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

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

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

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels

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.

New job, new challenges, new people (Or the lessons I’ve learned from being a marketer)

The “standard” photo-op (that’s me in the middle, standing) on my last day.

(Original is published from Medium).

It has been more than a month since I assumed a new role in a new organization. It was a bittersweet ending to a long stint in an company that I have once called home. For four years and four months, I have grown and learned a lot. I also made new friends who were sad to see me go.

Being in an organization that moved fast, there were high and low times. What kept me going were people who stuck with me during the good and not so good times. Now, I’m starting all over and assuming a different new role with an organization that has bet on me.

Build, build, build

Over the years, I have been accidentally moving from one role to another. I am a journalist by education and training. I was molded to work and think fast, and to deliver under a tight deadline. I was expected to get things out as quickly as possible. It was a mindset of “First-in, First-out.” It was a world of get-your-facts-straight- quick-and-publish!

From traditional journalism, I later found myself working for one of the first online news organizations, where I further honed my journalistic chops. I got to experience technology and the growth of the Internet, first-hand. I was among the few journalists who had access to mobile devices enabled with the Internet (remember the Blackberry and the Palm devices?) Those tools helped push me to write and create content at the speed of thought.

My exposure and love for technology soon landed me another job. I was hired to build and lead a news organization under a popular but aging Internet brand. I was tasked to put together a team who would man several websites aimed at generating different audiences online. The goal: drive and generate traffic to a website using a combination of original and aggregated content. My journalism training paid off, but I realized I had gaps in my skills. I learned that “content does not grow on trees.” I had to figure how to “connect the dots.” I decided to call it quits after several years.

Can you do product development?

We’re quick to blame technology, but it is really us who is at fault. (Meme taken on the Internet)

Let’s fast-forward to the day that I got a call from a former colleague. In this call, I was asked to consider joining a team of people that would lead innovations in a gargantuan organization. I didn’t hesitate. I signed up!

So, I took on a new job — a job that was way out of my league: product development. I was tasked to think about the future and understand how people behaved. It was my job to understand consumers to help design digital products and services that would allow this organization to sell hardware products. It sounded simple, but it was not. I was taught to think of tasks as projects. Each project had a start and a finish. Each had specific business objectives. Each had results that we had to measure. Everything that I was doing had a bottom-line: sales.

No excuses.

Learning by osmosis

I had to learn fast to survive my new job. I learned by doing. There was no TRAINING. There were no books, nor guides for me to follow. But I had great mentors and colleagues who showed me the ropes. I stumbled. I fumbled. I sucked. But with failure came wins. They were not quick ones, but they provided me good insights on what product development meant.

Product development apparently was just like journalism. You needed time to gather the information and validate them. And when you’re ready, you need to use those information to create a story. It was this STORY that had to be organized in a familiar or surprising way to convince a target audience that what they’re buying was something they wanted. While journalism was in the business of selling news and content, product development and marketing was in the business of selling products as stories that customers can engaged with.

Dilbert image (Sourced from: https://insightovation.com/new-product-development-2/)

Landing a marketing job

After my stint in product development, I was appointed to do digital marketing. This was where I learned to drop the journalistic mindset of “first-in, first-out” when churning content.

Marketers had to follow a process and a calendar of activities. Activities were driven by the need to either generate awareness or to convert people from spectators to loyal customers and fans. There were a lot of planning and meetings required (and alignment, to boot). In journalism, especially in the field, you just had to wing it, and hopefully gather as much information that you could turn into a story.

Marketers had to understand and establish their target audience; figure out a communication plan and develop content that would engage the target audience; and finally, execute the plan and measure the results.

In marketing, I learned that we needed to “start with the end in mind,” whereas journalists were trained to follow their journalistic instincts (thus, the term “nose for news)— unless they were chasing an investigative story that took a lot of planning, research and legwork.

Journalists generated stories at breakneck speeds. Marketers have to make sure stories reached the biggest audience or the “right audience.” Both were storytellers. Marketers, however, have bigger challenges of selling a product, a service, or an idea to a target audience.

Source: https://thefinancialbrand.com/57510/tom-fishburne-funny-marketing-cartoons/

The Storytellers

Journalists, content marketers and communications specialists are all in the same boat. The skills required, and the mindset needed to be able to do fantastic work vary, however. But one that sticks out is the idea that we are all storytellers. The way we tell our stories depend on who we’re talking to — the audience that get hit with brand advertising and news.

We all need to figure things out — fast. Just like journalism, marketers are challenged with the fact that there’s just too much noise — and they need to find the right channel to send their message across. Today, it’s Facebook and Google. Tomorrow, it may be something else.

The biggest lesson that I learned over the years is that being able to clearly communicate, in whatever means, in this day and age, is perhaps the skill that is underestimated or not fully appreciated. This is the same lesson I shared to my communication arts and journalism students. Word.


Editor’s Note: The author is trying to write more than 140 characters a day. He is currently engaged in content for a new set of audiences. But he still forces himself to engage his audience with relevant stories.

2017: My Views Moving Forward

cropped-10277240_10152729199308269_6766472510073464371_n.jpgThe following words are not my predictions of 2017. They are, however, an attempt to put down in words how I see 2017 panning out.

  1. I will continue learning & teaching kids. My strength lies in learning and teaching — and doing it has been both my joy and challenge.
  2. Full-time or part-time, or both? How do you define work these days? Is it a 9-to-5 kind of thing, or is it a series of opportunities where you are tasked to find solutions? (Look up Gig Economy). It’s going to increasingly happen more next year.
  3. Travel and discovery. This is on top of my list. Discover a new place with my wife and kids. It could be another country, or another place where we could drive to.
  4. Active versus passive income. We all need to retire soon. I’m looking at accelerating this plan next year. Here’s to retired at 50.
  5. Family will always come first…before a job or a gig or any material pleasure.
  6. I will finish a race — at least a long swim. Been practicing for more than a year now without clear goals. (Time to learn how to run properly, too.)
  7. Ending my dependence on medication (for diabetes). I picked up a book called “The End of Diabetes” by Joel Fuhrman. I’m still in the first few chapters, but I have recently realized that diabetes is a condition that can be reversed with proper nutrition/diet and complete overhaul of our lifestyles. (No more junk foods and hopefully expensive Starbucks coffee).
  8. Simplify life. It’s a marathon. I will get rid of more junk and unnecessary stuff from my cozy home. Best to move forward with few, simple things in life.
  9. Start a venture. So many ideas up in the air. Need to pluck them out and turn them into reality next year.
  10. Develop a system of “continuing education” for me, my kids and my wife. It could be a regular visit to museum or a tour/experience that we should try together. (Enough of the theme parks and exhilarating rides).

Can’t wait for 2017 to happen!


The author in his best ‘villain-like’ pose.


About the Author: A corporate worker with a 9-to-5 job, he also dabbles on being a part-time professor in a university; a budding entrepreneur trying to iterate ideas into products; an ex-journalist who remains optimistic about the role of media in a post-truth society. He loves time alone to listen to a podcast or to read a book. He also finds time to study new guitar licks from his favorite rock guitar idols.

My top 5 favorite resource for digital publishing

There’s so much information out there. I’m drowning in it everyday. But there are at least five sites that I keep going back to because  of (1) compelling content and insightful writers; (2) variety and practicality stories; (3) useful insights and information you can take with you after reading. Of course, it’s up to you if you act on these information.

NiemanLab: According to this website, “The Nieman Journalism Lab is an attempt to help journalism figure out its future in an Internet age.” Stories here are quite long, but mostly worth the read. TL;DR be damned. “We want to find good ideas for others to steal. We want to help reporters and editors adjust to their online labors; we want to help traditional news organizations find a way to survive; we want to help the new crop of startups that will complement — or supplant — them. We are fundamentally optimistic.”

 Medium.com: My daily diet for stories about technology, the industry, arts, culture, science, money, television, or whatnot. It’s just a treasure trove of good writing in long or short-form. What’s good about Medium is that you can *follow* people and topics, and you can annotate articles via a unique system of commenting. Finally, Medium allows you to become part of this growing community if you pass their standards of writing. From a content consumer, you can become a content producer here.

 Digiday.com: I stumbled upon this site just last year as I was researching on publishing topics. This website is fairly a newcomer. But it features a lot of insights, interviews, and features on brands, publishing, agencies, and digital platforms. The writing is short, some are even in bullet-point style. Lots to bookmark from this site. So, go.

PBS MediaShift:  As the site’s kicker says, this is “Your Guide to the Digital Media Revolution.” There’s so much information here, including your usual “must-reads” on digital publishing, journalism education, links to more resources, etc.

CJR.org. Call me traditional, but this academic website that is produced by the world’s top journalism school remains a daily dose for those wanting to understand the context of media. Insights, commentaries, and news analysis are provided here. Also, they offer fresh and basic perspectives on digital media.

Its mission:

Columbia Journalism Review’s mission is to encourage excellence in journalism in the service of a free society. Founded in 1961 under the auspices of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, CJR monitors and supports the press as it works across all platforms, and also tracks the ongoing evolution of the media business. The magazine, offering a mix of reporting, analysis, and commentary, is published six times a year; CJR.org weighs in daily, hosting a conversation that is open to all who share a commitment to high journalistic standards in the US and around the world.

There you go. If you have your own list of top sites to go to for digital publishing, please do share with me or leave a comment below. Thanks!

Clay Shirky: Social Media and the making of history

This has been one of my favorite Ted Talks of all of time. It comes from Clay Shirky.

From his TED Talks bio:

“Shirky is an adjunct professor in New York Universityʼs graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program, where he teaches a course named “Social Weather.” Heʼs the author of several books. This spring at the TED headquarters in New York, he gave an impassioned talk against SOPA/PIPA that saw 1 million views in 48 hours.”

Watch and learn.