Curation is a web concept that’s exploding! Formerly reserved for folks in dusty museums and art galleries, the job of curator has spread across the digital media world and may already have replaced “editor” and “publisher” in the minds of marketeers and social media mavens. Steven Rosenbaum takes a whack at clarifying the concept and the curator’s role in his recent book Curation Nation. The Amazon reviews are mixed.
Some people feel he missed the mark:
Curation Nation could use some curation itself.
Others think Rosenbaum’s passionate intensity and experience deliver some killer content:
Steve’s been banging the curation drum for years now, way before many people realized how important it is. What’s important about Curation Nation is that it will open your eyes to a whole new world of consumers as content creators, and in my opinion, once your eyes are open to that, you can begin to learn how to exploit it for your own business gain.
I’m late to the game of curation. I’ve been a blogger forever and I’m an early adopter of social media products from Twitter to Facebook to Google+, but the intentionality that goes with the curator’s mindset has escaped my grasp. My blog is eclectic. I lack a niche. And that grasp and control of a niche is, according to Rosenbaum, critical for a successful curation effort. My experiment with Paper.li so far shows me that I’m more “foodie” than political, at least as far as the filters I’ve set for my paper. But Paper.li allows me to tweak my filters, and now with access to the Google+ stream, and with a little discipline, I should be able to throttle down that firehose of information and share like a proper curator. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
There are as many curatorial niches carved out of the internet as there are things that people talk about. A lot of curation is done manually on blogs. More and more of this work is being offloaded to software tools like Paper.li or the recently released scoop.it. Bloggers, twitterers, and social media users of all kinds are narrowing their focus to provide specific points of view on topics that inspire their passion. It’s not always an easy path to follow, and the more successful one becomes the greater the risks one assumes. With Curation Nation, Steve Rosenbaum attempts to carve his own niche. He wants to be the guy who owns “curation.” But there are real curators in the wild who through their work have already staked out that niche.
For example, last week Jim Romenesko ended a twelve year run blogging for Poynter Institute. The Romenesko blog sets a standard for aggregation and curation in the world of digital journalism. Jim’s reasons for leaving Poynter are explained on his new blog, JimRomenesko.com. Last Spring, when Julie Moos, his editor, had to stand in for him for a week or so she said:
In the eight-plus years I’ve worked with Jim Romenesko, I’ve spent some time talking with him, more time emailing with him, and — most of all — I’ve admired and observed how he does what he does. But last week, for the first time, I experienced it firsthand when Jim took some well-deserved and unprecedented time off.
In the process I learned three things about content curation:
The balance between the obligatory and the original is critical.
What you exclude is as important as what you include.
Speed kills, but slowness is a painful death of its own.
The lessons Moos learned as a short-time curator in the world of journalism seem a little mundane, and they don’t appear to address the high visibility problem she faced with Romenesko’s departure. That problem boiled down to appropriate editorial oversight. Editors and publishers are filters too. They can help the curator solve problems he doesn’t know he has. For example, a questionable approach to attribution can be corrected or defended by the editor as appropriate. But editors and publishers require a new Web-journo perspective or they won’t be able to function properly to remove obstacles from the path of the new breed of curators.
Andrew Keen, in his 2007 book The Cult of the Amateur, takes a position that’s quite orthogonal to Rosenbaum’s. Keen advocates for professional standards that Rosenbaum sees as roadblocks to an unfettered sharing of information. Keen wrote about Web 2.0 five years ago, and “curation” doesn’t appear in his book. Nevertheless, Rosenbaum, aware of the conflict between his own perspective and Keen’s, writes:
Content is no longer king. Curation is king. And having a curator see your video and deciding to value it with attention means that you are being paid in the economy of the new Web content world.
I’m interested in curation. I believe that if we continue to nurture curators of the quality of Jim Romenesko, then we’ll be on the path to getting and giving good value in the attention economy; but nothing in Steve Rosenbaum’s Curation Nation illuminates that path. On the contrary, Andrew Keen’s passion for professionalism and expertise outshines Rosenbaum’s leveling communitarianism. Old school editors and publishers handed the journalist a copy of the AP style-book and said “Have at it.” The new breed of publisher, whether Arianna Huffington or the Poynter Institute, requires a new approach–an approach that filters, aggregates and empowers talent in order to deliver the best curated content.