Jim Murray en Communications and journalism, Marketing, English Writer, Communcation Strategist, beBee Brand Ambassador • Onwords & Upwords Inc 18/11/2016 · 5 min de lectura · 2,7K

Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?

Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?This is the 22nd posting that Phil and I have done together, since we started almost a year ago now. We have tackled a number of topics that we share an interest in but not necessarily the same point of view on. One thing you should know is that we do these in as close to real time as our schedules allow. And we never edit each other, so what you get is basically our discussion/debate/argument, warts and all. And because it’s social media, we invite comments pro and con.
Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?PHIL: An article that appeared a few years ago in the digital magazine EContent defined ‘content curation’ as:
“… the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter … Unlike Content Marketing, content curation does not include generating content, but instead, amassing content from a variety of sources, and delivering … this information to readers in a mash-up style.”

In my experience, “curated content” is used mainly in the service of “Content Marketing”
and, more often than not, without the consent of the original creator.
It therefore seems to me that content curation is the epitome of predatory content theft.

Whether that theft constitutes plagiarism and/or violation of copyright is a complicated question. But the bottom line appears clearly to me to be theft, plain and simple.
Yet, content curation is not only tolerated in today’s digital publishing world, it’s widely accepted as standard practice, even lauded.

Do you think, Jim, that we’ve just become too lazy to create original content for marketing purposes, or that we’re just too cheap to be willing to pay even the pittance it would take to purchase rights to original content? Or is content curation, like Rap “music”, the devolutionary adaptation to seriously waning levels of available creative talent?
Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?
Well since you asked…I believe that the whole concept of Content Marketing is bullshit. I always have. As are the notions that people need to know all kinds of stuff about you before they make a purchase decision…that content management programs are designed to get people to warm up to your brand…and that people no longer believe the claims that advertisers make in conventional advertising.
This is all crap. All you have to do to understand that is read Bob Hoffman’s weekly newsletter, which I have been doing for the past year. Bob has done a lot of industry research to basically demonstrate that content management programs without the aid of paid media advertising is literally 99% ineffective.
So what does this all have to do with curation? Well, once you come to the realization that Content Marketing is mostly, and by mostly I mean close to 100% useless, you also start to realize that curation is a rather pointless activity.

Whether this constitutes plagiarism is a good question. For this I would refer to the good old 80/20 Differential, which IMHO would put plagiarized or partly plagiarized content in the 80%. Because let’s face it, most of this stuff is cranked out by propellerheads whose main skill is skimming, cutting and pasting with little or no regard for the concept of intellectual property. They’re not writers. They’re hacks and the stuff they produce is mashed-up crap for the most part.
All of this is the brainchild of the digital marketing industry whose main objective is to get you into a Content Management program that they will gladly run for you, mostly with content that they harvest from content banks populated with skim, cut and paste junk on whatever topics fit your product.

It’s a scam that a whole lot of companies bought into and legitimized. But these days you’re starting to see companies like Proctor & Gamble reducing their content management program by 75% due to under-performance. Other companies have already stated pulling back and more will soon follow.
This is why I have avoided it for years and choose to write op/ed stuff instead. Op/ed is the best kind of content for a writer or any sort of creative person to produce anyway because it’s a little personal and therefore more difficult to steal, because all it primarily promotes is your creative skills and industry knowledge.

I know you have had problems with plagiarism in the past. But you have to admit that hasn’t been chronic. In fact, you could probably file it under ‘shit happens’.
Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?
Well, that’s just great, Jimbo, just great. I ask you to join me in trashing content curation and content curators… and you immediately divert off to trashing Content Marketing.
But okay, let’s take a step back and talk first about what Bob Hoffman is saying, namely, that Content Marketing, in and by itself, is almost totally ineffective.
Personally, I’m inclined to accept Hoffman’s claim. Indeed, I’ve found that most people, who use the term “content”, do so with the attitude that it is a generic commodity, dropped into one’s blog page or web site or other marketing vehicle, for the sole purpose of disguising a sales pitch as the “delivery of value”.

That purported delivery of value is supposed to build credibility for one’s brand, and win the loyalty of potential customers. Which is precisely why almost all Content Marketing fails.
Most of those who buy into Content Marketing as a strategy invariably fail to understand that it matters what you provide as content.

For example, if you are thinking about outfitting a home workshop, you might give preference to a tool and equipment firm that posts consistently interesting, informative and believably expert content about tools and machinery, woodworking and welding, and so on.
What is not going to impress you as a prospect in such cases are cat memes, weather reports for the Colorado ski slopes (unless, I suppose, you’re getting ready to go skiing in Colorado), or the latest “fun facts” about using WD40 lubricant for all manner of non-standard applications. And because firms don’t understand that the nature of the content delivered matters, they see Content Marketing as a cheap way to brand and build sales.

The situation is reminiscent of when a firm feels it can’t afford a decent advertising budget, so decides to take cheap advertising space in publications that don’t have genuine circulation. When a firm does that, it is simply because it wants to feel comforted by advertising somewhere. Never mind that somewhere is often a useless venue, and they’d be just as well, or perhaps better off not advertising anywhere.
Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?
Hold your horses, there boat boy, I have to take a bit of an issue with your allegation here. IMHO, (hardly ever H), I thought I did a pretty good job of connecting the dots.
I mean, if Content Curation isn’t one of the main activities of content marketing, then something is definitely amiss. You can’t really discuss one without the other. And that brings me right back to the main issue which is that Content Marketing could, maybe on a good day, be generally improved by more thoughtful Content Curation.
But even in the best of all possible worlds, there is still a massive, constantly growing glut of content out there, which is a true sign that this medium has become bloated and as such it is much harder to be successful, or even break through the clutter, than it was in the early days.

But I don’t think this is so much a result of laziness as is it of taking advantage of algorithmic technology to assemble (and consequently de-personalize) the content that a lot of pretty high profile brands are putting out there.
Here’s what I mean. A couple years ago a friend of mine asked me to look at the content marketing program for a fairly high profile brand. They had created a Facebook page and had several different streams of content rotating through on an average of 21 postings a week.

Their ad agency’s digital marketing department charged them about $160,000 to do this over a 20 week cycle. And that was just for curating/managing the content. It didn’t include creative, photography, illustration, writing, art direction and posting, which added another $90,000.
What my friend’s client wanted to know was if they were getting ripped off.

Well, all you had to do to figure that out was scroll down the page, and check the actual engagement in terms of comments. It was pathetic. Most of the comments felt like they were written by 10 year olds, and after a good deal of scrolling down their page, I had trouble getting the number of comments to add up to 100.
Obviously the content was crap. But they paid through the nose for it. Close to half a million bucks a year. (for two 20 week cycles)
The point this that you can’t really talk about Content Curation without paying attention to the results that the marketing it supports achieves. Not everybody’s results are going to be this pathetic. But even if you are being generous, it’s still a lot of bull chips and for most brands and pretty much a waste of marketing dollars, unless you are spending big in conventional media to
drive traffic to the landing or content pages.
And even then, you have to have an incentive attached to that, which adds even more to the cost.Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?
I have to point out that the numbers don't seem quite as outrageous if we take into consideration the value of the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. dollar. [Smile]
Seriously, though, you and I are coming at this from two opposite directions. I am pretty much saying it is the poor content, created by content curators, that makes Content Marketing just a pile of bull chips.

You, on the other hand, are saying that Content Marketing is, if not an outright con, a bungled notion all on its own.

Perhaps, we can agree that however one comes at them, Content Marketing and its hand-maiden content curation are wrong-headed, both in terms of concept and execution.

I would say you've put your finger on the Achilles heel of Content Marketing, which is that nobody can be attracted to even the highest quality content until and unless they are first exposed to it.
So even if you pack a web site with the greatest, most attractive, most credible content available, you still have first to drive traffic to the website, before anything can happen. And you can’t do that by means of Content Marketing.  Or can you?

What would happen if content marketers stopped taking the cheap and easy route of using second or third rate curated content ― which is concurrently available at numerous sites on the web ― and instead commissioned the creation of high-quality original content, then posted that content in updates and long-form pieces across numerous social media platforms?

I suspect that might just work to give a Content Marketing campaign the kick-start it inevitably needs to begin building brand recognition and driving initial traffic to a firm’s website or blog. Let’s call it Foothold- or Prelude-marketing.

Of course, to implement such an approach, content marketers would have to stop stealing via curation and start paying for the creation of credible original content.

JIM: There are companies who do that. Trouble is there are so few of them that they are only making little ripples in the pond, when a genuine tsunami is really what's needed. 

Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?

If your business has reached the point where talking to a communication professional would be the preferred option to banging your head against the wall or whatever, lets talk.

Download my free ebook, Small Business Communication For The Real World, here:


All my profile and contact information can be accessed here:

All content copyright 2016 Jim Murray

Alexa Steele 21/11/2016 · #24

#8 @Praveen Raj Gullepalli, if you are still trying to "find a good copy or content guy [or gal] any given day" take a look my way: http://TheWebsiteWordsmith.com.

+1 +1
Alexa Steele 21/11/2016 · #23

#20 #22 Gentlemen, at this point I think we are largely arguing semantics. I think we can all agree that:

Gathering and sharing worthwhile content for the benefit of your audience = good.
Using other people's content with little to no editorial judgment solely to benefit yourself = bad.

+3 +3
Phil Friedman 21/11/2016 · #22

#18 Alexa, thank you for sticking with the conversation. For the record, at the beginning of this piece by Jim and me, I quoted a definition of "content curation' (a phrase that has its own meaning independent of the respective meanings of each word component of the phrase) from EContent magazine. I know that you read that definition, although it does not appear that everyone did.

Here is a definition of "content curation" from Curata, a firm that offers such as a service to content marketers: "Content curation is when an individual (or team) finds, organizes, annotates, and shares relevant and high quality digital content ..." Curata also identifies what it calls "content farming" as "... the unethical pirating of third-party content and publishing of high-quantity, low-quality content."

My contention, if you will, is that the two activities described coalesce most of the time, in fact, when it comes to content marketing.

As to editors being curators, that is to twist the concept beyond recognition. In the art world, there are curators who gather photos of art works, add commentary, and publish the conglomeration as a "catalog". There are also editors of anthologies or co-authored works who might skirt the concept of curation, but can hardly be considered the defining paradigm. The Oxford English dictionary defines "editor" as: "A person who is in charge of and determines the final content of a newspaper, magazine, or multi-author book ... A person who commissions or prepares written or recorded material for publication or broadcast ..." None of which coincides with what "content curators" in fact, do. But if someone wants to arbitrarily define the term "curator" to fit their argument, they are entitled to do so. I just think it is silly..

Robert Bacal 21/11/2016 · #21

#19 Editors are the ultimate curators. They use their expertise to collect, sort through, modify, and bring together content for their readers. It IS the exactly perfect example of curation, and is hardly different than a museum curator's work.

Robert Bacal 21/11/2016 · #20

#18 I agree with you that newspapers are a good example of curators. They choose from multiple sources, cull material that doesn't fit, print material that does in their "collection" (the publication on or off line), and sometimes rewrite the content to fit the audience.

But there are other small curators such as myself who understand that alone, we cannot fill the need for content on a particular subject, so we augment our own material by summarizing and linking to other content. It's part of my longtime successful model for building portals for specific topics: i.e. conflict, or performance management, customer service...

Curation can be the ultimate in humility, where the individual or org. recognizes their own limitations, so looks to others to create a more complete user experience.

Phil makes a logical error. He legitimizes those who claim to curate (but are stealing), by attacking curation in general, without even looking at definitions, both dictionary and in practice. Or understanding it.

Phil Friedman 21/11/2016 · #19

#18 I agree, Alexa, but you might as well be talking to a rock, when you talk to someone who thinks newspaper syndication is content curation. Syndication involves multiple simultaneous sales of reprint rights to the syndicated material. It has nothing to do with curating.

Alexa Steele 20/11/2016 · #18

#17 In my experience, the best content curators are those for whom curating content is their primary business model. The newspapers you mention are a good example. Pocket is one that fills my inbox with so much good content I never have time to read it all.

I think our friends @Jim Murray and @Phil Friedman (and they can correct me if I'm wrong) are taking exception with those for whom content curation is merely a marketing gimmick. People and companies who set up accounts on Facebook and beBee and LinkedIn then spray them full of links to other people's content, call it "content curation," and expect to get some kind of credit for it. There are entire websites (Scoop.it) designed around this very principle.

+1 +1
Robert Bacal 20/11/2016 · #17

#16 Every search engine curates content. Every directory curates content a la Dmoz. Newspapers, by and large curate content syndicated via syndication services. This is a case of misunderstanding what curation means, setting up a straw man, and beating the dead straw man into the ground over a period of years.

"curate something (especially on the Internet) to collect, select and present information or items such as pictures, video, music, etc. for people to use or enjoy, using your professional or expert knowledge (Oxford Learner's Dict).

It there is lack of expertise, or lack of any conditions embedded in the definition, it's NOT curation.

+1 +1