Content Curation versus Content Creation

Content Curation versus Content CreationScott Abel has a good post on content curation strategies. He writes,

In order to develop an active and engaged audience, you have to publish as much interesting and informative content as possible — as often as possible!

He notes how tweets and blog posts are short-lived, so you have to keep publishing all the time:

… Add to the mix the sheer volume of tweets, posts, and updates being made every hour on socially-enabled sites around the digital globe, and you’ll soon realize the best strategy for getting noticed is to publish as often as possible, 24 hours a day, especially if you are trying to reach a global audience.

In order to satisfy the demand for content, you need a content curation strategy:

…I decided what was needed was a way to curate content and publish it to social networks automatically.

For more, see Content Curation: Streamlining The Process Of Populating Your Social Networks With Relevant, Interesting and Engaging Content.

I’ve noticed a trend about content this year. Last year, I could publish a post and still get comments 3-4 days later. This year, the comments mostly stop the day after I publish the post. Twitter is even more transient, but it’s always been that way.

Scott is right about the abundance of content — there are too many new posts to read, new tweets published, new articles posted each hour. Why should I bother to read something published last week, or worse, last year? The amount of content increases exponentially.

No one has the stamina to publish interesting and engaging blog posts day after day unless it’s his or her full-time job. I struggle to publish several posts a week, and lately I’ve been feeling even more strained for original content.

Many say blogging itself is in decline. Janet Egan highlights a recent Pew study showing headlines about blogging’s decline:

What’s really interesting about the Pew report is the way various news organizations summarize it in their headlines. The top themes seem to be blogging in decline and and (gasp, shudder) old people using the Internet. Here is a sampling of the headlines, in the order they showed up on Google News when ordered by relevance:

Pew study: Everyone uses email, but blogging is on declineUSA Today (blog) – Stan Schroeder
Blogging ‘Peaks,’ But Reports Of Its Death Are ExaggeratedWired News (blog) – Ryan Singel
Pew: More Old People Using Facebook, Teens Blogging LessSwitched – Amar Toor
Millennial Generation’s Web Dominance On The Decline, Pew Study SaysThe Huffington Post – Amy Lee
Older web users catching up: Pew – Matt Kwong
Internet is No Longer a Domain for the Young
Elderly people rapidly adapting to online social networksTechRadar UK – Adam Hartley
Old catching up to young on US Internet: studyAFP

Content curation is much easier than content creation, because you don’t have to strain for original thought. Just note something interesting, maybe make a few remarks, and voila, you’re satisfying your hungry audience’s need for information.

This post, despite my more extensive commentary, is still in the style of content curation.

Content curation with commentary such as this evokes more of the conversational web; these curated posts give me interesting starting points, so I’m already going in a good direction. You don’t have the blank page fear, faced with the raw need to create.

Despite the growing trends of content curation, I’m not sure I want to transition from content creation to content curation just to keep up. It seems a step downward. If a curator’s life is only to push article after article across Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, day in and day out, as many times as you can sanely publish in one day, then let me out of that information ratrace.

You may be a center of attention as you’re publishing, but the instant your information well dries up, you’re forgotten. As a curator, you’re a nameless supplier to the information junkies of the Internet.

Content curation is something that, if everyone did, there would be no new content. Think about that from a Kantian perspective.

Content creation, not content curation, is also more rewarding. A good post changes how you think. It converts you to a new perspective. When I closely examine an experience, perhaps research it, and analyze it into the shape of a post, by the time I click Publish, something has changed inside of me.

I don’t think Scott is recommending content curation instead of content creation. He’s right that curation is the only way to keep up. But surely there’s a balance to remember — for every few posts you curate, write something of your own. Switch off between long and short posts on your blog. Let the content you curate be a starting point for a more in-depth analysis.

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By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, JavaScript, front-end design, content strategy, Jekyll, and more. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

17 thoughts on “Content Curation versus Content Creation

  1. Tammy

    Quantity doesn’t equal quality. I do read very interesting and helpful information months and years old (yes, on the internet). Put me on the side of good content that lasts rather than an abundance of posts in various formats. Many of us don’t have time to read a constant barrage of small bits of information.


    1. Melanie Blank

      Thank you, Tammy! I can’t be bothered to even try Twitter. And don’t get me started on Facebook….. The security issues alone are scary… They can keep both of those……………

      I’m on LinkedIn because it’s a professional networking group.

      I’ll stick to email, otherwise, for social corresponding online.

      Anyhow, after 8-9 hrs. of computing at work, the LAST thing I want to do is play on my home PC.


      1. Tom Johnson

        Strangely, in my spare time, I’m often on the computer, playing basketball, or reading. When I switch on play mode, the computer becomes a different beast — not one that requires work, but a venue for entertainment.

    2. Tom Johnson

      The barrage of small bits of information is tough to overcome in a content curation model world. It’s like a shotgun approach to information — lots of bits flying everywhere, and you hope one ball hits the target. That’s why so many platforms arise trying to manage the information firehose.

  2. Noz Urbina

    I also bemoan the death of detail. Technology facilitates our baser instincts of being superficial and impatient. However, hurrah to Scott the effort of spreadhing the idea that content creation isn’t for everyone. Everyone has the right to blog, but if blogging becomes less fashionable, only those with something to say will make the effort.

    I find creation – regardless of format – is something that those passionate about what they’re doing will do regardless of format and channel changes.

    I was on the coast two weeks ago looking at cave paintings that are thousands and thousands of years old – those people really wanted to express something. When I blog, or write music, or compose photos, or write fiction, it’s because I kind of need to. The formats are all tarred with the same feather at first, then the ‘doing it because it’s new and I’m the only one’ crowd falls away leaving those who do it because they have something to contribute to the conversation stay involved.

    Remember when it was commonplace to hear ‘blogging is for teens talking about trends and tv shows’? And when ‘twitter is for narcissists telling the world what they ate for lunch’? The cycle repeats.

    We live in a world where everyone has the capability to publish, but anyone who feels they’d like to swap over to curation because it’s ‘easier’ then they should do so – whatever they were creating they’re not so driven to create.

    My teacher in the last year of highschool gave a little speech when we graduated. In short: university is great and one of the most wonderful opportunities in the world for enriching yourself and your life. But if you don’t really want to go, just don’t. Don’t go for anyone but yourself, and don’t go for any reason other than you feeling driven to do it, or it will be 4 years you could have better spent doing what really is important to you.

    Same here: more attracted to curation than blogging? Go for it.

    1. Shay

      I like what you say, Noz. I agree.

      As a personal who learns technical communication, I find that even my school is a little bit “behind” when it comes to some technologies. Having us using an old platform for our websites, where we write html in Word and upload an index.html file via FTP, for example.

      Yesterday I upgraded my account on Facebook, with their “new way” of email. I keep hearing things like “email is dead” and that everything is about texting. I use Twitter and I read tech news every day on different blogs that are not really “blogs” as much as information “tossers.” Lifehacker, Techcrunch and the like have quick posts about new exciting things and gadgets you can check somewhere else, but they seldom have a post full of information on their very own blog.

      So I still come here. I love and appreciate original content and thought. I’m also getting sick of “kids” (I’m 30 myself..) sometimes not even out of college yet who write about a new app, or a new Google service, without giving second thought to what is their opinion of it, why is it good, and why should you care. In college, I used to run a newspaper, and I remember rolling my eyes up at the workshops we had to have.. now I begin to see why some of these are important.

      Finally, I agree, blogs are in decline, because the “masses” can now tell each other “yo” and “sup” over facebook. Like you said, let them. Good for them. I will stick around for people who put effort into their posts and actually have something to say.

      1. Tom Johnson

        Thanks Shay. You make a good point about blogs declining as other forms of information sharing appear, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and so on. I hadn’t even thought about this. Also, I think the effort required to produce original content will naturally drive down the number of bloggers, as they realize the energy required. You really have to have dedication toward an ideal to keep posting.

    2. Tom Johnson

      Noz, thanks for commenting on this discussion. I like your point about the cycle of creation.

      “Remember when it was commonplace to hear ‘blogging is for teens talking about trends and tv shows’? And when ‘twitter is for narcissists telling the world what they ate for lunch’? The cycle repeats.”

      I do remember this. About 10 years ago my sister introduced me to bloggers and groaned with annoyance at all the self-centered content they publish. Now blogging has grown up and become professional. Same with Twitter. At first, it seemed pure narcissism. Now it’s a right of expression. It’s interesting to see how our view of information production and venues transforms.

  3. Marcia Johnston

    P.P.S. I put a mental “If” at the beginning of this blog entry: “If your goal is to develop an active and engaged audience…” Reminds me that…

    a) People blog for other reasons too.
    b) Before I adopt my own policy on creation vs. curation, I need to get clear about my goals.

  4. Glenn Lea

    Hi Tom. How timely. I now have my blog up and running and this issue of content creation is now uppermost on my mind. What was the point of creating the blog if I do not provide anything worth reading. I still have to get that post about ancient Tech writers up. Thanks for your analysis. Always worth reading.

  5. Guillaume Decugis

    Great overview of the balance between creation and curation: thanks!

    I think you’re absolutely on point as to what’s more rewarding on creation vs curation and at the same time the advantages of curation when it comes to inspiration, time, etc…

    But I’m also a believer that curation can be a new form of expression if you don’t restrict it to filtering or selection. We created, the publishing-by-curation platform that I run, in order to do that and hopefully find the right balance. We don’t want it to be a social bookmarking tool but much more a publishing platform requiring much less efforts than regular blogging. Not to compete or replace blogging (we need that content to be produced as you pointed out! :-)) but because we think it addresses other use case:
    – I never had the time to start a blog on Freeride Skiing even though I’m passionate about it but simply because… I don’t have the time! But I could create and maintain in (almost) no time while still giving my own twist to all the posts. This page is probably not the best page on freeride skiing ever but it’s my vision of it.
    – Another example is for small businesses who want communicate with content. I think there’s a big opportunity for Content Marketing to partly shift from creation to curation as we start seeing on our platform (eg: http://socialmusicgaming is hosted on it and curated by mxp4, a start-up leading the social music gaming innovation).

    Blogging isn’t declining to me. But there are more people who want to express themselves than people who can decently blog. For them, curation done right is an interesting opportunity.

    Hope this add to the debate.

  6. Pingback: Content Curation is a Writer’s Best Friend | Future Social

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