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 theĀ  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

15 thoughts on “Forget content, think curation and connections

  1. Jeremy, I started doing this in June 2009 on the Top Travel Content Europe site, which was created to showcase travel content from independent travel sites and blogs. However partly due to me being preoccupied with my main blog, Europe a la Carte, combined with apathy from many members, it hasn't progressed as well as I'd hoped.

    1. Hey Karen
      Thanks for your comment. Do you have a link or 2 you could share with us. And, if you feel it didn't work... do you have any thoughts about why?

  2. Karen's comment above only confirms my thoughts as I was reading what is another great post, Jeremy. You're spot on - this is some very perceptive analysis - but lord, who has the time or resources to invest? I realise you're not aiming this at the bedroom blogger - even the 'professional' fully-SEO'd one - but it's even hard to visualise the leap that most travel companies (in whatever field) need to make to get close to your take as laid out here. I'm just thankful that, as you say, a few seem now to 'get' the value of professionally written content instead of dross bashed out by the intern. But what you're thinking of goes beyond even a full-time position: it needs a team, a strategy, a budget. Do such companies exist? Is this a case of trying to run before we can walk?

    1. Hi Matthew
      Yep, it's certainly about commitment too. I am thinking of one company we are dealing with that employs a team of 3 full time journalists to write for their blog. The advice I think we will give them is instead of counting your workload in terms of say 3 blog posts a week, write 1 or 2 and spend the remainder getting into your network, interacting, being social. The web is about conversation, not broadcast.
      But someone like you could for example do far more than write regular pieces about Jordan for the Jordan Tourist Board - you could host conversations, share interesting insights from elsewhere, prompt debate and discussion, answer questions. etc
      Thanks for commenting. I plan a follow up post with a few examples of this kind of thing too.

      1. Thanks, Jeremy. You're right: that would be absolutely fine from my side, but it would take a leap from JTB (Jordan Tourism Board) which I don't sense they're ready to take... which is my point. Your new approach - laudable & desirable - requires the kind of resources and vision which I, at least, am not seeing in the bits of the travel industry I rub up against daily...

  3. Thanks for this. Very interesting and such a good way to add value.

    I'd just add that the use of RSS feeds is great if they are used legally and ethically. If content is good enough to attract revenue in whatever form, then it should be paid for. I've recently seen the most unethical use of English-speaking Italy bloggers' RSS feeds by a new site trying to attract advertising. Forbes.com is also hoping to profit from bloggers' free content. http://www.bnet.com/blog/technology-business/forbescom-don-8217t-steal-our-content-we-took-it-fair-and-square-update/7533

    1. Hi Sheila
      Thanks for your comment.
      I see your point, but what's being done there is not illegal is it? Unethical maybe, but even then, the site chooses to offer RSS feeds. If it feels people are using them to gain financial advantage, it can always turn them off? The Forbes.com post is really interesting isn't it! Reminds me of the way that UK newspapers merrily republished my print features in their online editions without paying me a penny more. One in particular now sells some of that content to 3rd parties. Outrageous.
      I think the context of what I suggest is different.
      If I was curating a space and had used RSS feeds from elsewhere and the owner asked me not to, I'd take them down. But I'd suggest that in the light of my point about being respected and connected the people whose content I'd feature would know me and be happy for me to do so.And finally, I'd suggest to whichever company I was curating the space for that it should not be monetized - no ads to distract people. I was thinking speccifically about DMOS and tour operators who wouldn't carry 3rd party adds anyway.

  4. Jeremy,

    This post explains why I started Top Travel Content Europe:

    Why it hasn't worked as well as I'd hoped?

    I write a daily Featured Post based on a member's post. I thought that the member featured would promote that post (and occasionally other posts that they enjoyed)on Twitter, facebook and SU, but that doesn't often happen. I know if someone featured a Europe a la Carte post in this way, I would give that Featured Post a bit of exposure.

    As I said I don't have the time and energy to focus on another blog, as Europe a la Carte is my flagship.

    1. Hi Karen
      Interesting. I think you are right. To make this idea work I think needs time and commmitment (so for a company engaging a blogger to do it that means paying for a good few days a month and commiting to it).
      One thing I'd envisaged doing differently was having more of a sense of a personality there. The 'curator' is very visible, someone people can relate to and interact with to a degree. Just aggregating is perhaps not enough to get people fully engaged?
      Interesting stuff!
      Thanks for your comments

  5. I'm glad that Matthew Teller already said "but lord, who has the time or resources to invest?" because exactly so. Matthew's right just as a practical matter for those of us who already wearing plenty of hats each week. Now along comes the additional necessity of multi-tasking with connection and curation and what those all entail. So, actually, I'd say for many of us who are invested in more than one medium than just doing our own online website and blog, it's a gradual and incremental process to integrate all that curating and connecting. It's an entirely different challenge if, like me, your working life is configured around contributing to other people's calendars and content needs, versus being part of one team for one outlet or online presence. Again, there are only so many hours in a day, no matter how much the media and travel landscapes change. Use those hours more productively by better developing your own curating and connecting skills wherever you can? No problem, I'd love to - but that takes hours too.

  6. I think you are spot on. As a content creator myself I often wonder at the sheer amount of posts, tweets, article and videos out there and if there was a way to actually cut the crap and get to the good stuff. Your notion of curation really speaks to that.
    Why beat a dead horse? let's work together!

  7. I'm part of a group that works to curate the best of English-language blogs in South Korea - nanoomi.net is a partnership between a media company and bloggers (such as myself) that are invited to join based on track records, quality posts, etc. It sells itself as a 'bridge blog' between English-language and Korean-language bloggers or a 'blog network', but the website (to the average reader) is a great collection of the 'best of the best' posts.

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