’ll also see a far lower conversion rate.
The “sweet spot” for conversions is at the first half of that curve or at its peak. After that, most of your website visitors have less money to spend and they’re reluctant to part with it.
Curation isn’t for the casual niche observer who’s only in it for the money. Curation can’t achieve anything close to full impact if it’s managed by a plugin or people who barely speak English.
Successful content curation is achieved by people who are dedicated to their niches.
If you can’t be the very best in your niche or subniche, don’t even bother to start. What he says about The Dip applies to content curation, too: Your website should be “sharply-defined, newsworthy, interesting to write about, easy to tell friends about.”
Yesterday, I was reading an absolute gem of a book, Do More Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier.
In that book, he says, “If everyone’s happy, then you’re not doing Great Work.”
Keep that in mind when your website includes curated content. If everyone’s happy, you’re not opinionated enough.
If people wanted a completely unbiased resource for their information, they’d use Google or another search engine.
Instead, they turn to you for your judgment and viewpoints, to filter the mass of content online. They trust you to share only those articles, videos, MP3s and other links that are noteworthy.
They’re putting their time — a very valuable commodity — in your hands. Are you worthy of that trust?
If all you do is fill a page with links that match your keywords, or every related link you can find, regardless of its merits, you’re cheating your readers. That’s not curated content, it’s just content.
The following article raises many excellent issues related to content curation. The article’s list of no-nos is especially good, pointing out the difference between quantity and quality, as well as issues of attribution and compensation.
Are you in danger of a content curation cop-out? :: Target-Info.com
Around my house, we often say: “The content monster must be fed.” These days, with the popularity of content marketing, organizations are struggling to keep from being gobbled up by their content monsters. Curating content…
All of those are factors in curation: Are you including important resources? Do you clearly attribute your references and links? Are you nurturing those resources so they flourish and continue to provide the world with exceptional content?
It all starts with your opinions. They lead you to choose certain resources and omit others.
Your opinions are the foundation, sparking your interest in some people and what they say and do.
Those same opinions can trigger you to cruise quickly past those who are less interesting, with your foot on the accelerator as you look for the next, interesting resource.
Your opinions are a large part of what makes you a valuable curator. You can voice those opinions editorially, in your comments, and attract a niche following as a result.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, you can try to be as unbiased as possible in your comments with each link or reference.
However, even then, your opinions matter, as you’re the filter deciding which links to include and which to leave out. Overt or covert, those opinions are the core of your success, and lack of them could be your downfall.
When you curate content, at least a few people should be irked. Maybe they won’t like what you’ve said. Perhaps they’ll object to what you’ve linked to or what you’ve omitted.
If everyone’s happy, that probably feels better than receiving angry comments, flames in your email, and being the target of tirades in forums.
However, if you’re not opinionated enough to annoy some people in your niche, you’re simply not opinionated enough.
To paraphrase Mr. Stanier: If everyone’s happy, you’re not doing great curation.
“The era of the we-web,” is how Stephen Rosenbaum describes today’s worldwide web, in this video that explains why curation is vital.
This 15-minute talk from TEDx starts with a bit of a downer, showing clips from Rosenbaum’s movie about the effects of 9/11. However, he then explains how our lives practically revolve around the Internet.
If you feel that curation is “just a trend,” this video explains why it’s going to be an essential part of our lives from now on, and why it will keep growing.
Content curation has been around as long as the Internet has. Content curation can be summarized in seven words: “Look at the cool links I found!”
Good curation includes far more than that. It explains why each link is cool. A smart curator gives extra insights about the subject, the links, which are the best ones, and so on.
But anyway… yes, watch this video.
“The world needs thoughtful thinkers. It needs us.” — Steve Rosenbaum
I don’t mean the scanner on your desktop… the one that photographs documents, etc.
I mean scanners who are busy people. They’d rather read the Cliffs Notes version of a long article than every single word of it.
They’d also prefer to read a summary of a good book.
Recently, I attended the Kindle Celebrity webinar about this issue, recommending Kindle books consisting of Cliffs-Notes-style summaries of books. (That wasn’t an affiliate link. I like the ideas in the webinar, but not enough to buy the course.)
That concept of curating and/or summarizing content is excellent. The success of Cliffs Notes, Bathroom Readers, etc., support that.
Last week, Seth Godin also mentioned the problem with things that are too long.
You’re going to hear that more and more often. The movie, the book, the meeting, the memo… few people will tell you that they ran short. (Shorter, though, doesn’t mean less responsibility, less insight or less power. It means …
When it takes too long to stay current in a niche, curated content is the answer.
Curated content also helps scanners as described by Barbara Sher:
To Scanners the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities, and all they want is to reach out and stuff their pockets.
People like that love curated content. They can survey the big, fascinating world faster and stuff their pockets with more, juicy trivia when they visit a website like yours.
So, when you’re including blurbs, make sure you’ve chosen the sentence or two that conveys the essence of the article. Or, make sure you’ve summarized why that article is important.
If it’s important enough, your readers will click to see it. If they’re too busy, they’ll be grateful for your summary; that’s all they need, for now.
Curated content must be unique. It should include the best, most fascinating news and ideas in your niche. It must be remarkable. That’s what makes curated content so tasty, people are greedy for more. That’s why people will link to your curated post, rather than to the links in that post.
See, if all you do is buy a plugin or software, type in your keywords or phrase, and say, “Sure, why not?” as you add those blurbs and links to your post… your post will look like every other marketer who’s doing the same thing. If it’s an autoblog plugin, it’s likely to duplicate the posts of everyone else who’s in that niche, using that plugin.
Big yawn. Maybe your mother will be impressed, but your readers won’t be. Search engines won’t be impressed, either. They’ve seen this before. Why should they smile on you?
Real curated content is juicy. It’s unique. It’s so cool, people tell others about what you said, the sites you linked to, the videos you included, and so on.
Real curated content is remarkable. That’s what works.
Let Seth Godin explain the importance of remarkable work.
WARNING: Careless content curation can connect you to bad neighborhoods.
Consider that before using automated content curation tools.
Curated content involves more than just relevant content. Consider the quality of the site you link to. Many factors must be part of that decision, or you could be shooting yourself in the foot.
In 2012, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, Google recommended, ” In particular, avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web, as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those links.”
Please note: They say to avoid links TO bad neighborhoods. (Yes, that was worth putting in upper case. It’s that important.)
Content curation provides a hefty link to the site where the content originated. You’re always linking to the site. Responsible curators usually link to the actual article title, and sometimes include a thumbnail image (referencing the site) as well.
Unless you manually check that webpage and the site its on, you might have no idea you’re linking to a site featuring spam or X-rated material or links to it.
Do you really want to send your website visitors to that site?
However, your outgoing link isn’t the only issue involved. When you link to a website, especially in curated content, it’s possible that site will link back to you, automatically, via pingback. That backlink can be great; it’s one of the many reasons some webmasters include curated content in some of their posts.
It can also be toxic.
As you’re collecting content, look at the ads on the webpage. Click to a few other pages at the site.
Do you want your site to be associated with that kind of website? Remember: All the ‘bots see are links.
If your content curation tools include plugins that create “curated” content on autopilot, you’re playing roulette with your reputation.
That’s not just about Google and other search engines; it’s also about your visitors, and they should be your number one priority.
My rule is: The second time I follow a link and it takes me to a site with a bazillion pop-ups that require multiple clicks to get out of… that’s the moment I remove the original site from my bookmarks and unsubscribe from the site owner’s list.
Many people won’t have my patience. They’ll hit that “unsubscribe” button following your first mistake.
This is one of many reasons why I keep saying: Be very careful about the curation methods you use. Most content curation cannot be automated on any level. Yes, I’m using CurationSoft, but I don’t glibly drag-and-drop content without visiting the site and manually checking it for value. It doesn’t matter if I’m quoting part of an article or just saying, “You can read more at these links.”
It’s true that sites can change after people like me link to them. That’s always a risk.
However, by manually checking sites before I link to them, I can minimize risk exposure for my own websites and my clients’.
The following poster is excellent, and shows the extremes some SEO professionals go to, to ensure high-quality link connections for their clients.
Most content curators won’t take the time to do that much research. They should manually check each site they link to, and the nature of that site, at the very least.
This is a small rant about fake (and very bad) content curation. It’s going to be short and not very sweet.
Imagine you’re in Washington DC, and a friend calls and says, “Let’s go to the Smithsonian for the day!”
You agree, and your friend picks you up in her shiny new Mercedes. You’re expecting a wonderful day. However, as you look out the car window, you notice you’re driving away from the Smithsonian, not towards it.
Ten minutes later, your friend parks in front of an overflowing dumpster and opens the car door. You look at your friend and ask, “What are we doing here?”
Your friend replies, “Well, it’s not quite the Smithsonian, but close enough. I mean, they’re both just a bunch of old stuff. I didn’t really expect you to notice the difference.”
That’s what I’m seeing at some “curated” sites. Their content is posted from software that grabs possibly-relevant RSS feeds. No personal supervision is involved.
That’s not content curation, just content.
You may as well stand outside Google’s main office with a big sign saying, “Go ahead. De-index me!” followed by your URL.
People are still pointing at the Drudge Report, claiming, “See? Anyone can do this!”
Sure, it may look like Drudge throws a bunch of links online. It’s far more than that. That’s why political analysts are saying Drudge helped Mitt Romney with his subtle (and not-so-subtle) choices of links, headlines, and blurbs.
…Left unmentioned was one of the campaign’s most significant boosters: Matt Drudge… The long time operator of the highly influential Drudge Report had spent much of the lead-up to Michigan propping up the Romney campaign.
Read that article, if you think the Drudge Report is just a bunch of links.
Matt Drudge can get away with a simple, ugly website because he’s been doing this steadily since 1997, and he has a very loyal following giving him millions of reliable hits, every month.
His site presents far more than meets the eye… literally.
But let’s say you really get what he’s doing with his website. Can you succeed by copying the style or content of his site? Probably not.
You don’t have his 15-year reputation. (How reliable is the Drudge Report? Well, it’s the news source that broke the Monica Lewinsky story. Unless you have that kind of track record in your niche… no, you can’t just throw some links on a homepage and expect Drudge-like results in a couple of months.)
A content curator serves as a personal concierge providing a doorway to a particular topic or niche. You’re highlighting the very best news, websites, books, audios and videos in a niche where you’re an expert.
Anything less is indiscriminate, and some of it dances dangerously close to the fine line between copyright violations and “fair use.”
Curated content is regularly touted as a hot, new shortcut for filling up your website with posts. Is this a good idea?
Umm… maybe. Maybe not.
Years ago, my mom used to talk about making a “Dagwood sandwich.” Apparently, in the old Dagwood comic strips, Dagwood used to raid the refrigerator and fill his sandwiches with a mix of whatever he could find: Cold cuts, pickles, salad ingredients, and so on.
Adding mayonnaise to that? Probably a good idea. Adding chocolate to it? Probably not.
Curated content is like that. It’s not just what you put into it — though that is important — but what you add to it.
What curated content is
The term “curated” refers to the kind of work done by a museum curator. He or she gathers the very best of what’s available in that field, and makes it available for the public to view.
So, when you curate for your website, you’re putting together the best information you can find, so your website visitors know about the latest, most important, most outrageous, and perhaps most entertaining information in your niche.
Think of it this way: Curated content is like a conversation, where you’re telling your reader about cool things you’ve discovered. In that conversation, you’re quoting what you’ve read, pointing to fun graphics and viral videos, and making it easy for your readers to see what you’re talking about, for themselves.
Or, to explain this in geek-speak:
Curated content is content gathered from relevant websites and offline sources, under “fair use” and editorial guidelines, and included in an article (or other work) as a reference. Usually, the reference isn’t just a link, but a short quotation or screenshot from the original article, or that information, paraphrased.
Curated content always includes the credit information: Who wrote the original article and/or who published it, and usually a link to the original work, as well. That’s not just a courtesy to the resource and a legal requirement, it’s also so your readers can click to read or see the entire work you’re talking about.
Some sites make it easy to use their content. YouTube is a good example, as they provide a “share this” link for each video. eZineArticles.com provides you with copy-and-paste articles. Sites with liberal Creative Commons licenses also make it easy and completely legal to use some or all of their content.
If you’ve ever posted a YouTube video at your website, or shared an article from eZineArticles.com, or included a great, viral image in a post at your website, you’ve already been curating.
(However, posting a link at your website, or Tweeting it, or adding it to Facebook… that may be curating, but it’s not actually curated content. Curated content involves finding interesting information online, sharing it, and explaining why it’s important for people interested in your niche. In other words, it’s the shared information, the link, and your own added content.)
What isn’t curated content
Copying-and-pasting RSS feeds, randomly… that’s not curated content. I’ve seen some sites doing that, usually with WordPress plugins, and it looks about the same as a link farm. There are some plugins that help, but if you’re using the plugin to grab a few blurbs from RSS feed headlines that “look pretty good,” either the plugin is bad or you’re missing the point of curation.
Autoblogging with long-tail keywords and calling it “curated” isn’t any better. If you’re not carefully selecting the links and blurbs, and then adding your own commentary, that’s not curated content. Not really.
As I’m writing this, those are the two most popular trends among the “make money while you sleep” product promoters.
Then there are people who copy-and-paste long passages or even whole articles instead of creating useful, unique content. Once again, that’s not curation. (I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but these are things that — apparently — need to be explained.)
If you copy something, paraphrase it, and try to make it sound like it’s your work, that’s also plagiarism. (Amazon has been harsh with people who copy-and-rephrase reviews posted at the Amazon.com website. Don’t do it!)
And, if you think you can get around copyright laws by spinning what you’ve copied, that’s not curation, either.
How much do I have to change in order to claim copyright in someone else’s work?
Only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work.
Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another’s work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner’s consent. [Emphasis added.]
So, no one should be surprised when Google uses steadily refined software and new algorithms to catch people who use spun content.
And, with software like TinEye and similar plugins for browsers, it’s folly to use other people’s graphics without permission. (Hot-linking without permission isn’t any better.) You will get caught, and you’ll be lucky if the worst that happens is permanent residence in the supplemental index.
One good motto when curating content: “Credit where credit is due.”
However, copying someone’s work and giving them a by-line… that’s not enough.
Let’s talk copyright for a minute
I’m not a lawyer, so my opinions are simply that: Opinions, not legal advice.
Here’s how I see curation under the U.S. laws regarding copyright: In most cases, good curation is covered by “fair use” limits.
Section 107 contains a list of the various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. (Ref: U.S. Copyright Office – Fair Use, and Title 17, U.S. Code.)
When I use excerpts of others’ work, it’s usually as a reference for my own comments or criticism, or for teaching purposes. However, it’s smart to keep this additional guideline in mind, from that same Fair Use page:
The distinction between fair use and infringement may be unclear and not easily defined. There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.
How much you quote is a factor. Here’s more from that same article, describing one of the four factors used by the courts to determine whether something is “fair use.”
The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
Personally — and this is just my opinion, which could be wrong in some cases — I’m comfortable quoting two or three sentences from a website article, as long as it’s less than 10% of the original, copyrighted work. In fact, I lean towards quoting less than 5%, when possible. (The “when possible” is affected by the context. Quoting someone out-of-context is a very short route to trouble.)
In print media, especially books, you can check the copyright page. Sometimes, the author or publisher clearly spells out how much can be quoted. The usual range is about 20 – 25 words.
The safest resources for curated content
If you’re uncomfortable interpreting “fair use” for curation, remember a perfectly legal source for curated content: Material that’s licensed under the Creative Commons. When you’re searching Creative Commons works, you’re usually looking for work that you can use for commercial purposes and modify, adapt, or build upon.
You can also plunder the vast number of books, articles, graphics and recordings in the public domain. (Generally, you’re looking for content created before 1923. However, there are many exceptions, and public domain is a topic in itself.)
Tips for great curated content
Here are some points to keep in mind when you’re adding curated content to your website.
1. Know your niche.
Many of your website visitors are already familiar with your niche. You can’t fool them… not for very long, anyway. All it takes is one stupid comment (that you don’t retract with a hearty serving of crow), and your credibility is gone. People remove their links to you, or — even worse — post at social media saying things like, “Look at what this idiot said…”
If you don’t know your niche, don’t try to bluff it. Either get up to speed, quickly, or hire someone who does know your niche, to do your writing and curating for you.
2. Respect your visitors’ time.
Time is one of the only things in limited supply in your life. Don’t squander your own time, and don’t waste the time of your website visitors.
Here’s my rule: If I discovered my mom or grandmother reading every single article at one of my niche websites, would I feel that she’d spent her time well? Or, would I feel sad because she could have been doing something else… something that would genuinely enrich her life or make her happier?
When you curate content, be sure it’s worth mentioning, linking to, and talking about.
3. Make your site worth making your readers’ browser homepage.
Your content should be so good, people want to see it, as soon as they open their browsers.
If you’re building a site that will stay at the top of the search engines and rarely waver from that spot, you’ll need content that’s highly focused, steadily updated, and tells your visitors something they didn’t know.
You don’t have to be the first one to report the news. Curation means you’re one of the first (or best) to tell your readers about that news, and add your own, insightful comments along with a link to the original information.
Your site should be so interesting, and so current, people tell their friends about it, post it in social media, bookmark it, and they’re tempted to make it their browser’s start-up homepage.
(In real life, it’s unlikely that will actually happen. After all, people can have just one homepage per browser, and that homepage is usually their email, RSS reader, or a social media site.)
Nevertheless, aim to have a site so content-rich, a few rabid niche enthusiasts actually do make your website their homepage.
Curated content makes that possible. Use it wisely, and you’ll be glad you did.
I hope shed more light on this topic. If you have questions, leave a comment.