Forget content, think curation and connections

Before you think about publishing yet more content, find out what's already out there.

I've been working on several really interesting content strategy projects of late. (If you want to know more about content strategy read this post by my iCrossing colleague, Content Strategist Charlie Peverett.)

What has really struck me is that not all content out there is awful - even though those of us who work in content creation often bang on about how bad it is.

Some travel cos and DMOs are investing in the real thing, getting journalists to create genuinely useful blog posts and on-site content that users really want/need. And, if they haven't created it themselves for their customers, someone else probably has written something pretty similar - that's also pretty good - somewhere else on-line.

Unfortunately a lot of what is out there is dross. The good stuff is hard to find and it's not always easy to tell if you can trust it.

Do you ever feel like the web is full enough as it is? There's this immense surfeit of information that is impossible to process and assimilate successfully? I use Google Reader subscribed to RSS feeds from all over the place and it's hard to keep up. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is hard. It's often even worse if I just do a good old fashioned Google search. Lots of the pages that come up are pretty awful and finding the good ones is sometimes a hassle.

Wouldn't it be great if someone I trusted had put it all together for me?

I think the Content opportunities for travel cos (and others) in 2011 online are all about curation. Rather than add yet more content to that vast overflowing pile out there, start to help people navigate to the good stuff. Become a trusted advisor and a useful friend. You might need to top it and tail it with some content of your own, but consider the amazing resourse that's already out there. Save your cash, don't recreate the wheel - just make it spin more smoothly.

Trusted advisor? That's not exactly journalism is it? I've been similarly struck by how those journalists hired by travel cos to create genuinely great content for their customers often just don't 'get' the social/networked elements of web content. They are stuck in publish mode. They see doing their job as writing a set number of blog posts a week and that's about it. They wonder why they hardly ever get any comments on their blog posts, but ultimately, that's not something they are paid to worry about. And you can't blame them for that.

Writers who will thrive online I believe need to really get connectedness - the idea that due to the wonderful power of hyperlinks, RSS feeds, embedded videos, twitter feeds and more there's much more to publishing than creating some content and hitting the publish button.

Enter then the editor/curator (my iCrossing colleague Tamsin coined the term 'cureditor' what do you think?!). This kind of person is not just someone who can see an audience need and create great content to fulfill that need. They can do that, but they are also:

Connected: they understand the  broader context of the content. They know where to find that great infographic that someone else created that highlights and adds more value to their piece. They can plug in twitter feeds from people tweeting about the same subjects. They can pull in some cool video from YouTube that really shows off the destination they are writing about. They can pull in an RSS feed from another expert on the topic. The 'page' they create isn't all about them. It's about collaboration, conversation, cultivation, collection as well.

Respected: they are respected and known to those other people who are also creating great content around similar topic areas. They are already active on other blogs and in other online spaces, commenting, discussing adding value. So when they create something new and tweet about it/share it, the community pitches in and adds comments, interacts, shares with their followers too.

Engaging: they are also great at seeing ways to make their content and the content of others that they incorporate into their own space interesting and thought provoking for their readers. That's about writing and curating content that doesn't just state fact or opinion (though that's still part of it), but asks questions and encourages readers to share their thoughts too. It requires a good deal of creativity and empathy as well to get this right - and experience of doing it.

So... before you even think about creating yet more content in 2011. Ask yourself if someone else already did the job for you and ask yourself exactly what your readers need and how best to serve those needs. And, instead of spending all your time in publish mode, get into share mode - start to expand your connections and become known in the right places.

What do you think?

Pic by flickr user: annais

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