Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Series: Content Curation

Over the past two months, I've looked at content curation as a theme and I thought I would summarize my posts. As I've mentioned, the practice of curation is not a new one as any librarian, or television program director or editor could attest; however, as media outlets become ubiquitous and content becomes overwhelming the need for better curation is vastly under-estimated as a business model and a consumer need.

My posts on this issue are as follows:

The Curator and the Docent:
Recently, as I wandered around a museum with overwhelming breadth and depth of content, I was lucky to be guided in my travels by a professional. When she introduced herself to me, she used the term ‘docent’ to describe her function. A docent is a ‘knowledgeable guide’ and the function seems to me to perfectly complement the process of curation. In an online world, where more and more content appears to “carry the same weight,” we will look to and pay for the combination of curator and docent – sometimes the same person or entity – who can organize and manage a range of content and also engage with the user so they gain insight and meaning from the material. At Mywire.com, we intentionally approached branded media companies because they were recognized as experts in their segments. These are the companies which should be able to build revenue models around the curation of content to offer subscribers a materially different experience than simply performing a Google search query delivering up generic news and semi-relevant content.
Confusing a Silo with a Business
The lesson for less advanced publishers is that building a concentration around siloed content is not enough; in-fact, aggregating consumer interest and appeal around publishing content will fail unless that concentration includes content from the web, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc. which is also organized, validated and served up in the most effective manner for the consumer. Information publishers have been able to evolve their model to support the needs of their professional customers but the consumer market is more anarchic and it remains to be seen whether trade publishers can pull it off. Silos may not be worth the effort.
United Artists Redux

Amidst radical change forced on them by major advances in technology (largely out of their control), a small group of leading media producers have joined together to establish their own (insert word): broadcaster, publisher, studio, agency. Unlikely? Not now, because the functions that support these traditional media companies are increasingly becoming commoditised, enabling the creative producers (writers, authors, producers, etc.) to potentially collect more of the revenues generated from their creative output. While individual authors have gained some attention by 'going direct,' either by working through Amazon (J.A. Konrath) or direct to consumers via the iPad (Ryu Mirakami), it may be that traditional publishers have more to fear from groups of authors, editors and agents conspiring to establish their own media companies. These new companies would leverage the available low-cost 'back office' functions and the readily available supply-chain provision to dis-intermediate the traditional publishing monolith.
Silos of Curation - Repost
Something similar to the platform approach may take shape in a different way with intermediaries playing the role of curator. This is an approach that companies such as Publisher’s Weekly or The New York Review of Books might have adopted if they had been more prescient. The capability to guide consumers to the best books, stories and professional content within a specific segment (without regard to publisher or commerce) may come to define publishing in the years to 2020. (See Monday’s post). Expert curation can simplify the selection process for consumers, aggregate interest around topics and build homogeneous markets for commerce. As an added benefit to these intermediaries’ customers, publishers will chose to focus intensely on each segment and offer specialized value-adds particular to that segment. As content provision expands – witness the delivery of all the books in the Google Book project – readers will become increasingly confused and looking for help. It seems inevitable that intermediaries between publisher and e-commerce will meet that need.
Curating Research Data at Elsevier

Elsevier announced a partnership with Pangaea which is a 'data library' that links primary research data with journal articles in earth and environmental science. As I mentioned last week, information and academic publishers like Elsevier have long organized themselves around content areas but are now 'widening' their content 'silos' to accommodate tools, techniques and proprietary data provided by third parties. This is a good example of how the Elsevier 'platform' can and is being leveraged beyond what may have originally been envisioned as a closed system.
Oh My Curation! It's about the Librarian

I chanced on a very interesting article in Harvard Magazine this week as I was doing research for a presentation I am making next week. Titled Gutenberg 2.0: Harvard's Libraries Deal With Disruptive Change, the article is written by the magazine's managing editor Jonathan Shaw and is one of the more thought provoking articles I have read about the impact(s) of our transition from print to online.

Several themes come out of this article: Firstly, traditional publishing is ill-equipped to manage the huge onslaught of data and information. Specific examples note the medical discipline. Secondly, training for the consumers and students who have access to databases and information is inadequate; moreover, this negatively impacts job effectiveness. Examples, here include medical and legal professions. Thirdly, librarians may retain specific skills that bridge the gap between the generic content where 'everything carries the same weight' and a 'consciously curated and controlled artifact' managed to the benefit of a librarian's constituency

1 comment:

Liz said...

Curation really couldn't be more of a hot topic right now! Here's a recent article from CMS Wire about how curation analytics are blowing the lid off of customer behavior when it comes to content.