Curation’s Growing Value

Like many people, I was glued to my computer and smart phone much of last Saturday monitoring news of the massive earthquake in Chile and awaiting, with morbid anticipation, the possibility that it could trigger deadly tidal waves in other parts of the world.

As the predicted 4 PM arrival of the first tsunami on Hawaii’s shores approached, I turned my attention mainly to Twitter. Three years ago, it probably would have been CNN or the New York Times, but Twitter brought a dimension to the coverage that I couldn’t get anywhere else: thousands of perspectives from around the world.

A tsunami is a visual event, a fact made clear to us more than five years ago when videos of the tragic waves that swept across Indonesia were posted on YouTube. News junkie that I am, I wanted to see the events in Hawaii in as close to real time as possible.

Instead of clicking around to various websites or hunkering down with one and hoping for the best, I was able to monitor a constant stream of advice from people pointing their followers to WebCams, live news coverage and reports from observers at the site. Most of these sources would have been unknown to me if it weren’t for Twitter. It was like having 1,000 eyes watching the media for me. Thankfully, the fears turned out to be unfounded.

No media organization would have delivered this many options for monitoring events. In fact, media organizations are hard-wired to do the opposite; an NBC affiliate would no sooner send viewers to a CBS station than a Ford dealer would send a prospective customer to buy a Toyota. But when the collective eyes of a geographically dispersed crowd are put to work without a competitive agenda, they can deliver a tapestry of views unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Curative Value

This story dramatized to me one of the realities of new media landscape that I think will have huge implications in the future: curation is an increasingly important part of the information value chain. Wiktionary defines curation as “The act of  organizing and maintaining a collection of artworks or artifacts,” but today the term applies equally well to information. Think of it: a decade ago we had relatively few sources of news about what was going on in the world. Even in the first decade of the Internet, we still relied mainly on traditional media for the story.

Today, three billion people carry around pocket-sized devices with built-in cameras, many capable of capturing full motion video. Some can even upload videos in minutes to a server. It won’t be long before wireless live WebCams are ubiquitous.

No longer is our problem lack of information; it’s that we’re drowning in information. That’s why curation is so important. Trusted curators who point us to the most valuable sources of information for our interests will become the new power brokers. Matt Drudge figured this out many years ago and a host of popular aggregators like,, Metafilter and have been building upon it with great success for more than five years.

Twitter adds a new dimension because it introduces so many new voices to the process. But Twitter is also imperfect; its great shortcoming is that no one can possibly keep up with it all. Another opportunity for curation.

Marketers should take this trend into account. Creating new content is important, but an equally valuable service is curating content from other sources. This demands a whole different set of skills as well as a new delivery channel. It also means ditching the “not invented here” mindset that prevents content creators from acknowledging other sources.

In a cacophony of voices, the leader is the one who can make sense of the din. That’s a role that any editor — or business — can play.

10 thoughts on “Curation’s Growing Value

  1. Great post. Couldn’t agree more. In the Twitter world, ‘follows’ are a form of curating our own content on a day-to-day basis, which is part of how I explain Twitter to newcomers. What was interesting about the earthquake/tsunami coverage was the extent to which the traditional media (CNN, etc.) were relying on social media, and somewhat abdicating their role as “curators.” The quest continues to find the right balance.

  2. Great article, Paul.

    I’ve been thinking product ideas for curation of twitterstreams for quite a while now. I’d be interested in talking with those who share that interest.

  3. Agreed. We talk about community curators with our Global 2000 clientele — folks who can not only watch information but also activity flows to insure vibrant internal (applies equally to external) communities. In a world where quick pointing to a piece of information or an event (as in, ‘I updated this powerpoint’) via people is the fast route to adding value, curation is critical.

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  6. Right on – curation is the filtering mechanism that was missing from Web 1.0, but that has been a growing trend in the past several years. As information increases, knowledge decreases, unless there is a curation mechanism. The beauty is that curation doesn’t have to be one filter (old media) but can be group intelligence as Twitter is helping to prove.

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  9. Curation is also like capatia it cannot be done by computers. It requires the human touch. Social Media in many ways is when we sort and filter information in ways that make it human again.

  10. This a great post and a fascinating reflection of curation in action. I would be very interested in talking with your more about curation in the crisis context. I recently wrote a blog post here about curation and will post more specific crisis examples:

    Let me know what you think and I’ll also send you an email with more information about the research I am doing.

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