Curating content (Finding meaning in our post-fact era)

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In the age of too much information (TMI), the demand for curated content is increasing. There are free tools and there are paid services that are available.

My favorites would include Flipboard, Pocket, and the now-defunct Storify. These services are either accessible on the web or as a mobile app. These services are meant to help you gather content and organize them based on topics, interests, issues, or on specific moods.

Flipboard, which has been around for sometime, has been my default service for discovering the latest stories about certain topics. On Flipboard, you can curate content into magazine-like collections, which you can flip through.

Pocket, on the other hand, started out as a bookmarking service. However, it has evolved from a service where you can collect stories to an alternative source of discovering content coming from people you follow. It is also a “read-it-later” service, similar to Digg or defunct bookmarking services.

Content curation in journalism

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Content curation is not new in the field of journalism. Yes, journalism has been skewed towards creating stories or content. But editors are tasked to decide how stories are organized.

Content curation is defined as “the process of gathering information relevant to a particular topic or area of interest.” I first heard about the word curation in museums. Curators were a group of experts tasked to choose a collection of content they believe would make for a good story. Just like how editors would choose a collection of stories compiled in an anthology, curators would use their own judgment in selecting content. The criteria for choosing content would depend on the overall story or effect that you want to convey to your audience. So, it’s important that you know your audience for maximum impact. In short, good curated content are meant to elicit an emotional response.

The challenge of context in curation

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In today’s terms, content curation requires wading through mass amounts of information or data, and making sense of it.

“In simple terms, the process of content curation is the act of sorting through large amounts of content on the web and presenting the best posts in a meaningful and organized way. The process can include sifting, sorting, arranging, and placing found content into specific themes, and then publishing that information,” a blog post on Hootsuite said.

Content curation stresses on the need to deliver content that is both “meaningful” and “organized.” Yes people, meaningful and organized.

Journalistic curators

For years, content curation has been the domain of professionals. Among them are editors, managing editors, producers and film directors who are able to do because of their years of experience. For editors, content curation is equal to news judgment. They decide what stories would be headline-worthy. They set the agenda. They decide what’s interesting, what’s not.

However, with the explosion of the content on social media and the Internet, and the development of services like Flipboard or Storify, consumers of content have become pseudo-curators of content too.

By simply “flipping” or “sharing” a story on a mobile phone app like Flipboard, followers and friends are provided handpicked content. A story Mashable adds:

But with the push of social media and advancements in communications technology, the curator has become a journalist by proxy. They are not on the front lines, covering a particular beat or industry, or filing a story themselves, but they are responding to a reader need. With a torrent of content emanating from innumerable sources (blogs, mainstream media, social networks), a vacuum has been created between reporter and reader — or information gatherer and information seeker — where having a trusted human editor to help sort out all this information has become as necessary as those who file the initial report.

Social media has indeed filled the void for curated content. From manicured content on Instagram to random Facebook status on your friends’ feeds, these curated content are becoming substitutes for media content diet that was once churned by professionals.

We now turn to so-called to amateurs who are churning real-time content from their bedrooms. Like the reporters or the broadcast journalists, they possess the tools of reporting and documentation and the network — the Internet. They essentially become media themselves.

This Mashable story explains further:

Unlike a reporter who is immersed in a particular industry or beat, a curator often has a day job. Some are in the media industry and have access to their publication’s news sources; others are obsessed with the news and want to provide their network, community or followers with what they think is important. But the common thread between curators is that they are viewed as trustworthy sources of information.

Why curated content is important (and how you should go about doing it)

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There’s just too much content out there. We need “tour guides” to point us to the right direction. We need decent human beings who can help us curate content for us.

Here are some criteria to follow if you want to become a content curator:

  1. Be transparent. Always cite your sources. And clearly state your intent in content curation. Your goal is not to mislead people. You’re a navigator.
  2. Be consistent. Since you will soon have people following you, you have to keep a stream of good, curated content. People don’t like thrash content. They like something substantial and useful. Best to over communicate than lead them to nothing but frustration.
  3. Be accurate. Check your sources. Avoid fake stories. Delete click-baits. You’re goal is to also inform your followers and readers with the most accurate and well-research content that is out there. Your integrity is your currency.
  4. Be interesting. People don’t like boring content. Vary the content you curate. Add videos, text, and white papers. People also love more visual content (interactive websites) and podcasts would also prove useful.
  5. Provide context, but avoid injecting too much opinion. Curated content becomes meaningful if people are provided context. It’s like allowing people to peek behind-the-scenes. Allowing them to understand where you’re coming from will help them understand your story.

 This post was originally published on Medium.

4 “lazy” ways of finding news

You don’t look for news. News finds you.

But if you’re “lazy” (and I put that in quotes), grab these apps or subscribe to these services. This list will keep you posted on what’s happening around you without even trying.

1. Flipboard:  It’s an app available on both an Android and on an iPhone. As the app is advertised, it’s a personal magazine that allows you to catch up on news “on the fly.” You just need to select topics of interest, social networks, and personal magazines created by people to find out what’s up in the universe. In fact, Facebook is now devising its own version, dubbed “Reader.” What’s good about Flipboard is that it’s curated content, meaning they’re handpicked content. This saves you a lot of time of searching for articles you want. Version 2 now allows you to even share and read what others are “flipping.” So go ahead, and download this app.

2. Spundge. They say this is like Pinterest meet Evernote. But it’s more than that. It’s a service that allows you to become a content curator, and still keep your computer clutter in check. One of the curses of the Internet is there’s too much information to curate now. We may be reading the same things. So the service adds another layer: collaboration. Spundge allows you to create “notebooks” that contains all important bookmarks, content, and other information you need. If you want people to know what you’re reading, Spundge allows you to share your notebooks.

3. Zite. It’s a magazine that gets smarter the more you use it–that’s the pitch for this app. Indeed, it is. I have been using Zite–and have depended on it for my breaking news every day (until I switched to Fliboard). Zite is a personalized magazine that allows you to discover more content based on your interests. Zite’s secret sauce is an algorithm that depends on your preference. Once you find an article you like, you’re asked to press “heart” and the system remembers it. Next time you’re back, it shows more topics of your choice. So it learns the more you heart articles. Another feature that I like here is the thumbs down–which only means the system will show less of that topic next time you open it. Cool, right?

4. Prismatic. Similar to Zite, Prismatic curates content based on your interests. You can log on using your social networks too. In my case, I used my Facebook account to log-on. It’s filtering system allows you to find the signal in all the noise. Honestly, I have not been using this service as much as the 3 other services mentioned above. Prismatic, however, has a powerful engine under its hood. As its co-founder Bradford Cross explains in a GigaOm article: “It’s not just about personalization… it’s about how media is consumed now. In the old days, you could just go to the New York Times and get all your news, or whatever. But that’s not the case any more, and it will likely never be the case again. The news is all distributed now, to a thousand different places.” So let’s see how this service pans out. Maybe I will like it soon. Initial reviews indicate that relevancy of content in this service is among its top features.

There are more similar apps and services out there. But these are perhaps the most that my attention can handle or I get more clutter on my mobile device this time.

What about you, do you have apps you wish to add to this list?