Three Reasons Content Curation is Overrated

B2B marketers are looking for a shortcut to thought leadership, but the shortcut many are taking lead somewhere else completely.

According to a recent report on eMarketer, 85% of marketers curate content in order to establish thought leadership!

Does sharing someone else’s content make you a thought leader? No.

Marketers, in their race to the shortcut, are confusing respect and attention with thought leadership.

Content curation can be a valuable activity. Done well, it can make you a recognized resources for news and information and keep you in front of your audience.

Similarly, a research librarian is valuable. You respect their opinion of sources and value the skill they have at discovering and delivering the right information.

However, the content curator and librarian are not the thought leaders. They are valued for what they discover and deliver, not for their own perspectives on the subject matter.

Here are the key tenants of thought leadership I use (originally published in Thought Leadership Marketing is an Oxymoron).

  • Thought leadership is recognized
  • Thought leadership is expansive
  • Thought leadership is pushing boundaries

Here are three reasons why curating content is not a viable marketing shortcut.

1. Prospects want to know what you think
In enterprise B2B sales and marketing, prospects want to understand how you view their marketplace, challenges and opportunities. They want to know your vision positions you to continue solving their challenges in the years ahead.

When you just curate other people’s content, your audience doesn’t learn anything about your thinking.

2. Everyone else is already curating
Look at Twitter, LinkedIn industry groups or Facebook pages. In B2B marketing, everywhere you look you find links to or thin repackaging of other people’s content.

Curation, by itself, is not enough to differentiate you. It just makes you one more source of links and similar perspectives.

3. You are reinforcing someone else’s thought leadership
With positive vendor profiles increasingly available for a fee and an increasing number of smaller firms that even provide product reviews, analyst content has lost much of its lustre. However, by continuing to license or link to analyst (or other third party) content, marketers reinforce someone else’s position as a thought leader or opinion maker and do little to advance their own perspectives.

In Summary

Is curation valuable? Sure. But if you believe content curation is your ticket to thought leadership and differentiation, you will be sorely disappointed.

Curation is not enough. It is time to start creating!

Your Turn

What are the other downsides of content curation? Are you a proponent of content curation for thought leadership? Share your perspective below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).

If you want to provide a counterpoint, ping me on Twitter or send me an email. If there is interest, I will curate counterpoint perspectives for a future post.

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  • Craig Badings

    Eric couldn’t agree with you more.  I have been banging on about his for ages.  And I have yet to be shown one example of someone or a company who is perceived as a thought leader through content curation alone.   

    • dan kaplan

      OK Craig (and Eric) – here’s an example of someone who has curated content and IS ABSOLUTELY A THOUGHT LEADER. Mary Meeker (Kleiner Perkins) has been a thought leader in all things Internet for over a decade. Every year she gives her take on where things are going – and her pronouncements are built on a foundation of curated data points. This year she produced over 100 slides for her spot on presentation – and all of it was curated data. The value she brings as a though leader is her ability to curate. Curation does not equal aggregation. Curation is bringing context and perspective. One last point – if we think about the origin of the word curator – as in an art museum curator – of course the curator is not creating paintings. But surely he/she can be seen as a thought leader through the choices they make and the perspectives they share. 

      • Craig Badings

        Dan and therein lies the rub – as you say: “…she gives her take on where things are going…”.  In other words she’s not merely presenting other people’s points of view.  She is interpreting the curated information and adding something new – an insight, a perspective.  Much like Dan Pink and Malcolm Gladwell do so well. 

        Dan, I still say show me a thought leader who got there through content curation alone.  How can you be when all you do is merely show other people’s thoughts/research/points of view.  If you’re using the curated content to inform and then add your own insights and something new that’s different. 

      • Eric Wittlake

        Dan, I appreciate the dissenting perspective. 

        In my view, Mary Meeker built her reputation at Morgan Stanley on her own perspectives. Similar to Jim Collins (referenced above), she states what is public and known, and then she builds her predictions and forecasts on top of it. This is definitely creation. 

        As Noel pointed out in another comment here, leaders were once expected to research and support their position, I believe that is what Mary Meeker and Jim Collins are doing and the more thorough presentation of their perspective gives them more credibility. 

        I appreciate the dissenting view and definitely see that this potentially is drawing a pretty fine line between supporting research and curation. Thanks for the comment!

        cc @b6799f2e27891ae75150ab14b6b456c0:disqus 

  • Mike England

    I do agree that content curation as a solus activity does not lead to thought leadership. However what if content curation was delivered through a personalisation engine and the more it was used the more the engine learned about reader interests to a point where then continually delivered a stream of relevant content specific for the interests of the reader.

    • Eric Wittlake

      It would be a valuable machine, but I would never look to the machine as the thought leader, simply as the conduit to other people’s perspectives.

      I would love that machine though if you have it handy… :-)

      • Mike England

        I’ll keep you posted, there are a few organisations out there developing interesting tech along these lines. I fully agree with your point re looking at the maching at the thought leader but perhaps combining the above with some additional analysis and insight on the curated article

  • Integr8

    Thought leadership and content curation are not the same thing but nor are they mutually exclusive. The sharing of ideas is one of the easiest ways to help breed innovation

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    Have been thinking about this too Eric. Kind of had an epiphany at Blog World. My own post forthcoming. Great points here.

    • Eric Wittlake

      Thanks, looking forward to it!

  • bradshorr

    Hi Eric, I completely agree with your sentiments. It’s also worth keeping in mind that Google Authorship, which connects authors to their content regardless of where it is published, is a developing trend that will make it easier for people to curate their own content — because it will be easier for them to find and follow authors they respect through search. All the more reason to firms to concentrate on creativity rather than curation.

    • Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Brad. Authorship is definitely interesting. We will see what the future holds, maybe you will no longer need to have a central publishing hub, Google will centralize all of it for you? Interesting thoughts, thanks!

  • blogbrevity

    I think we agree and disagree. Curation is often confused with aggregation. The early  definitions of curation only included finding, filtering and organizing information. When I present on curating specifically for thought leadership, I define it as “bringing your point of view” to the information you gather. Once you have your point of view you can build trust and influence. I am attaching a slide from one of my early presentations along some additional references that may be helpful in understanding how to curate content specifically for thought leadership:

    Thanks for raising this discussion, so people can understand that simply filtering information does not make a thought leader!

    • Stephen Smith

       Now that is what I call Content Curation – as you say in the linked interview, “…share information that adds value and encourages engagement for the audience…”. Great share! Definitely will be adding that to my thoughts for next week’s letter.

      • blogbrevity

        Thank you, Stephen! I am glad you found it useful! Look forward to reading your ideas, too. :)

    • Juliet Austin

      “Bringing your point of view to the information you gather” (absolutely agree). 

    • Eric Wittlake

      Definitely bring your point of view, I would add that you need to build beyond that as well. Being able to respond to other perspectives is critical, but it is only one part of the puzzle, I believe thought leadership needs this and more to be effective. 

      Thanks for adding the additional resources and taking the time to comment, I appreciate it!

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  • Jay Palter

    Thought-provoking post, Eric. I agree with your basic thesis, but disagree with the arguments you use to make your case and ultimately with the conclusions you draw.

    Content curation is not sufficient alone to establish thought leadership, but if done well it is a great way to differentiate and add value.

    My full response:

    • Eric Wittlake

      Thanks for sharing a great response Jay, good perspective and counterpoint, I appreciate it!

  • Danny Hanssel

    Eric…I agree that curation is not itself a path to thought leadership…I do it to share the perspectives of other people, often those with different views than my own…shows openness…complement my own original content…shows how my mind works…what I put together…conclusions I’m drawing…
    strategic thought …curate across multiple topics…very asymmetrical…you meet fascinating people…a real slice…love it

    • Eric Wittlake

      I share as well, and I will continue to do so. Delivers value… but not your perspective.

      Always appreciate it when you share your perspective here!

  • Abdallah Al-Hakim

    good analysis. Curation is still an important excercise that when done properly can begin to improve signal to noise ratio. However, for become a thought leader then I do agree that generating content is the way forward. With less that 1% of online users generating content there has be incentives to increase engagement and making these conversations ‘discoverable’. This is where engagio shines as only startup (I am aware of) that is tackling these twin problems. In fact – I found this conversation through Engagio!!!

    • Eric Wittlake

      Thanks! Yes, I’m experimenting with a bit lately, the discovery engine is an interesting Summify-like tool that I think will be more valuable over time.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Pam Moore

    Funny you should write about this as I have been thinking on this myself. While I agree with you I disagree with you too. I think it depends on what and how you are curating. It also depends on what you are doing in addition to curation. If your only strategy is to curate other people’s content without a lot of thought, insight, opinion or even knowledge on the matter, then yes it is pointless. However, if it is part of, a piece of a comprehensive strategy and set of tactics that help you reach your biz goals & objectives then it’s not a waste of time. 

    I do some curation and honestly read every single article that I tweet. I only share what I believe provides value to my audience. I can also talk to all of the content that I share. I have opinions on it, I may disagree or disagree but the point is I have knowledge in what it is I provide to them via the perspective of other authors like yourself. 

    I have learned a great deal about my audience, refined business strategies and met some amazing people (also like yourself and @businessesgrow:disqus ) via content curation. Do my readers, clients, prospects, community as a whole find value in my curation, I say yes. How do I know you ask? Because they tell me. 

    So I guess in summary I don’t think curation is over rated though I think curation is changing. I think we all must use it in the right ways, know what we’re sharing, believe in what we are sharing and ensure it provides the highest value possible to the intended recipient. 

    Great post (as always!) 

  • Pam Moore

    Two more things… I agree with your #1 reason for not curating (that if you’re not providing content then you’re not sharing your perspective. Bingo! This is key. I know many consultants who do this. There is nothing behind the black curtain if you were to ask them what it is they share they woudn’t have any idea how to deliver it… so fail! )

    2. Everyone else is already curating. I say who cares!? As long as it’s part of a bigger plan that helps meet biz goals don’t worry about what others are doing. What matters is what works for you & your biz. 

    3. Reinforcing someone else’s thought leadership. This is okay in my book too.I love using other perspectives. I love being able to tell even my clients or prospects about an article I read that made me think a different way. I want them to be open to new perspectives too. 

    I think it all comes down to being confident in what you do, what you offer and what you deliver. If you are then it doesn’t matter if you’re sharing other people’s content as long as you are providing perspective, as well as your own content too. 

    Okay.. off my nut box now. That’s my 3.4 cents… take it or leave it ;)

    • Eric Wittlake

      Pam, thanks for the (double) comment!

      Generally, I agree that it doesn’t matter that much what everyone else is doing, but the level of noise created by it makes it harder today to differentiate through curation. Reinforcing the value of someone else’s perspective is definitely ok (as long as you recognize that is what you are doing).

      But if your goal is to be the thought leader in your space, those things are fine, but it isn’t enough, IMO. You need to be the one that is curated, and that requires creating as well. Obviously, you have no issues in this space given the success of your blog and business, and are a great example of, as you say, curation “as long as it’s part of a bigger plan”.

      Well said, thanks for stopping by!

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  • David_Drickhamer

    I’ve been perturbed as well by the trend to equate curation with thought leadership, reflecting more of a personal bias than marketing effectiveness I’m afraid. Without going into the search engine benefits (and pitfalls) of curated content, which I don’t know much about, there’s obviously a range of quality tiers for thought leaders and thought leadership

    For example, academics are thought leaders by definition (more or less) as their credentials and ongoing advancement are based on published original research and new knowledge (+teaching). Academics who compile fundamental knowledge and current thinking into textbooks are filling the role of content/idea aggregators and curators. It’s a valuable role performed by smart people, but the academy doesn’t value it as high as new

    By comparison, academics who compile existing knowledge (curation), do their own original research, communicate it well and popularize interesting and useful ideas that sell thousands of books and provide lucrative speaking gigs fit the definition of “thought
    leader” better than anyone else. But there’s only so much room for people like
    Steven Levitt, Clayton Christensen or Jim Collins.

    • Eric Wittlake

      David, I wouldn’t personally label Jim Collins a pure curator, in my view he is existing information as a jumping off point to build upon. He is point out what is known, and expanding on it from there. 

      If that is the definition of curation everyone held, I don’t think I would have any problem with curation. :-)

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Noël Ponthieux

    Once upon a time, thought leaders of all stripes were expected to use references and research to support their own ideas and points of view, not the other way around. The high-speed content marketing engine has perhaps necessarily slid the emphasis from composition to curation. The demand for thought leadership output is so high, who can create and shape original ideas and insights fast enough?

    But I’m with Eric – leadership means you lead. You push the boundary from the front, not the back. Curating without proportional creating is just reporting. 

    • Eric Wittlake

      Curating without proportional creating is just reporting. I love that line, thanks Noel!

  • Pawan Deshpande

    Eric, interesting article.  I agree with you as far as your
    point that content curation is not a free ticket to becoming a thought
    leader.  However, I would argue that content curation can build a platform
    upon which individuals establish themselves as thought leaders. 


    In order to become a thought leader, a person needs an audience,
    and by continually identifying, organizing and sharing relevant and timely
    content, a curator will come to be received by others as a reliable go-to
    resource.  Once that audience is established, a content curator has the
    power to become a thought leader by sharing unique value and perspective beyond
    third-party content. 

    • Eric Wittlake

      Spot on. Curation can be about audience and it can be part of the path to thought leadership or other recognition. You still have to take that last step and start producing your own content also.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  • pull up banners Perth

    As much as I would like to agree with you. I can’t. It’s just shown so much improvement on almost any website that I worked on, and I haven’t seen anyone show a big proof that it doesn’t work, something that is enough to convince me otherwise.

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  • ScribeWise

    I believe that curating content is a valuable service for a lot of very busy people, and would dispute the notion that “everybody is doing it.” But it seems everyone agrees that auto-retweeting blog posts from others is not an overly enlightened approach… some level of analysis and opinion-sharing is needed. In my opinion, we’re all (hopefully) trying to move the conversation forward, and curating content plays a role in that. 

    • Eric Wittlake

      Thanks for the reply on your blog. I definitely see value in content creation, just not as a stand-alone path to thought leadership. I wrote about getting value from content curation a few days later, you can see the post here:

      • ScribeWise

        Thanks – I think we’re pretty much saying the same thing. There’s value in content creation, but being a Retweet Machine does not a Thought Leader make.

        John Miller | ScribeWise | 215-915-1156 | @scribewisepro

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