What’s in a word? Lately the content marketing world has been engaged in a debate centered on the actual meaning of an interesting term – content curation. As I write this, Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize ‘curation’ as a real or correctly spelled word, and it’s not alone.

At SXSW in Austin last March, mutiple sessions took deeper looks at the question of curation and how it relates to Web content. Since then, numerous articles and blogs from curation marketing companies and impartial bloggers from the New York Times have weighed in on the subject. At EnVeritas Group, we think it’s time to examine this question.

Aggregation vs. CurationContent curation is frequently defined as “the act of human editors adding their work to the machines that gather, organize and filter content,” according to Steve Rosenbaum, CEO of Magnify.net, a video curation and publishing platform. Proponents argue that it is becoming impossible to aggregate enormous amount of digital content to find things that have meaning and value from trusted and authoritative sources. Enter the purveyors of curation.

Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire, promotes curation as a cure for broken marketing strategies. His company’s tool is designed to help sift through the masses of information to find the gems that are the most relevant to consumers, and he suggests that this process is no different than what a high-end art gallery owner does in deciding which new artist to represent. Museums are frequently cited as examples to demonstrate that curation is a good and necessary practice. After all, for every exhibit, someone (an expert) has decided the subject, selected which objects to include, and provided a context to help viewers understand the importance of the artifacts and the overarching theme of the exhibit. Similarly, digital curators see their role as finding and sharing information published on the Web that might be missed by their specific audiences. As Taariq Lewis, director of Sales and Marketing of HiveFire commented online: “We see that curation helps companies express their internal, organizational intelligence in a public, freely accessible, format that brings together original insight and third party content in a powerful education experience.”

The implication is that the third-party content will be presented within a framework that provides a critical context that adds depth and breadth to the original, rather than simply reposting the content. And to do that effectively, a smart, well-informed editor needs to be directing the process. Others go on to make the case that the third-party sources also gain value from having their work included (depending, of course, on whether or not they have been credited or cited).

Curation advocates note that this process of selecting and bringing together articles, video, images and the like has been going on since the dawn of time. Each of us, they point out, does it on an informal basis as we point friends to a good book, movie or link. Some go so far as to paint Google’s search page results with the curation brush. But there’s more to this debate.

Monday, we’ll look at the other side of the question.

Kathleen Gossman
EVG Editor

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