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The C Word

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

“Curation” shouldn’t be a dirty word, but it is.

In the last decade, it has come to mean slapped-together-links, or outright-stolen content, used to fill space and capture just enough attention to convert free onlookers into consumers.

There’s a lot of truth behind that association. In fact, I’d say that’s how the majority of corporate newsletters get approved to be made in the first place: cheap, easy content for engagement with the brand.

I think that association is about to change in a big way.

Curation is the future for creators. It has to be.

Why curation is the future

  1. Editors are needed more than creators. The crush of mediocre human-made content, combined with bland AI-generated content, will only increase. We need picky people with fine-tuned BS detectors to comb through it all and surface the good stuff.
  2. It’s never about you. No one really cares about you (in this context). Readers are looking for a variety of answers for a variety of problems. Think of it as a lottery. You can try to get attention from a headline and have one chance to connect with your readers. Or, you can offer several interesting headlines from multiple sources, increasing your odds that something will speak to your reader enough to be considered useful. Useful is the coin of this realm.
  3. But everyone cares that there is a “you.” Humanized content beats  “personalized” content. Your voice matters. It’s your differentiator. All curation rests on the reputation and voice of the person doing the curation. This will take bigger companies too long to figure out.
  4. Sharing is powerful. Finding the best content fills your personal network with the best creators. It does the same for readers. There’s nothing more valuable than being the hub of those connections.
  5. Companies think it’s easy. If you’re a freelancer, this could be a way to get your foot in the door. Charging for the real amount of work involved? Good luck with that part.
  6. Curation is also the future of content on a larger scale. Pillar pages and topic-based, organized archives are killing off chronological archives on websites. This is mostly because of SEO now, but for a generation that has grown up with algorithmic consumption, we have an opportunity to treat them to old fashionable human-curated resources, organized by topic, going back years. They’ll have no idea why the experience is so much better. It just will be. This is the way forward.

Why curation isn’t seen as the future

  1. It’s harder to do right. If you’ve done it right, you know. This is the hardest content to create consistently at a high level.
  2. It takes longer – way longer than you think. In the best corporate environments, you’ll find teams arguing over the best links – fighting for their favorites. That’s before copy and design get involved. It takes a serious amount of time to be valuable to the reader.
  3. It’s more expensive if you have a team. See the above. More time means more money. The price of curation grows with the size of the organization doing the curation. This is great news for individuals. This is your competitive advantage over the biggest of corporations.
  4. It can lead to burnout quickly if you don’t have a process. Process is everything with curation.
  5. Processes are expensive. Spending more time and money on something related to the thing, without actually being the thing, is a tough sell. But in curation, a good process will save you hours on every piece of content. For an individual, it takes almost nothing to decide on a process and maybe a few hours to implement it. For a company, the price gets steep pretty fast.

Curation favors individual humans being useful to other individual humans.

It’s the simplest form of content in concept. It’s the hardest to execute in practice. That’s an enormous opportunity for creators to stand out in any industry.