The growing importance of content curation


Over the past 3 years we have seen the rise of content plays which are as much about content curation as they are strictly original reporting.

What I mean by this is destinations that specialise in filtering what they believe is the most important information for their audience, and adding their own spin to it.

So whilst these sites may not be ‘breaking’ stories or news, they are generating discussion around it.

This format is becoming increasingly more popular for both users and publishers. For users it allows someone else to filter through the hundreds (or thousands even) pieces of information that might be relevant to them – presenting 5 or 6 pieces daily (sometimes more) that have been deemed the most relevant/entertaining. For publishers it’s an appealing concept – lower cost and higher churn. More pageviews, less investment.

The technology world is a great example of the rise of the curator. The WSJ or NY Times may break a tech story – within hours the same story has been repurposed across numerous other media outlets – blogs such as TechCrunch, Business Insider, Gizmodo, All Things D; automated aggregators such as Techmeme, Hype Machine or Mediagazer; and even ‘professional’ media brands like the SMH and news.com.au.

It’s not limited to technology – logon to most websites and you will find 30-50% of their content is ‘curated’. All categories – entertainment, music, film, business, politics etc – are experiencing the trend.

As a user I am a fan of this format. It allows me to catch up on areas I find interesting quickly and easily. Good examples of sites in the entertainment/lifestyle space that do this really well are Pedestrian and The Vine.

For me, Twitter is no different … for me it’s generally a collection of people I respect, posting interesting articles I need to read (generally). In this way, curation is basically RSS but the work has been done by someone else. It allows me to reduce my reliance on search – which often serves me up irrelevant results and wastes more time than it saves.

As someone who is publisher side, I’m not sure what impact it has on a publisher who actually breaks stories and creates truly original content. At Sound Alliance I would say we’re 50/50 – 50% original content and breaking news, and 50% reporting on and analysing news that has already broken. Whether or not curation sits well with me commercially is irrelevant however, the horse has bolted and this concept of curation is where things are heading. Quickly.

As some involved in the advertising world these curated sites are important. Why? They have an interesting audience and most truly thrive around an involved and passionate community united around their interest in a particular area.

This to me signals an opportunity. The current opportunities to reach these environments feels limited. There are literally 100’s of these type of destinations with strong traffic that are being undersold in the market. Most are taking whatever low yield they can get from the larger ad networks – which would be an amount between ‘not much’ and ‘even less’ once those involved have taken their cut – plus this approach means the sites themselves are not visible and advertisers aren’t really aware of what sites they are on.

As an advertiser it feels the options are limited. You have a ‘head’ of larger sites (ninemsn, Fairfax, News, Telstra, Yahoo!) that command I’d estimate around 5-10% of peoples time but approximately 65% of ad revenue. You have a shrinking mid tail of owned/operated sites with their own sales teams – a difficult business at the best of times – and then you have a few networks representing the rest of the ‘Internet’ which is becoming more and more performance or ‘behaviour’ based.

If the demand for curated content is growing and growing, and more people are choosing to access content in this way … then surely there has to be an opportunity for a curated network, positioned in the right way.

This isn’t to say this hasn’t been attempted in Australia. It has, but perhaps in the wrong way.

For any media buyer or marketer reading this – does the idea of a curated network appeal to you? Would it be attractive to connect with a large audience of people who are passionate about a vertical, in an environment not full of spray and pray performance inventory? Is the idea of relevant user, relevant context and relevant message still, erm, relevant?

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6 responses to “The growing importance of content curation

  1. Pingback: Twitted by RobinGood

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  3. Really interesting post! No doubt content curation is a big thing at the moment and about to be bigger. Agree with your point of Pedestrian being a great example of this.

    i’m not so sure that an effective Curated Network hasn’t been done yet in Australia, look at the guys at Vice who have Populace network which caters for Sneaker Freaker, Lookbook, Hypebeast etc’s australian eyeballs.

  4. talkingdigital

    good point re vice/populace … i was aware of that and neglected to mention it. What they’re doing is exactly what I am talking about. Thanks Grace.

  5. Insightful post! Great point about the benefits for both users and publishers. Would also like to add the benefit for content creators as it generates SEO enhancing linkbacks and broader circulation for their work.

    Also, I agree that there is a growing opportunity for curated networks and think the idea of relevant context and relevant users is, and always will be, important to advertisers and marketers alike. Being able to reach the right people at the right moment, in the right mindset – that is more accurate targeting and more effective advertising. It improves the odds of your ad being opened and thus the performance and effectiveness of your efforts. In the dominant model of performance based ads, it also means higher revenue for the curated site.

    They way people search for and consume news/content is definitely shifting in favor of curation and feeds. A well executed well curated site will deliver the best of the web on a particular topic, gather and engage enthusiasts via a superior experience to search and create the perfect setting for targeted ads that interest the consumer and generate better return for the advertiser. I think the many positives of this model are often under-represented, so thanks for highlighting how content curation done right can be a win-win-win for everyone involved.

  6. Ben, a really interesting blog and something that I’m passionate about.

    At Gourmet Ads we saw a similar trend emerge in mid to late 2009, particularly in the USA. As such we began to invest in content sites both creating them from scratch as well as acquiring sites. This has resulted in us building our own unique audience in addition to the millions of grocery buyers we reach each week through our existing global community. We’ve also created a Twitter Application which is only about Food and Recipes. The content within our owned and operated sites is a mix of licensed and syndicated content, as well as original user generated content (i.e. recipes) which is a brand safe environment for advertisers.

    Working with our partner Adify, we have been able to segment our own audience into content buckets as such. A simple example to what we have done is create an audience of “Gourmet Consumers” and “Household Grocery Buyers”. Think olive oil and premium wines for Gourmet consumers and think breakfast cereals and dish washing detergent for the grocery buyers. This has resulted in us being able to provide much deeper and customised solutions for advertisers.

    From an enterprise perspective and using the strategy mentioned above, companies can effectively expand their brand further than their own house website and social networking assets. They can actually create a much larger audience than they currently have. Problem in this country is that brands are frightened to invest in such a strategy. Instead they prefer (or are recommended) to buy more bus stop ads, because you don’t get fired for doing that.

    Benjamin

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