If newspapers are curating content, why aren’t business communicators?

Shel Holtz's picture

Curation is Back, Baby

Beginning around 2011, content curation was a hot topic. There was no end of workshops and keynotes and blog posts and books. Today, you can talk about curation and hear a pin drop.

Curation is alive and well even if it seems quaint compared to Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, voice tech, and some of the other technologies that have pushed it aside. SmartBrief has a nice business curating email newsletters on a wide variety of topics, from PR to the restaurant business, from pharmaceuticals to risk and compliance. I look forward to Shelly Palmer’s daily email, which features a handful of articles curated from a variety of sites; Palmer claims to have more than half a million subscribers. My own Friday Wrap blog posts and weekly email newsletter are curation efforts offering brief summaries of articles covering topics about which I think communicators should know. (I also curate content about the values-driven marketplace on Flipboard and about a variety of communication topics on Pinterest.)

Still, I no longer hear anybody raise curation as a tactic in discussions about how to communicate.

It’s time to revisit content curation

That’s too bad since curation can still be an effective approach, effective enough that it has been embraced by The New York Times. According to a recent Poynter article, the failing Times (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) is producing collections of links to other publications. If that seems to run counter to its own interests, consider what Senior Digital Strategist Anna Dubenko says:

“What if your really smart, funny, charming, friend — me — gave you recommendations of what to read without all of the craziness that you might get in your News Feed?”

If you’re thinking, “I’d pay closer attention to what that person shares,” you and Dubenko are on the same wavelength.

As the Poynter piece points out, the Times isn’t alone. BuzzFeed and The Guardian both publish features designed to expose their readers to alternative viewpoints. Facebook recently announced it would add “related” articles from a variety of publications to trending news topics that show up in your News Feed. (As recode put it, “You may see a post about Syria from the New York Times in your feed, but Facebook might also add similar stories from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Fox News directly below it.”)

The idea behind all of these curation efforts is bursting your filter bubble by making it easier to see alternative points of view. The New York Times is doing that, too, with a twice-weekly collection of political titled, “Right and Left: Partisan Writing You Shouldn’t Miss.” But they’re also sharing external links with collections about anything but politics, with headlines like “Take a break from politics with these 12 stories,” which takes readers to publications like The Atlantic and The New Yorker.

New business uses for curated content

Business communicators should pay attention to these collections, which are delivering high levels of reader engagement. The first thought I had after reading the Poynter article was focused on employee communications: Some internal communicator somewhere should produce a weekly roundup titled, “10 great stories about our competitors.”

External audiences would also eat up round-ups with eye-catching themes. IBM, which is at the center of Artificial Intelligence, could offer “Five insightful articles about human intelligence.” Or how about a Home Depot collection of “Home improvement projects that won’t cost you a dime”?

And these are just themes that break readers out of the routine topics they are inundated with daily. You could also create niche round-ups. Dell could curate content about cloud engineering, for example. As we move to a more values-driven marketplace, companies could curate stories about the issues they have embraced. Salesforce doesn’t need to limit its gender-equity activities to protesting state legislation; it could curate a bulletin of great articles about the subject.

Just because curation has become old news doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be considered in communication planning. If media companies are now making special efforts to link out—and every company is a media company—PR and communication specialists should be considering how curation can advance their goals, too.



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