Why You Should Curate Content (And How to Do It Right)

Why are we doing a four-part podcast series about content curation? Because it’s a concept that is easy to understand, but not always easy to execute. It requires commitment, strategic thinking, and that most precious of resources: time.

But when you do it right, and do it right consistently, content curation can be a foundational building block of your authority.

And if you follow Copyblogger, you know how important developing and maintaining authority is.

In the first episode of this series, Demian and I discuss what content curation is, the benefits of doing it, and provide an overview of how to do it effectively.

Specifically, we tackle topics like:

  • What, exactly, is curation?
  • How newspapers have been curating for more than 300 years
  • The benefits of curation, including its role in getting in front of other people’s audiences
  • Are people really reading as much as we think (hope) they are?
  • How reading turns you into an authority (and how that turns into revenue down the line)
  • Should you share a link you haven’t read?
  • Is reading the ultimate cure for “Writer’s Block”?
  • What are the biggest challenges to curating effectively? (And how do you overcome them?)
  • How “curating the curators” can help you master time management
  • The importance of being process-oriented
  • What are the three types of curation?
  • What kind of content should you share? (And what should you not share?)
  • Should you mix business with pleasure when curating content?

And we give you a preview of what the next three episodes in this series will be about.

[episode no=”69″]

React to The Lede …

As always, we appreciate your reaction to episodes of The Lede and feedback about how we’re doing.

Send me or Demian a tweet with your thoughts anytime: @JerodMorris and @DemianFarnworth.

Specifically, we want to know what your content curation process is. What tools do you use? How do you stay consistent?

Also, what do you struggle with? What are your biggest challenges when it comes to curation? Let us know so we can address these in the next three episodes.

Do so by joining the discussion over at Google-Plus.

The Show Notes

[episode_ad] [episode_transcript]

Please note that this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and grammar.

The Lede Podcast: Why You Should Be Curating Content (And How to Do It Right)

Jerod Morris: Welcome back to The Lede, a podcast about content marketing by Copyblogger Media. I’m your host, Jerod Morris.

This episode begins a four-part series about curation that will span the month of June, and I’m happy to be joined by Demian Farnworth for the entire series.

Why a series about curation? Because it’s a concept that is easy to understand, but not easy to execute. It requires commitment, strategic thinking, and that most precious of resources: time.

But when you do it right and do it right consistently, curation can be a foundational building block of your authority. And if you follow Copyblogger, you know how important developing and maintaining authority is.

In the first episode of this series, Demian and I discuss what curation is, the benefits of doing it, and provide an overview of how to do it effectively. Here we go.

What is curation?

Jerod: All right, Demian. So let’s talk about curation here, as this is the first episode in our new series on curation.

Probably the first place to start is just really simply, before we get into the “why” and “how,” what is curation? When we say “curation,” what do we mean?

If you look at Wikipedia, they provide a couple of good, succinct definitions. Content curation, Wikipedia defines as simply “collecting and sorting content.” You also have digital curation, which is defined as the preservation and maintenance of digital assets. I look at it simply as distilling information for myself and my audience.

When we think of curation, a lot of times we think of it from an audience perspective; but I do think this idea of personal curation is often overlooked, which we’re going to highlight in some of the future episodes.

But for you, Demian, when you think about curation, how do you define it for yourself?

Demian Farnworth: Let me make an historical note here really quickly.

Newspapers in the beginning, American newspapers 300 years back, that was basically all that they did. There was no individual, independent reporting. A newspaper on the east coast would get a story, they would write the story, and it was pretty basic. “So-and-so committed a crime against somebody else.” Or “Britain declares war on the US,” like that. Well, that information was then just basically transferred to other newspapers who curated this information. They looked for news like that, and just shared it with their audience. That’s how that sort of information proliferated across the nation and the continent.

So this idea of curation is age old. It’s always been around.

Why should an online content creator also curate?

Jerod: So why curate?

Demian: The bottom line is you are already reading, or at least you should be, and if you’re reading, sharing that information with your audience is a great way to feed content that you don’t have to create.

So if you have an audience on Twitter or Google+ or Facebook, everything that you read, whether it’s online or even offline, you can turn into a post that you curate and you share. And that also builds relationships with the people who create the content you share. It’s basically networking.

So when you come across an article about reading, for example: You like it, you read it, you sift through it, then you sit down and you write a quick post about it on Google+. But you also mention the author who wrote it, and you give a short commentary on it, possibly; and then you share it. So you’re making a connection with somebody else, and you’re showing somebody else that you’re sharing with that you appreciate their work and their sharing it, and you’re giving it to your audience.

This is basically what the web is built on: this idea of getting attention through other people’s audiences. It’s an idea that Eric Inge shared in an article on Copyblogger not too long ago, with this idea of getting in front of other people. So when you create good content, too, the hope is that it gets shared. So if you’re already reading, you should be sharing.

Are people really reading as much as we think (hope) they are?

Jerod: And before we go any further, you say you’re already reading. Are we taking that for granted, that people are already reading? Because I feel like…

Demian: (Laughs)

Jerod: … you see all these stats that literacy rates are down and people aren’t spending as much time reading online. I just read a statistic about blog posts that people only actually read 28% of the words in your blog post. So make it scannable. Put big images, right?

I want to make sure that we don’t just glaze over that and take it for granted that are reading, and if you aren’t, you really need to read. Especially when we talk about curation, it’s what online leaders do. Because doing so effectively makes you a person that people turn to for answers; and if we look down the line, what’s the benefit of that? Well, eventually those answers can become so valuable they become solutions, products, or services that have price tags attached to them.

So it’s very important, and there’s an article that we’ll put in the show notes by The Harvard Business Review called “For Those Who Want to Lead, Read.” It’s a concept you see a lot of places. I’ve seen a blog post by Michael Hyatt about it, where if you really want to be a leader, online or off, you need to read. Whether it’s blog posts, whether it’s books. And there are a number of benefits that are cited:

  • Reading improves intelligence that leads to innovation and insight
  • Reading across fields improves creativity and increases verbal intelligence, which makes you a better communicator.
  • Reading novels can actually improve empathy and understanding social cues.

So there are so many different reasons to do it. And Demian, I want to let you go back. I didn’t want to take for granted that idea that people are already reading…

Demian: No.

Jerod: …because if they’re not, it’s really important to start if being a leader, whether in the online or offline version of that, is something that you want to do.

Should you share a link you haven’t read?

Demian: Great point. Now, I’m glad you interrupted because a quick little side-story: Not too long ago I was involved with an online study through Columbia University, and they were studying how people read long-form content. One of the requirements was that you had to read long form, long form being very long articles online: two, three, four, five, six-plus pages. And then they wanted to see how you shared that content.

It was a three-week study, and each day you read content. You’d get an e-mail at about 4:00 in the afternoon that was a basic survey: What did you read? Share the link if you can. Did you share it with anybody? And one of the questions was, “Did you share anything that you did not read,” and we all have done that before, right?

And so I found myself–and this is sort of that Hawthorne effect — I found myself saying, “I’m not going to share anything unless I have read it.” Because even though this survey was anonymous, I was embarrassed. It’s kind of goofy that I would share something that I haven’t read. And it’s kind of a running joke, but yeah. You should be reading in that sense, and so I’m assuming that people are, and just from some of the things that you stated, from a leadership standpoint, reading is huge.

Is reading the ultimate cure for “Writer’s Block”?

Demian: But from a creativity standpoint reading is huge, too. I can’t see how anybody could ever complain about writer’s block who is reading consistently and constantly, because you should be always chock-full of those books.

And it’s not just a sort of superficial fast blazing through, but it’s actually the deep reading where you’re making notes. You are summarizing chapters as you finish them. You are even blogging about it in some circumstance, and it helps you digest it. So a good thing to challenge that assumption.

If you are already reading, you’re already reading online. One of my processes, when I actually do read something that I like, if I see something I can’t read right away, I’ll save it to Readability. And then later in the afternoon or later when I have some time, I’ll go into the Readability app on my phone and start reading these articles. And then once I’m finished with that, I may go back and share it online.

So that was my point. If you are already reading, then you can very easily just slip into sharing it and curating in that sense.

Jerod: So to summarize. To kind of put this in order, you need to be reading. And assuming that you’re doing that, now that you’re already reading, leverage that time. Leverage that knowledge now to establish yourself as an authority as that thought leader, and share that information with your audience. And you do this by curating sources and bits and pieces of information, and then dispensing them.

What are the biggest challenges to curating effectively?

Jerod: So that’s the why, right? That’s why you want to curate. Let’s get into a little bit of the how, Demian, because I think people probably understand some of the “why,” but they look at it and they think, “Man, that really takes some commitment, that takes some time, that takes some strategy.” And anybody who’s thinking that is 100% right. It takes all of those things. So how do you do it?

Well for me, and Demian, I’ll see if you agree with this. The single biggest challenge I think people face is this time element, right? How do you manage your day to do this? Well, to me, and I’ll give a little hat-tip to Chris Brogan’s new book, “The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.” Stop thinking of it so much as time management, and think of it as priority management, right?

So if becoming an online leader is a priority to you, then curating in some form or fashion needs to become a priority.

We’re going to talk about the different forms of curation as this series goes along, because it’s not just link curation. There are other kinds too, and we will get into them. So your have to get better at priority management, putting your most important priorities first. Because then your time management kind of flows from that. And that helps you master time.

But do you agree with that, just kind of the mindset that you have to put it in that category of “have to do” things?

Demian: Again, I think it gives this idea that part of it, too, is as readers we should be reading, and so we should in some ways be on top of current trends, current demands, sort of “what’s the pulse?” And there’s that priority there, that pressure to do that there. And yeah, of course the time management piece is huge.

How “curating the curators” can help you master time management

Demian: The one tip that I would say, “This is what you should walk away with,” when it comes to curation, is find the resources that are aggregating the content that’s out there.

Because the other side of the time management coin is the information overload. Each day there are so many respectable publications publishing content that it’s impossible for you to go and check every single one of those, unless that was your job. But that’s very few people’s job. You have other things to do. So what I’ve found is trying to find the resources that are aggregating the best content, and subscribe and follow those.

Jerod: Kind of curate the curators?

Demian: Exactly. Curate the curators.

The importance of being process-oriented

Jerod: There are also tools that can help you become process-oriented, and this is something that we will hit on in probably every episode: the importance of being process oriented. That’s strategic thinking.

And you want to have tools that help you do that. So I’ve become a big user of Evernote. Using Buffer to help schedule your social media posts is very big. Even a tool like FollowerWonk can help make you more efficient, because you can find out information like, “When are my Twitter users the most active?” So that you can schedule tweets at smarter times.

Demian, really quickly, do you have any specific tools like that? You mentioned Readability, but any other ones like that that you live by, that help you with your curation process?

Demian: I would say it’s probably just a hand-held notebook, too, or actually marking in books. Because I think that’s the thing, too: We look for information that’s online and when we think about curation we think about online content, but I think there’s a lot of information online or offline that you can actually share. So a pencil and being able to mark inside of a book, and having the little post-notes too, are super cool.

But like you mentioned too, Buffer for scheduling social media posts, and I also use Evernote.

Jerod: And I’ll give a little tease. In one of these episodes we’re going to talk about knowledge curation, which is basically curating your own knowledge: when you read a book, how do you record and remember what you read? There’s a blog post by you, Demian, that helped inspire me to become a better reader, and we’re going to talk about some of those topics in those future episodes.

What are the three types of curation?

And those future episodes will include link curation. I think this is what people think of a lot when they think of curation. That Friday link post, or the links that you tweet out.

Then there is also idea curation. So as ideas come to you, as you find these great nuggets, or quotes, or ideas, how do you organize them? And then organize them in a way that they can be recalled efficiently later, when you’re writing a blog post and you need that quote that you saw six months ago? How do you do that?

And then knowledge creation, like we just talked about. When you’re reading books or longer-form content, how do you record, how do you remember that information and put it into some kind of format or organization that you can use later?

So that’s what we’ll be talking about in the future in this series, over the next three episodes of The Lede. We’re really excited about it.

With that said, Demian, any final thoughts just on this general topic of the “how and why” of curation?

What kind of content should you share? (And what should you not share?)

Demian: When it comes to curation, what are you looking for when you curate content?

Jerod: What am I looking for, specifically?

Demian: What are you looking for? Do you have a set sort of idea in your mind, or … ?

Jerod: If I’m curating a link or something to share with an audience member, it’s usefulness. So again, it comes back to that idea of knowing your audience, knowing what they need. I don’t just want to tweet out a repeat of something else. I think I’d like to not contribute more to the echo chamber, but find a unique idea on a common topic that’ll be useful.

Demian: That’s what I was after, this idea. Because I’ll come across things that I think are shareable, but then I think, “No, I’m not going to do this.” And it usually comes to the point where it’s not useful, or it’s just because I’ve learned things like, “This day was the day that 256 people were killed in St. Louis by a killer tornado,” and a link to a post. That’s regional, it’s kind of informational, and those rarely get any kind of traction. But it’s those ones that are useful that do it.

So is there content that you’ll actually say, “this is not shareable?”

Jerod: Oh, sure. If it’s not interesting, or even if it goes to the other end of being profane or inappropriate.

What it all comes down to is, what you share is a representation of you. And I think it’s very important to remember that, and remember the responsibility that you have.

If you don’t treat it like a responsibility, that will come through over time to your audience, and they won’t know, like, and trust you.

And curation really is just another way to build know, like, and trust. And so if you don’t take it as that responsibility, and if you’re not really careful with what you share so that there’s value from the click that you’ve suggested someone make, then you’re just going to be wasting your time with it.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question; I think everybody has to determine it for themselves. But it starts with knowing your audience. Knowing what your audience expects and how to help them.

Should you mix business with pleasure when curating content?

Demian: So you’re talking about branding, and I think it’s a great way to put it. Because we’re all sort of crafting this perfect online social image. But does that mean that you share something personal on your professional? Do you mix business with pleasure when curating content? What do you think is a rule of thumb for that?

Jerod: It depends on the place. On copyblogger.com, no. I tend to keep personal stuff out of there for the most part. But on my personal Twitter or personal Google+ account, yes. Because I think those are places where you do want people to get a glimpse of you. Now I’m not going to go complain there when I’m having a relationship issue, or put some link that’s really personal to me, but I might talk about a sports topic that’s specific to a team I like.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with letting people get to know a little bit about you, but you want to keep it to a minimum and make sure that it’s mostly about them.

What about you? It’s a tough question. Again, there are no real easy answers or one-size-fits-all answer to it.

Demian: There really isn’t. Because again, thinking of crafting your online image and curating content is the way that you do that. Because really, that’s what we’re doing, right? We’re saying that this is something that I enjoy, and this defines me in some sense, right? Whether we oppose it, whether we are for it.

And when I think about my, say, Twitter account or Google+ account as personal versus professional. I really think “This is a reflection of who I am.” So the majority of the time I will share things that are professional, that are about writing, that are about content marketing. But there will be occasional things where I might mention something about football, or I might mention something about Christianity, to kind of help fill out that personal view that people have of me.

And I’ve found that that’s been helpful, because you get people who come out of the woodwork and say things like, “Oh, I love football too,” or who will be encouraged by that, not just in a sort of one-dimensional, professional standpoint. But there will be other things about you that people will recognize, and then give you, in a sense, more places where people can hang their hat.

Jerod: And curation is about relationship building, I think, at its essence. And so when you do that, and when you’re building relationships effectively, some of those more personal things are going to come out. And I think that’s good.

Demian: Just don’t let those e-mails from the frat days get out.

Jerod: Ha! Yeah, exactly. By the way, how about this flip all of a sudden to you asking the questions here?

Demian: (Laughs)

Jerod: That was a nice little spontaneous change, I like it.

Demian: You bet. I had questions I needed to ask.

Jerod: That was good. All right. Cool. I think this is a good intro to the topic, Demian, and I’m looking forward to these next three, because I think it’ll be a unique take and a unique way to break these three areas down. And we talked more philosophically today. I think there will be a lot more specific tips people can walk away with in these next three episodes, to really help you start curating if you haven’t. And if you have, become more efficient, become better, become more effective at it.

Demian, I’ll talk to you next week and we’ll go on with episode #2.

Demian: Sounds good, Jerod. Thank you much.

Jerod: All right, man. Take care.

Demian: Bye.

Jerod: Thank you for listening to The Lede. If you’re enjoying these episodes and finding them useful, please consider giving the show a rating or a review on ITunes. We greatly appreciate it. Or, if ITunes isn’t quite your thing, you can listen on Stitcher. Go to copyblogger.com/stitcher, and if you’d like to share it elsewhere, we’d love it if you tweeted about the show, or just sent an e-mail to a friend and told them about it.

And again, make sure you go to the Google+ conversation, tweet us at @JerodMorris or @DemianFarnworth. Let us know some of your tips and tricks about curation. What sources do you use? What tools do you use? We’d love to know some of what you’re doing out there so that we can report back, share, and really crowd-source the most effective curation process possible.

Okay, everybody. We will be back next week with another episode of The Lede, the second episode in our series on curation, where we’ll talk specifically about link curation. To do it effectively you need to be very process oriented. We’re going to take you through some of our processes, and show you some best practices for getting the most out of your link curation. Talk to you soon, everybody.

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*Credits: Both the intro (“Bridge to Nowhere” by Sam Roberts Band) and outro songs (“Down in the Valley” by The Head and the Heart) are graciously provided by express written consent from the rights owners.