Content Curation vs. Content Creation

A few months ago, I was asked my opinion on how small-to-medium sized businesses could curate content like the big boys. My abrupt answer is that Fortune 100 companies don’t do a good job of curating content at all. In fact, small-to-medium sized businesses, with some content curation acumen, a passion for the subject matter, the right tools and a good journalistic instinct for what’s interesting regularly beat the pants off of Fortune 100 companies.

What is curation?

Content curation or aggregation is – according to C.C. Chapman and Ann Handley in their great book Content Rules – the “act of continuously identifying, selecting, and sharing the best and most relevant…content…to match the needs of a specific audience.”

There’s a difference between content curation and content aggregation, but both of them serve the same purpose. Content aggregators like Yahoo! News or Google News are purely driven by algorithms based on the complex ways in which those businesses search for things on the internet.

Content curation adds a human element. Algorithms are great, and do a good job at pulling stories that are relevant to the topic, but to truly provide rich, engaging content, there has to be a human involved to have a feel for what an audience is interested in. That’s the difference between curation and aggregation.

Who does it well?

An outstanding example of content curation is, which aggregates reviews it finds online and then blends those scores with user-submitted reviews to provide a startlingly accurate picture of whether a movie is any good or not. Rotten Tomatoes also provides significant original content that keeps readers coming back. It has an editorial team that’s constantly looking for the critics they feel best represent film criticism, and then it adds content to make the original reviews even more relevant to its readership.

This is what I’m getting at when I suggest that small-to-medium sized businesses are beating the big players. No company in the Fortune 100 curates content like RottenTomatoes.

What’s curation and what’s plagiarism?

One of my Facebook friends shared an article this very morning about six things that would make you love Mr. Rogers even more. It was on a site called The logo for the site features the tagline “Curating the best stuff on the internet.” I read the article and I was sure I’d read it somewhere before.

Sure enough, the original article was actually “15 Reasons Mister Rogers Was The Best Neighbor Ever,” and it appeared on The article on was just a cut-and-paste, word for word, of what appeared in the article with no attribution to the site or the original author.

That’s like opening a candy store and stocking your shelves with inventory you stole from the candy store down the street. And, it’s something all content curators should be mindful to avoid.

How to curate painlessly

“Curation” isn’t finding stuff you liked and passing it off as your own. It’s finding stuff you like, citing where it came from, and adding your own content to take it in a new direction.

I’ll give you a good example of proper content curation that shouldn’t take any more time than you usually spend surfing around for interesting stuff on the internet: I used to work for Hemmings Motor News in Bennington, Vermont. The online editor, Dan Strohl, is a relentless searcher, looking for the content he thinks is going to be relevant to his readers.

Along with all the original content he produces, once a week, he does a “Four Link” post, where he finds four interesting articles elsewhere on the web, cites them properly, writes a little blurb about what they’re about, and provides a link to the website. It’s good for Hemmings because it provides the SEO boost of regular content, and it’s great for the original content provider, because it’s sending inbound links from a content powerhouse like Hemmings. Finally, Hemmings readers like it because somebody who thinks like they do has found a relevant piece of content they never would’ve found on their own.

Everybody wins.

If you’re thinking about it any differently than you are about creating your own original content, you need to take a step back. Curating thought-provoking, timely, relevant content should be approached no differently than creating an original article from a thought you generated in your own head. It doesn’t need to be time-consuming, but it does require that you add your own thought.

Comments are closed.