Content Curation in an Info-Overloaded Market
Content curation is often promoted as a "lazy" blogging technique. On its surface, it seems that way: instead of writing your own content, you simply republish excerpts from and links to other people's content.
And in fact, it is very easy to fill a blog with curated content.
But filling your subscriber list is a completely different matter. And that will only become more true as time goes by.
Let's get a little background on curation blogging first.
Back in the early days of the web, every geek paid a daily visit (usually several daily visits) to a site called Slashdot. They were THE source for tech news. Wanna know how many reporters they had out interviewing newsmakers and researching the big stories?
All they did, all day long, was publish little excerpts from interesting stuff they'd found (or that readers had pointed them to), usually with a one sentence comment, and a link to the original article.
I used to refresh their site multiple times a day, and talk about the things I'd read there with my coworkers.
In the beginning, they didn't have a whole lot of competition. Now, many years later, they've been eclipsed by sites like CNet, Mashable, Tech Crunch, Gizmodo, etc., but they still get a lot of traffic.
However, I don't subscribe to them anymore.
It's not necessarily that their quality has dropped. What's changed is that I've found news sources that I like better. In the beginning, I didn't care that they mixed a lot of stuff that didn't interest me in with the stuff that did, for two reasons:
- I wasn't overloaded, so sifting through the "noise" on Slashdot wasn't that much trouble.
- They were the best available option.
Today, everybody's overloaded, and there's a lot of competition. If there's nothing unique and compelling about what you offer, you'll be passed over.
What does it take to succeed as a curator today?
If Slashdot were to launch tomorrow, would anybody follow them? It's hard to say.
One thing they have going for them is that, in addition to tech news, they also cover what they refer to as "stuff that matters" -- topics like free speech and other liberties. On the one hand, that probably turns some readers off. But it makes them more unique. So for those who agree with their stance, it makes them more enticing.
Aside from your unique voice, a few qualities you'll need to stand out in today's crowded market include:
- A voracious appetite for content
- Sharp discernment to know what's worth passing along
Don't read enough, and you won't find enough top-notch content to share. Don't filter out the mediocre stuff (or even the good, but not great, stuff), and your "signal to noise" ratio will be too low, so readers will unsubscribe and go elsewhere.
Not a job for a lazy blogger. In fact, you may have to work harder to be an exceptional curator (ie., the kind that people subscribe to).
"Overload and Underwhelm"
In curation blogging, as well as on social media, some people have a tendency to share too much, thinking that being a prolific sharer will earn them followers. I'm not talking about the people who tell you what they ate for breakfast or what the t-shirt they wore yesterday smells like now. I mean people who link to every article on every blog they read.
I uncircled someone on Google+ this very morning because they were overloading and underwhelming me. That one person was posting about three quarters of all the content in my Google Plus stream. Yeah, some of it was great. But it just wasn't worth dealing with the deluge.
What is lazy curation good for?
A lazy curator -- someone who just grabs links and excerpts on a topic and republishes them willy-nilly -- may not earn a lot of subscribers. But that doesn't necessarily mean that lazy curation won't do anything for you.
Lazy curation is an easy way to get keyword-rich content. So it may very well have SEO value. The problem with lazy curation for SEO is that, once you've gotten somebody to your site, you can't do much with them. Since you aren't publishing credible content, about all you can do is throw some ads up and hope to make some money from AdSense or as an affiliate.
Also, since the content is nearly all duplicated from other sites, you risk running afoul of search engine algorithm changes. The fact that you're generating a unique mixture of duplicated content weighs in your favor. But there's no guarantee that your site won't get dropped from the index next week.
With all the content that's being produced these days, there's more need than ever for good curators. But good curation -- the kind that fills that need rather than just cranking out another form of spam -- is not a job for the lazy.