Sep 14, 2010

Curation is the new creation

A discipline as old as collecting itself— curation—is finding new relevance in an information-saturated world. A curator is “a person in charge of a museum, art collection, etc.,” according to my Random House Dictionary. Recently the term has come to apply to the discipline of filtering and organizing knowledge. That's because we humans face a problem our species has never confronted before: We have too much information. Our challenge has shifted from finding what we need to filtering out what we don't. Today, curation is nearly as important as creation.

We already use many tools for this purpose: Search engines, RSS readers and tags are just a few. We also count on a variety of human-powered curation engines to inform us. The Drudge Report is one kind of curation; and Wikipedia, another. In fact, many of the world's most heavily trafficked websites are essentially information filters. As Web publishing has gotten simpler, businesses have begun applying these principles to build audience affinity, search traffic and thought leadership.

The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts (EDC), a nonprofit group that supports businesses in several Massachusetts counties, has posted more than 1,600 headlines and summaries of articles from regional publications and blogs to its news page over the last year. It has reaped the benefits of word-of-mouth marketing and better performance on search engines, which favor relevancy and frequency. Visits to are up 40% in a year, with nearly all the growth coming from the news page, which is now the site's second most popular entry point, said Mike Graney, senior VP-business development.

The council uses Curata, a new curation engine from HiveFire of Cambridge, Mass., to limit the workload to less than a half-hour a day. Curata is one of a growing number of startups that address the curation market. Others include CIThread, Curation Station, DataSift and

You might think that trading on other people's content would raise intellectual property problems, but quite the opposite has occurred, Graney said. “We're a great content driver for the publications,” some of which now actively court the council for visibility because of the traffic boost they receive. Done right, the process is a win-win for both creator and curator.

B2b companies are uniquely positioned to take advantage of curation. In most cases, their customers have highly specific information needs—such as business analytics, chemistry or manufacturing. Engineers don't want to spend time combing through search results, so they appreciate those suppliers that provide that value for them. That can be you.