Curation and the Content / Tech Gap

by Adam on November 2, 2012

Like most of my publishing industry blogger brethren (and really anyone who works in publishing these days), I spend a lot of my time at work reading articles and catching up on the latest news both in and around the publishing industry. More often than not, this reading informs the topics that are worth writing about on the blog and how those also relate to the wider digital realm. So, unsurprisingly, I was reading an article in Outspoken Media on the value of curation (specifically, how to out-curate your competitors) and it got me thinking:

Specifically, it got me thinking about what I’ll call the “content / tech gap.” My sense, from talking with a number of start-ups especially, is that there are two kinds of companies in this world (to really boil it down to the basics): those that focus on content and those that focus on tech. And publishers right now are trying to figure out how they can get consumers to pay for the former in what is increasingly becoming a free content world.

Some are using the latter, technology, to build frameworks and functionality around content that can actually be monetized. One only needs to look at sites that take content and make it customizable, or personalized or any other form of -ization of content that increases its value to consumers (and then hopefully increases the amount they will pay for it, on some level).

But, I would argue there is another “C-word,” one which is actually talked about quite often, but isn’t really being fully considered as a driver of additional value for the user community.


Publishers have always thought of themselves in this role. And many online websites curate content in a variety of ways. But, more and more, this role is being left to algorithms and pieces of technology that can do it for us on the fly and in any number of ways. Which just isn’t the same as an editor who has a knowledge of the content and also an understanding of the user.

No where is this more prevalent than in niche communities. The need for instant personalization of content via algorithms is a result of these large digital outposts trying to be everything to everyone. But, if you deeply know your customer, specifically by crafting a niche community that caters to their needs, and curation of the content in that niche will be the defining factor.

This is true for two reasons: first is that the content and audience are already aligned to some degree; and second, by and large when a consumer feels that there’s a real human being out there developing content for a site that speaks to them, that builds a loyalty and connection that technology really cannot match (look at the rise of bloggers as just one example). I will say this is likely more so true in high affinity niches like knitting or automobiles, but others, like travel and shopping can still find their audiences (albeit perhaps on a much larger scale).

Curation still does have a big role to play. In a world where technology seems to be king, at least for right now, publishers and producers cannot forget that focus and depth of content that speak to a particular audience are much more important than trying to be everything to everyone and then parsing the audiences after they arrive at the site. The predominance of the niche community will only continue over time.

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