Why Content Curation Is Not The Answer

There are no silver bullets in marketingThe biggest problem in B2B content marketing is that it requires content. Somehow, this most obvious of truths has become the thorn in the side of B2B marketing (and the inspiration for 1,000s of pieces of content).

So what if you could be a content marketer without actually creating content? Hallelujah! All your problems are solved!

Enter curation, the glittering solution for today’s content marketers.

On the surface curation sounds perfect. Publish or share carefully selected content created by others with your clients and prospects. By consistently and carefully curating over time, become the source your audience looks to for the news and information that matters to them.

But before you jump on the curation bandwagon, ask yourself “do I want to be the curator, or the curated?”

Your choice should be easy: be the curated!

For purposes of this article, this is the distinction between content curation and creation:

Content curation is carefully selecting and using content from other companies and individuals. The primary value is in your selection of the content, not in the additional perspective you add.

Content creation may build on content from others or be completely new. Regardless, your additions are what makes the content valuable.

4 Pitfalls of a Curation-Based Strategy

It sounds good on the surface, but becoming a go-to source and building your reputation through content curation simply doesn’t work for marketers. Here’s why:

1. We Have Hundreds of Sources Today
We turn to more sources than ever before. Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn are now steady streams of content from hundreds or even thousands of individual sources.

Becoming one of those sources only earns you a small slice of attention. And a small slice of attention doesn’t give you the market advantage you need today.

2. It Makes You A Filter, Not An Authority
The value of a content curator is their ability to filter through the volumes of content and select the best, the most original, the most valuable, pieces.

Yes, effective curators must understand the topic. They must be able to differentiate between mediocre, good and great. Do you want to just recognize great, or be great?

3. You Build The Authority Of Others
What happens when you continue to share content from certain companies or individuals? You build their authority!

I’m sure I’ve shared more content from Michael Brenner and Mark Schaefer in the last 4 years than I have shared from my own blog. Why? Because they offer new thinking and perspectives the market, I believe, needs.

Thousands more people like me, by curating their content, have made Michael and Mark recognized authorities in their markets. It is the curated, not the curator, that became recognized.

4. Your Perspective Gets Lost
Yes, your point of view comes through in what you choose to share. By allowing yourself (or your company) to become a mouthpiece for the views of others, you provide insight into your beliefs.

But it simply aligns you with the masses that ascribe to the view of someone else, it doesn’t provide any insight into the nuances of your own perspective.

Consider someone who regularly shares content from Rush Limbaugh. They are likely conservative and Republican. But do they fully agree with Rush Limbaugh, even on a given topic? And does his view reflect everything they believe about it? No. Likewise, your own view can only come from you.

No, curation is not enough. Instead, you need to begin creating content worth curating.

Still not convinced? Which is better for this blog: my sharing posts from Jay Baer, Mark Schaefer, or Michael Brenner? Or the three of them sharing posts of mine? Exactly.

Can curation play a role? If it helps you develop your own audience and, ultimately, share your own perspective, then yes. And sharing your perspective comes back to the need to create your own content worth curating.

Your Turn

Do you have something to add? Then skip the comments and use this article as the spark for your own content. But if you still believe curation is the key, make your case in the comments below or on Twitter (@wittlake).

Image credit: ponsulak / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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  • http://www.avitage.com/ Jim Burns

    Eric, important main point. In addition I would offer people think of curation as a tool.There are many “jobs” it helps with. We use it to help us:

    Listen for emerging topics where we can contribute
    Understand the “noise” of the marketplace of ideas so we avoid creating “me
    three” content
    Provide “coverage” for information my readers will look for anyway, I want to
    provide, but don’t want to create
    Acquire educational resources for internal, customer or prospects I already have relationships with
    Acquire “source” — especially for research studies, data, stories we can use
    in content, or that support our ideas

    There are probably others, but these come right to mind.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Jim, thanks for the additions, I like your perspective that it is a valuable tool that helps with certain marketing jobs. Thanks!

  • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

    Yes and No. I think what you say applies to Most curated destinations. But there are outliers, like HuffPo, Techmeme, Drudge, and some others. If done well, with consistency and quality, you could build an audience and a business around it.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      There is always the exception to the rule, right? I definitely agree you can build an audience around curation, even without adding much perspective beyond simply your choice of what to curate. Look at @tweetsmarter on Twitter as an example, or Smartbrief’s daily newsletters.

      However, the business generally built around this approach is advertising. A marketer that needs to share their own perspective can build the audience, but then they need to create their own worthwhile content as well to reap the full rewards of all of their curation efforts.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

        And how about they do both, own content + together, like what I’m doing here: http://startupmanagement.org

  • Kursten Mitchell

    I agree with William. There are instances (though likely limited) when curation can make you an authority. For others, curation can make you a resource. If all you do is share your own opinion without acknowledging others, you risk being one of those brands that only talks about its own product. So I see a role for both smart curation and content creation.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Kursten. I agree, balancing curation with your own original content will be key for the vast majority of marketers.

      While it isn’t a realistic path for the vast majority of marketers to take, it would be interesting to consider, at the extreme, what it would look like if a marketer focused ONLY on their own content. Publishers do so effectively by creating audience-focused, instead of company-focused, content. Marketers can do.

      Thanks for commenting and sparking a tangent!

    • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

      Exactly. Your expertise or know-how or perspective is somewhat reflective via the curation choices you make. And you can add your own voice to it. It becomes a value added.

    • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

      I think you’re right, but I’m having trouble coming up with examples where curation is what convinced me. Jason Kottke and John Gruber have become (in)famous for their links and comments, but even both of those guys started with a reputation of having done something.

      Bottom line, in my opinion, is that curation is something people want and need. The noise is only growing louder. When I find a voice, like Jay Rosen’s for example, who shares much more signal than noise, I listen.

      I’m also a big fan of tools that filter and curate information automatically for me. AngelList is an example. I learn from what I see people do. If Joanne Wilson invests in a startup, I’m almost certainly interested in following that startup. Perhaps a bit off topic, but when people use tools like that in that way, it’s a clue that they want and need curation.

      • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

        I really like your comment, and I want to use it as an opportunity to clarify something from the article. Yes, there is value to an audience of high-quality curation, as such it can build your audience. There are way too many companies and pieces of information vying for our attention for us to function without filters, and trusted curators are one type of filter.

        Here’s where you need to add creation though: Once you do that, you still need to share your own unique perspective. Content is the primary way to do that today, particularly for marketers that need their perspective to be understood by the audience. Many people, including investors, can share a perspective without as much nuance. We, the audience, want to understand, but they don’t have the same need a marketer does to provide that understanding.

        Thanks again for the great comment!

        • http://bsoi.st/ bsoist

          Contributing additional value in some way is certainly important. Agreed.

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  • http://scoop.it Guillaume Decugis

    Eric – While I agree there are no silver bullets, I disagree with many of your arguments and I curated your post here: http://sco.lt/5k82AD while adding my own perspective (as good curators do ;-)

    And just to add to @wmoug:disqus’s good examples of media built through a mix of creation and curation and I would add UpWorthy to the list which relies purely on curation. They’re probably the most phenomenal media story of this year and an interesting example to inspire b2b marketers.

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  • michaelbrenner

    Just shared ;-) Ha-ha. Great perspective as always Eric. Of course it is not an a or b decision. As you do well, it is about curatng and being curated. You can become an authority for curating truly insightful posts (as you do) but that needs to be balanced with your own thought-provoking content (as you do!)

    But in the false game which you know I love to play as well, it IS better to be curated.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Michael! Sometimes the theoretical a or b discussion can help clarify the value of both, I believe. And hopefully can keep people from making a curate-only decision. Although we don’t like to admit it, there are companies doing this and software and service providers supporting them. And that, I believe, IS the wrong decision.

      Thanks as always for your comment, and for sharing!

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  • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ awaldstein

    Great discussion that I”m late to.

    We curate our image online surely. Everyone does.

    We define ourselves by what we like and don’t.

    In every phase of markets there is aggregation and channels, both curation at their core.

    But can you have a true personality where your principal persona is that of a librarian, choosing what is on the shelves? Sort of.

    Can you scrape the web, put content up in categories and use this as a paint by numbers way to define who you are to me.

    It’s possible. It’s also very weak.

    Content within market derived context rules.

    Curators–aren’t they people who work in museums?

    Opinions are all that really matter. They are not well communicated by defining yourself through others words and ideas.

    To the market, the consumer, this conversation is academic. They don’t recognize heroes and brand by any other criteria other than expressed point of view.

    • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

      I agree that curation alone has weaknesses, but together with original content, personality, voice, network, community, you surround it with value.

      That said, I wouldn’t totally under-estimate the value of categorization, organization, classification. Thomson has made a multi billion business out of classifying information for professionals.

      • http://arnoldwaldstein.com/ awaldstein

        I believe that if anyone can do it you can William.

        That being said, be careful when you generalize.

        Curation doesn’t breed community nor aggregate networks. Personality and leadership does.

        Leaders lead, not refer. Links while they are the currency of the pre social web, are useful, essential, but neither revealing nor all that dynamic.

        Basically I don’t agree. Because on a social web, you are what you think and what you say and how broad an interaction you engender. None of those have to do with curation, they have to do with personality and opinion.

        My very slanted view!

        • http://www.startupmanagement.org/ William Mougayar

          I don’t think we’re too far apart.

        • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

          Great view, thanks for taking the time to share your opinion!

  • http://www.diannahuff.com/ Dianna Huff


    Agree mostly with this. The problem with curation, in my opinion, is that you see the same stuff over and over and you see people posting their curated content across all platforms (and I’m sure I’m guilty of this).

    I’ve noticed that when brands / marketers constantly share, I tune them out. So I try to share only the really good stuff that I believe offers insight.

    I do agree it’s better to create your own content — that gets shared. :-) And now I’m off to share this article that has generated some great discussion.

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  • Henley Wing

    Eric, while you may not be a fan of curation, do you use other people’s content as inspiration in your content in some way? Whether it’s imitating their format, transferring a theme/idea to another niche, or offering your view on another writer’s opinion?

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Yes, I do. But the value to the reader/viewer is the experience I share, my analysis or my opinion (or so I like to believe). Adding to an existing body of knowledge is the standard for research, IMO that is not curation.

      I’ve seen a couple vendors use the term editorialized curation. I like the labeling. Done well though, the perspective added becomes a key part of the value to me as the reader. To me, this is a form of creation, building on another source, and responding, even extensively, is easier for many people to do than to start from a blank piece of paper.

      Unfortunately, many people add just a couple brief comments with very little value. The value is in the content they found. While I appreciate it, it doesn’t do anything to establish their authority or make me look to them for their perspective.

      Long answer to a short question. :)

  • http://feedcurator.com/ FeedCurator

    I guess it depends on the demands of your organization. The important is how you deliver the information to your audience. You can also try feed curator.