The line between marketing and journalism continues to blur. But regardless of which side of the line content lands on, accuracy is critical. As content curation emerges as an important newsgathering method, journalists and marketing teams alike must stay vigilant in their quest for clean, trustworthy and relevant content.
Last spring, Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) released a report that explores content curation as a new form of journalism. The findings of Newsroom Curators & Independent Storytellers are especially important for marketers searching for ways to maximize their resources and budgets with curation efforts. The RISJ’s report defines curation, gives its history (much longer than one might think), provides modern examples of content curation in news and offers brief discussion of trends and conclusions.
Pros and cons
What makes content curation most attractive is its ability to help publications cover a broad range of topics. It also allows content to be sourced from a variety of contributors—during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests, several mainstream news outlets relied on user-generated content (UGC) from social media sites like Twitter to fuel their news cycles.
But like journalistic publications, marketers using content curation and promotion must take special care with fact-checking and attribution. While UGC is a useful tool for marketers, the risk of misinformation rises when third-party UGC is used. Without proper attribution of content, a brand runs the risk of stealing content,and improper fact-checking can align a brand with wrong or harmful information.
An important lesson
No matter how diligent a marketing team aims to be, it’s still possible for bad information to slip through the cracks; that’s why research and fact-checking are so important to the content curation process. A brand’s online reputation can take years to build and just a single tweet or Facebook post to destroy.
The RISJ report details an example of how even the most respected news outlets can be fooled: The Washington Post has a team of eight people dedicated to social news gathering, and they also are responsible for ensuring UGC is legitimate. Nonetheless, the Post and several other news organizations were duped by a blogger who claimed to be a gay Syrian woman, when the author of the blog was a married man living in Atlanta, Georgia. The Post recovered from this flap, but a brand looking to build a positive reputation online might not survive a blunder that big.
Advice from the author
Federico Guerrini, author of the RISJ report, suggests that journalists proceed with caution when using tools like social media to curate news. Brands and marketing teams should follow suit, making sure that the content they curate aligns with their message and is as trustworthy as possible.
“The best option, in my opinion, when posting on social media, is to let facts speak for themselves, to show, not to tell; and always keep in mind firstly, that your message could easily be amplified or distorted, and secondly, that readers are often more keen on spotting mistakes and fallacies than on praising a good job.”
Types of curation and curation tools
The tools of effective content curation tend toward the social—so marketers must invest time in monitoring social channels. But the range of tools can offer marketers a wealth of information and content:
Liveblogging is a hybrid of news reporting and curation (as can be seen on SCOTUSblog, when the U.S. Supreme Court is in session).
Storify consists of a content management system (CMS) that allows users to search Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other media for specific keywords. It also allows users to insert text between embedded elements.
ScribbleLive is better for breaking news, and big news organizations rely on it to flesh-out a story with UGC. Users can also update content from mobile devices.
Storyful curates Twitters lists and videos related to breaking news, and it secures permission to use videos; subscribers get an email alert when a user-generated video has been approved for use.
TweetDeck is useful for sorting Twitter updates into columns related to keywords, but for in-depth projects – especially those requiring historical data – curators may need to access Twitter’s internal database (Twitter’s search engine reviews only the most recent 3,200 tweets from any user).
Last year’s RISJ report gave journalists a roadmap to successful content curation, complete with potential roadblocks. It’s up to marketers to take the lessons in the report and apply them to accurate, effective and ethical content curation.
Jenny Montgomery contributed to this post.
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