Recently, the New York Times announced it was adding curated content to its homepage. "What we hope [curating third-party content] will do is give readers a reason to come to our homepage more often and stay there," stated editor-at-large Marcus Mabry.
Curating contest is a progressive step for a traditional publisher but not an isolated one. With the launch of FirstFT, the Financial Times is also making its own move toward curated content. "We're trying to become a neutral judge and offer the big stories of the day, whether they're coming from us or elsewhere on the Web," Andrew Jack, its newly appointed head of aggregation and editor of curated content, told Digiday. "Nobody has a monopoly [on the news]."
The traditional publishers' embrace of curated content signals a seismic shift in consumer expectations of information. We're in a new era of information, where savvy audiences are seeking context along with content. They want more than a story—they want to understand the various ways in which a story is being told. That means even the most exemplary editorial coverage only becomes comprehensive when it's packaged with additional perspective.
Still, there are those companies with a knee-jerk reaction to curated content that say it doesn't offer the same value as original content. (This is surprising when "curation" is so widely respected in other arenas. That is to say, should the curator of the Guggenheim be held responsible for the creation of each exhibit? Would the organizers of Cannes take responsibility for the production of all of its entries?)
Content producers—be they traditional publishers, digital outlets, or the many brands that are tapping into the benefits of content marketing—need to understand that today, curation brings tremendous value to the growth of a business.
Curation is thought leadership
One common misconception is that thought leadership is exclusively the domain of original content. As the New York Times' and FirstFT's moves underscore, the process of employing one's expertise to identify the best and most meaningful selections of a much broader set is an undeniable demonstration of expertise. And that opportunity runs across the full spectrum of content. That is, if you're business converts homes to solar energy, then you should be the go-to resource on that subject. Curation offers the opportunity not just to participate in the conversation but own and shape it.
Curation is a service
With so many traditional and digital publishers, a perpetually growing number of distribution channels, and so many skilled writers and producers pointing their fire hose of information directly at consumers, it's an amazing time for content.
The dark side of this prolific age is that consumers are in a position to sort through all that content to find what's good, what's valuable, what's worth sharing. It's overwhelming... and a time suck. But that's when the act of curating becomes a service to your audience members. You're saving them time, connecting them to the information that they should invest their time in.
"Aggregation is an increasingly valuable convenience for busy readers which don't have time to spend the day on Twitter, with its incessant stream of information," stated Jack.
The integration of third-party content is a natural, logical, and customer-centric move for publishers and brands alike.
Curation is efficiency
Ask anyone who is struggling to establish an effective rapport with their target audience, and the person will tell you it's a constant process. We live in a 24/7 content cycle, thanks in no small part to social media, and the job of publishers and marketers doesn't allow for silence. Curated content makes it possible to sustain a more effective cadence without that high cost that comes with creating new content. Curating content is a practical and effective way to fill otherwise dead air, in addition to its many other perks.
Curation is imperative
But for all its value, perhaps the most driving factor behind curation is that the life and reach of content thrives on it. In the old days, and not really very long ago, content was like the apple that didn't fall far from its tree. But today, content operates very differently. It, like all of us, buzzes around the Web, from social network to social network, to email to website and back. To participate in this dynamic—and ensure the success of their own content—publishers and marketers alike need to participate in the content exchange. That's why more organizations are actively make curation an operation. They want to ensure that the third-party content that is selected is always meaningful to consumers and ultimately valuable to the business.
In regards to the Times' using curated content, Mabry also said, "We were living in this old-world vision where you thought the only thing worth putting on your website was your own stuff."
Mabry's statement effectively captures an essential truth in today's content landscape: Curation is key, and, without a doubt, it matters to content now.