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.

Quo vadis, Philippine cinema?

20150227_154035Today, I heard one of the most revealing truths about Philippine cinema. It’s not dead or dying. It is just, well, polarized.

As I endured the cold Teresa Yuchengco Auditorium at the De La Salle University, Filipino director and professorial lecturer Jose Javier Reyes warmed up the place with his no-holds-barred talk about Philippine cinema and movies. There is apparently a distinction between a film and a movie; the latter is a product that is meant to be sold. Speaking before students, faculty and guests at the 1st DLSU Communications Conference, Reyes began his exposition with questions about the top grossing films in the Philippines. Then, he went on to reveal how much money did the Metro Manila Film Festival make–it was about PhP 1.1 billion. And the top grossing films? Let’s just say, they are mostly romcoms, produced primarily by a dominant studio, which also happens to be producing the most popular stars in movies and on television.

Reyes’ talk focused on how BIG studios today dictate how movies are made, and how economics play a big part in the distribution and production of these movies in cinemas. Contrast that to indie films which, by the way, is not a genre but a business model that simply means films not produced by BIG outfits. The success of English Only, Please and the recent That Thing Called Tadhana–films which Reyes dubbed as “maindies,” have succeeded despite it being produced by smaller outfits.

Indie films are often misconstrued as art or experimental films that only the intellectual moviegoers appreciate. Unfortunately, many Philippine indie films don’t have the marketing muscle and distribution that BIG studio-produced films have, thus are often not making enough money, or worse, forgotten and pulled down from cinemas after less than a week of public showing. Think of Bwakaw.

Reyes argued that Philippine cinema is polarized between movies that are produced as products that sell versus movies that are made by independent outfits that are often only seen in Cinemalaya or, rarely, in short-runs in local cinemas. The top-grossing films in Philippine cinema of all time are produced by BIG studios that feature popular celebrities (who mostly got popular on television), and a well-known director who has mastered the kiliti of the masses. Every year, this has been the case, until some films like English Only, Please break out of the mold. English Only, Please is a romcom that is independently produced. It has also won awards, and has made its producers money, according to Reyes.

The truth is, Philippine cinema does not need to be mind-numbing and crass to be able to make money. There are good films out there–many are even winning awards abroad, but since BIG outfits control the distribution and cinemas, the audience only get to see films that are formulaic.

Reyes stressed that films can and should entertain. But, as it entertains, it should also INNOVATE, REDISCOVER, and REDEFINE Philippine cinema. Innovate perhaps in terms of distribution and production (there’s always digital media waiting to be tapped). Rediscover means the industry being able to figure out ways to showcase local indie filmmakers in cinemas or via digital distribution. Redefine: This is an area where Reyes gets fired up: Philippine movies shouldn’t be classified as indie or mainstream. There should only be one: Philippine cinema, just like Bollywood.






Why digital media is like two people chatting over coffee

78556382I have this image of two people chatting over coffee whenever I try to explain the communication model behind digital media. So the Sender is also the Receiver. And they both engage in a conversation, providing each other messages that are sent back and forth, producing feedback. Sometimes, there’s interference (e.g. someone good looking walks by and distracts you for a second).

I also have this other image of digital media. It’s like that old-school stock market. It’s noisy, people are screaming, but there seems to be order in this chaos. The people use gestures or visual aids, and certain codes to transmit their message.

Defining media in the age of social and the Internet is becoming more difficult as the lines between sender/receiver, message/noise– are blurred. There’s this other image, which Eli Pariser has proposed: imagine big bubbles that contain smaller bubbles. Each bubble is a “filter” that contains the message within that space. And there exists millions of these so-called filter bubbles.

Social media networks like Facebook are considered filter bubbles that are powered by algorithm. This algo learns from your behavior. From that, it now predicts stories that you may want to read, and it pushes it into your feeds. Eventually, you’ll end up reading things that you only like, limiting your exposure to perspectives that you disagree with.

Today, I gave my students readings, which others may label, TL;DR. Yes, they were too long; didn’t read-types of readings.

There was this work by Dan Gillmor, called the We The Media, which introduced the idea of citizen or grassroots journalism. It was a seminal work, which captured the significant developments in digital media.

When this book (We the Media) was in its earliest stages, the author, a respected Silicon Valley journalist, posted an initial outline on his weblog, asking for comments. He was besieged with emails offering suggestions and advice. More, in fact, than he could handle. Later, he posted draft chapters as they were finished. One reader, the publisher of a small newspaper in upstate New York, whom he had never met, sent back a draft chapter dripping with digital red ink, commenting: “The time is right; the subject is right. But your book deserves to be better than this.”

I also shared a recent lecture by Emily Bells delivered during the 2015 Hugh Cudlipp lecture. She described the “tabloidization” of today’s journalism, thanks to the boom of “listacles” (list-articles) and click-baits, which combined screaming, exaggerated headlines that jumped out and grabbed you by the neck, making you click. But once you’re in, there was nothing but fluff and a gallery of gifs added to keep you staring at the screen longer.

Tonight I want to talk to you about the ‘Digital Tabloid’.

What is happening to popular journalism on the web. Tabloids always had the biggest reach, the largest impact, the most flexible standards. On the web, however, we are seeing the tabloidisation of everything. I don’t mean this as a negative. Far from it. All news outlets need numbers in the web economy that are vastly greater than they had in an analogue world firstly to make the economics work and secondly to have an impact. The demands of web scale economics have torpedoed the local news model; they have also driven great invention and a new set of entrepreneurial skills into journalism.

Then, I provided my students an interesting white paper and video clip about BBC, which is now trying to figure out its future. It talked about the evolving mediums, and changing media habits. It collected opinions and insights from experts, including one that said that having your newspaper delivered in your doorstep is a practice that has disappeared. BBC is traditional media that we all associate to mass media. BBC is one of the old giants in the UK that is hoping to catch on with the smaller and nimbler players that don’t carry extra baggage.

As I went on to explain why do we need to understand where media was coming from by looking at its definition, I was hoping to make them think about other means to effectively attract and address the need of end-users through the technology that we have today.

There’s this concept of “shovelware,” where traditional media extracts what it has on its traditional medium and brings it to the newer medium. Many news websites still look like the newspapers. Before breaking news, liveblogs, and live tweets were a norm, online news websites took what it had on print, and just put everything online. That’s shovelware. It’s content that is only transformed to digital without adding any value to it; it’s almost static.

Our concept of media today has changed dramatically. Even the players have. I went around the room asking each student about their main source of news these days. The top two sources were Facebook & Twitter. No surprise there. Tell this to traditional news editors of newspapers or TV, and they would cringe at the idea that no one bothers to go to their website to check the news.

It is also becoming more evident that WE THE PEOPLE, are increasingly consuming news the way we consume snacks. We snack on news everyday, thanks to our mobile phones, which are replacing our desktops, tablets, and of course traditional media. There were a few students still reading newspapers and listening to radio. Their reasons: their parents listen to it, specially in the case of radio.

So I go back to the main point of this article, which starts with an image of two people chatting over a cup of coffee. That’s my idea of digital media, and the way I define it hangs on that metaphor. But is that enough to explain what is happening to our digital universe? What about the NOISE?

In the BBC video, Jeff Jarvis talks about journalism addressing the needs of its audience. It is a concept that he espouses. He argues that journalism should understand the needs of a community, first. Once that’s done, then we look to technology as tools to address those needs. In that way, you establish a better relationship with your audience. It’s no longer about producing clicks, page views, and time-spent on videos that feature cats & cute babies.

Listening is also important in digital media–and that’ the next topic of a series of lectures in class. For now, enjoy this video done in 2004. It’s fiction, but it speculates on the future–that is 2015.