The Five Rs of Content Curation

Why do I constantly update my RSS feed reader? Adding
categories, fine tuning reading lists, then upsetting them all over
again when I stumble upon several great sites.

That's because I rely on information discovery to push my own thinking.

The more I broaden and diversify my reading, researching threads,
listening to, and verifying opposing views, the sharper my ability to
see and make sense of trends.

Saying we have filter failure is not capturing the depth of the challenges we face.

Defining the problem

Real time streams and social graphs are training people to react. I see the transformation also in blog comments. It is tempting to use the seagull move — who has the time, right?

Reacting to information is the exact opposite of critical thinking

It will not help you or your business understand why a trend may be
emerging, what it means to you, and how to reorganize your thinking
about it. As more people and organizations become publishers, the merits
of curating information as content strategy go up.

Curation, as in making sense, also has a prominent role in how organizations develop and transmit news. However, not all curation activities are created equal.

Five activities that pay dividends on content curation


There's no point producing content before you have a firm handle on
what the target audience wants. Steve Jobs is a great example of the
kind of preparation that goes into understanding your audience needs and building community.

For all the talk of listening and responding in social media and
networks, few do integrate social listening into actual, traditional
reseach. Focus groups, call out — even informal user surveys. There's
no substitute for actual data.


People often say they want "variety" online. It turns out what they
really want is to read their favorites more than stuff they like less.
It's a balancing act introducing fresh ideas and replaying the ones that
are still popular in social media.

Content should be rotated in the same way. Based on the research,
divide content into ranked topics: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary.

Primary content should never be more than a click deep, and always in
the view of someone visiting any site page. It should comprise about
half what you publish, both in terms of volume and sequence.

Secondary content comprises the next 30% or so of your research tier.
It exists to spread the product primary content. Tertiary content is
for spice. If you maintain a blog-style story "waterfall," avoid posting
secondary and tertiary content sequentially. A scan of the waterfall
should tell your site's story in four or five titles.


The secret to successful publication is that on pretty much any given
site, none of the best-scoring content is new. None at all.

Web content can work the same way. Much of a site's best material is
buried the moment it rolls of the front page. This isn't just
unfortunate for new visitors — established visitors will re-read hit
content, too.

Find a way to highlight your archive material. If it's archived, it's
dead. Find ways to suggest your most successful content to visitors.
It's your best stuff. For example, I introduced a link to the most popular posts. I also routinely clean up and build upon older successful articles.


Websites must work hard to make sure their content is loud, punchy, and clear.

Take a look at your research — who is your average reader? If it's a
small business owner — and you're writing a lot of content applicable
to enterprise — well, you've got a problem. There is also a stylistic
component to this.

A common problem online: Sites that are too cluttered, too physically
difficult to read, and posts or pages too poorly arranged to be

Column widths should work out to about 13 significant words in
whatever type size you've chosen. Sidebars should not beckon the eye
from your copy (I cleaned up mine again recently). Subheads should break
articles into bite-sized nuggets that cue the reader as to the
content's relevance.

Are you over 850 words? Consider breaking the article into multiple
parts. A wall of words is scannable, and your readers will move on to
something else very quickly.


Few can remember where and when they actually read something. There's a lesson in this for web publishers: Brand strongly.

Find ways to get your name into site topics and features. Develop a
visual identity and use it constantly. Write articles about your site.
While search is an important means of content discovery, it plays little
role in developing the perceived authority of that content.

This is a function of brand recall. Tell people who you are; tell
them what you're about to deliver; tell them what you are delivering;
tell them what you just delivered; and tell them again. Don't be shy.

[this article is under 850 words]


[updated from archives]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.