When we last debated content v. context, the word curation came up. For some it was an inaccurate term, best reserved for art historians and museum directors than online web strategists. Yet, it’s not surprising that many content curators can be found among the news industry.
Curating Online News
Newspapers, in print and online, have supplemented their own content with repackaged content from around the Web. From RSS feeds to more established curation platforms, news can be aggregated to meet the evolving needs of both readers and publishers.
This week we saw the launch of TBD.com, a Washington, D.C. based website (and TV station), which delivers local news and community information from the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. region via an integrated newsroom. By bringing together reporters, editors, producers and community-outreach specialists to produce original journalism, as well as highlighting news and information from other media outlets and blogs, TBD’s goal is to engage residents and readers in a dialogue about news and culture in their area.
The TBD.com site offers a customizable view of news and events specific to Washington D.C.
Certainly, TBD.com is not the first nor the last online news site to employ content curation, but the ways in which it can be successfully executed continues to be debated. As Christy Barksdale, a consultant with PR 20/20, reminds us:
...the emergence of online news powerhouses such as The Huffington Post and Newser have approached the need for quality information by curating the best news articles from major outlets across the Web. Traditionalist Rupert Murdoch has fought hard against search engines and aggregation as a means of protecting the traditional news outlet. Newser’s Michael Wolff argues that online news curators are signs of changing audience behavior, and that traditionalists such as Murdoch will lose out in the end.
The Appeal of Content Curation
What it is about curating content that is so appealing to the news industry? And more importantly, is it a sustainable model? Recently, Ellie Behling, a staff writer for eMedia Vitals wrote about how publishers curate the world of content. She writes:
While publishers choose to utilize aggregation and curation platforms in a variety of ways, the main point is clear: Many media companies see benefits in collecting content from around the Web. Publishers find curation can attract and retain readers by offering the best of all content, rather than the best of just their own content.
Perhaps also enticing for news publishers is that aggregating content helps keep costs down. We know that over the past few years, newspapers have gone lean in both staff and content produced. Content aggregation helps journalists find stories relevant to their interests in a way that’s more practical and advantageous than following the AP wire. (The Associated Press, it has been noted, is not a fan of sharing content.)
Curating content also benefits readers. From widgets to blogs, to sites like Global Post, Publish2 and numerous other platforms, readers can gain a wider perspective of global events, as well as a more niche view of local ones. It provides us with a sampling of related topics covered by a variety of sources, which in turn allows us a sort of objectivity that is rare.
And its Future
But is content curation only the beginning? Behling pondered whether full syndication could be next, asking those involved in developing curation platforms about its future. Despite the promise that semantic technologies can afford us, it’s possible that “humans and algorithms can be useful for aggregation/curation strategies,” emphasizing that in fact, when combined “real, live editors will continue to be an important differentiator, even as powerful algorithmically generated tools evolve” says Behling.