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?