Curious curation

I read a great blog post the other day by Neil Perkin over at Only Dead Fish on content curation.

We all know that the internet has shaped a new paradigm of content creation: no longer do we rely on traditional sources – books, newspapers, magazines – to provide our content. So far so obvious.

And Neil doesn’t talk about content generation. Rather, he talks about the way the internet is creating new paradigms of content curation. The content that is shared through social networks like twitter, or socially enabled tools like spotify mean that we no longer look exclusively to traditional ‘editors’ for curation.

Instead, we create a consistently relevant stream of interesting and personalised content for ourselves. We elect to follow people on Twitter who we trust to only share information that we will find relevant. We receive spotify links from like-minded friends who share a similar taste in music. We self-select RSS feeds. Neil calls this a mash-up of social and personal curation, both of which I like as terms.

Neil works in the advertising and media community, as do I, and he notes that Twitter and RSS are the ideal tools to ‘curate’ information in and about our industry. He’s right. And, as a strategist, I can honestly say that I have been able to quickly build a stream of content around almost any subject, industry, passtime or interest I have needed to. It took very little time, when I started working with a public sector managed facilities supplier, to plug myself into a community of public sector thinkers. Working with anAutomotive client led me to start absorbing information from dealers and car buyers and classified websites. The charity sector opened up very quickly for me when we were briefed to produce a social media campaign for Bliss. And I did it far more quickly than I might have by signing up subscriptions to industry publications or visiting a library.

Neil notes that these streams don’t necessarily replace traditional media curation (ie by a knowledgable, trained, recognised editor), rather that the best models use both sources. He sites the Guardian’s recent launch of the Guardian Science Blogs network as an example of traditional media (and by extension ‘curation’) workng with non-traditional (in this case the blogosphere). Incidentally this would have been a great plan for theUnion of Concerned Scientists, had they given it some thought and not gone for the knee-jerk ‘let’s spank a load of cash on uneccessary advertising’ option. Neil goes on to talk about the way the Guardian opened up its entire ‘process of producing, hosting, and curating great content’ to the public, rather than simply facilitating user generated content. He talks about it a whole lot better than I could, so read his post. I agree with him.

Guardian Science logo

The one thing I picked up on from Neils post that I found slightly risable was in the initial paragraph,where he quotes Christopher Bailey, CCO of Burberry, who said: “We are now as much a media-content company as we are a design company, because it’s all part of the overall experience.”

Now, I get brands creating content (although I think they should only create content where they have a real authority to talk on a subject, Burberry for instance shouldn’t start telling me how to maintain my car in winter), but being ‘as much’ a content generation company as a design company seems daft. Burberry can generate content about (clothes) design because they design clothes. If they stopped designing clothes and carried on talking about designing clothes, I’m not sure anyone would listen. So let’s not get carried away here: by all means, brands, hold forth on subjects where you have a passion and an authority and can give people genuine insight and advice. But don’t start thinking you are an independent editorial voice. That’s just forgetting what you are and what you exist to do.

This post originally appeared on my company blog, here.

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