What is content curation?

Did you ever think there might be too much information on the internet?

When’s the last time you did a Google search that didn’t return tens of thousands of results?

To profit from this overload of information we need two main skills:

  1. Crap detection – working out what is reliable and what is (accidentally or on purpose) not
  2. Content curation

Curating online content is quite similar to curating an exhibition in a museum or art gallery.

It’s about acquiring interesting things, and displaying and interpreting them in order to inform, educate and inspire your visitors.

Like most activities online, it’s very easy and inexpensive (even when factoring in your time) to curate content.

It’s easy to do well

And even easier to do badly.

There are a great number of tools available to curate digital content.

The ones that work best for me are: Scoopit, Storify and Pinterest.

I am going to look at each of them in turn in a mini blog series on curation.

One of the reasons I’ve chosen these tools is that they are free, easy to use and, critically, preserve the authorship of the content you curate.

Curation should never be confused with plagiarism or theft.

This week’s post focuses on Scoopit.

Why do it?

I’ve written before about how curating online content for others is an effective strategy for developing an organisation’s digital footprint and establishing a reputation for expertise and trust.

It’s a well-recognised approach, advocated and endorsed by such digital engagement luminaries as @hrheingold.

By curating online content, you are demonstrating your organisation’s expertise in a particular topic and providing a service to your members/customers/audience.

Getting started

Scoopit is basically an online tool which lets you curate digital content into an online magazine about a topic of your choice.

It goes without saying that the first key to effective and useful content curation is to select and define a topic of interest.

I use four main criteria:

  1. The topic is clear and obvious to your (potential) audience.
  2. Nobody else is already doing a good job of it – if they are, just direct your audience in the appropriate direction.
  3. There is real value for your audience in curating content – some things are already organised in the most effective ways – football results are curated into league tables.
  4. The topic is of sufficient and on-going interest.

I curate information about 5 topics on Scoopit but the ones which have gathered the most interest are:

Naloxone (a drug which can reverse heroin overdoses and save lives)

The reviews of Probation Services and Community Sentences

Police & Crime Commissioners

Since the PCC online magazine is the most topical, and the most popular, (it has received over 13,000 views in the six months of it’s existence), I will use it to illustrate how you can use Scoopit.



How to add content

Scoopit allows you to add content in four main ways:

  1. Once you have defined your topic, Scoopit searches for content on the web and suggests it to you on a daily basis
  2. You can download a bookmarklet to your web browser which enables you to scoop direct from any web page (this is the method I use most)
  3. You can re-scoop content from other Scoopit magazines
  4. You can simply write your own content and upload it

One of the great attractions for me is that you can Scoop a whole range of different sorts of content.

As well as articles from websites, you can scoop PDF files which you can view and scroll through directly from the magazine.

You can also Scoop YouTube videos which will play from within the magazine.

Curation is about assembling interesting material in one place, so the fact that people can browse through your specialist museum with ease is important.

Selecting content

Being an effective curator whom people will respect and come back to, means that you should always choose and organise content with care.

When I started, hardly anyone knew about Police and Crime Commissioners and there was very little in the media and I scooped anything & everything that came to hand.

As the campaigns started in earnest after the Olympics, I stopped scooping information about candidates and concentrated on issues with broader relevance such as the role, remit and key qualities for prospective PCCs.

But it was still important to think carefully before adding more content.

There was a period when about half of all the media coverage of PCCs, both in the national press and on blogs,  was either predicting low turnout or expressing concern about the politicisation of the police.

Although I scooped a lot of these articles, I ignored many more.

It’s important to remember that curating is a lot more than just collecting.

Drawing attention to your content

When you click on the bookmarklet it will automatically populate the key fields:

Occasionally these fields will be just what you want.

Much more often, you will want to replace it with your own content.

Write your own headline both to draw attention to the content and make it clear what it’s about.

Cut and paste the most interesting paragraph of the article to encourage your audience to read the whole article.

Change the image to something more striking or appropriate (Scoopit makes it easy to upload your own).

Even more important is to add the author’s twitter handle so that you can let them know you are curating them and encourage them to check out your magazine.

Often this does involve a quick search on Twitter, but it’s a critical step if what you are doing is not just curating content but assembling an expert audience to consume it.

If someone has written something that is relevant to your topic, they might well want to follow your magazine and share it with others with the same interest.

As you can see, one of the great benefits of Scoopit is that it makes it very easy for you to share your curated content to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (and LinkedIn groups) as well as WordPress and Tumblr.

Organising content

It’s also important that you organise content with care.

Scoopit does not allow the same level of organisation as your own blog or website and if you’re not careful, the whole thing can start to look a bit jumbled.

However, there are two key things that you can do.

You can pin the most interesting article (or the one that you wrote yourself!) to the top left of the magazine, the most prominent position (in the same way as you can on a Facebook page).

You can also move articles about. This is particularly important once your magazine gets to being several pages long (my PCC Scoopit now has over 700 posts and more than 30 pages).

You can group articles together and remind readers that there is a simple filter button on the front page of every Scoopit magazine so they can search for what they want.

What’s in it for my organisation?

I think there are three primary advantages to your organisation of curating expert content:

  1. Providing  a service for your clients/members/stakeholders
  2. Demonstrating & advertising your expertise
  3. Developing relationships and alliances with others

Sam Chapman, @topofthecopscom, has run a very successful website about Police & Crime Commissioners since January 2012.

I scooped lots of his material to my site and always acknowledged it. When people clicked on anything of Sam’s that I curated, they go straight to his site.

It’s a very straightforward Win-Win.

I get good content for my audience, Sam gets a bigger audience for his site.


Next week I will be posting about Storify.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about digital curation you could check out a couple of real experts in the field: Beth Kanter and Robin Good.

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