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Content Curation – When Did It Begin?

Content Marketing

If you’re doing any reading about Content Curation as part of an overall content marketing strategy, you sometimes see writers referring to this as something new. I remember when I started really getting interested in it back in 2011. So is it new? When did content curation begin to be included as a content marketing strategy?

When did Content Curation Begin?

Actually, it’s a pretty broad question, so let’s narrow it down to this: when did Content Curation begin to be discussed as a strategic content marketing tactic? I turned to our good friend Google, using time-sensitive searches to see what I could find.

  • 1998 – Nothing (data curation is a different issue).
  • 1999 – Nothing
  • 2000 – References to curation of content for libraries (no marketing).
  • 2001 – Nothing
  • 2002 – Nothing
  • 2003 – O.K., you’re getting the idea, right? I spent a LOT of time trying to locate that “first mention”.
  • 2006 – I’m going to include Carlos Granier’s article about the need for editors as an “early seed” in the emergence of the content curation discussion. He doesn’t refer to curation, but he’s wrestling with information overload, and the need to “quickly find the good bits of content in a world of endless [supply of] content”.
  • It’s not until 2007 that we begin to find embryonic thoughts about ‘curation’ as a content marketing tactic.

I certainly cannot prove that I’ve found the earliest ‘seed thoughts’, but I believe I’ve found some of them, and want to record them here for those of us that wonder about the beginnings of something that’s become a powerful, mainline trend in the overall scope of content marketing.

Content Curation: Earliest Thoughts

  1. February, 2007; Jeff Jarvis. He was talking about the ‘re-architecture of news‘, and did not even use the word “curation” or “curate” in the article. But I believe that Jeff Jarvis was barking up the curation tree. He observes the “news bombardment” that we were all beginning to experience, and the fact that people were going to find preferred sources for their news; places they could go, trusting that they’d find the news they were really looking for. He explained that the best service we can do for our readers, is offer them the best information, whether that’s something we create ourselves, or it’s someone else’s creation. It’s a very interesting article, with interesting comments (comments from 6 years ago!). He’s clearly wrestling with the beginnings of content creation. Read it!
    By the way, I contacted Jeff, and I really appreciated his humble comment and further insight on curation. Here’s Jeff Jarvis’ note to me:Ron,

    One never claims coinage for online an earlier usage can always be found!

    I would like to think I was early into a word that is now, I’ll confess, overused. What this thinking really led to is what became my most quoted line: “Do what you do best and link to the rest.” Actually, in the first instance, I said, “cover“.Content Curation – When Did It Begin? image when did content curation begin sorting 300x202

    So curation fits into a larger context: It’s not just about aggregating and selecting links around a topic, it’s also about the opportunity to specialize and contribute to an ecosystem of information, finding efficiency, improving quality, and so on.

    best,

    jeff

  2. February, 2008; Steve Rubel. I have plenty of references to Rubel’s article, because it set off quite a bit of commentary. It’s a hard-to-locate post, but Steve sent me this link. Steve wrote about the “Digital Curator in Your Future”. He wasn’t just an “early thought leader”, he was actually right on the money in what he was anticipating! Here is a quote from his article that shows me that he’s talking about what we now call the Content Curator:
    The call of the curator requires people who are selfless and willing to act as sherpas and guides. They’re identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts. Digital Curators are the future of online content. Digital Curators are the future of online content. Brands, media companies and dedicated individuals can all become curators. Further, they don’t even need to create their own content, just as a museum curator rarely hangs his/her own work next to a Da Vinci. They do, however, need to be subject matter experts. (emphasis mine)

That’s exactly the mindset that eventually became known as “content Content Curation – When Did It Begin? image when did content curation begin 300x199curation”. If you’re interested, just take a look at some of the articles and comments that were spawned by Steve’s article. It gives you a good look at how fresh the idea was back in 2008.

Content Curation: A Developing Concept

Joseph Bachana’s post, in December of 2008, reflects the kind of thinking that was going on a year later: people starting to get used to the idea of using “curation” as a term to describe the practice of pulling together excellent content, and displaying for people in a particular context. A few quotes from Bachana show us what ‘early wrestling’ with the concept of content curation looked like:

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My friend recently used a term that I had not considered before in the context of vetting all of these materials across a range of categories. She said that this content needs to be ‘curated.’…

It occurs to me that content is far more than text these days — you are able to find images, video, and various kinds of textual content types (wiki, bliki, blog, microblog, forum, article/story, etc) that are all interrelated, all require some authentication, and all must be tied together in some cohesive way. This is beyond the work of an editor, in my mind, and in fact may approach more of the work that a curator performs…

It also occurs to me as I spend far more time on twitter, socialmedian, digg and other social-media sites that ‘mavens’ — those we follow who are the rockstars of these platforms — are essentially curating content for us all. We would need an endless number of lifetimes to read all the content available to us on the Web, even with the available filtering technologies that search engines offer us. However, the social-media rockstar (whats a good term for those people? they’re not making news so much as filtering it and presenting it back to the rest of us) are filtering out the content — presenting important content, sorting the relevant from the meaningless or inaccurate and debunking the latter…

If [a person] begins to select feeds of content and organize it on a platform — say like Guy Kawasaki is attempting to do with alltop.com or Jason Goldberg is allowing participants in his social network platform socialmedian to do for themselves, are these not examples of content curation? No one on Alltop or socialmedian or digg for that matter is doing any editorial work on the content. They are simply selecting what is valuable or interesting or relevant, then asking the masses to rate that content and comment on it. What a remarkable trend when you consider that the combined forces of the thought leader with the vox populi can validate the quality and relevance of content like never before in history…

Let me know if I’m stretching on this one…this idea is just developing in my mind so if you’ve thought this through I’d love to hear your comments/feedback. (Dec 2, 2008)

Wow, “socialmedian” is gone, and Guy Kawasaki has successfully gone WAY beyond “attempting’ to put AllTop together! We’ve come a long way, but I think Joseph Bachana did a good job of wrestling with the conceptualization of Content Curation.

Erin Scime; December, 2009. One other article I want to include in this section is a December, 2009 article by Erin Scime called, “The Content Strategist as Digital Curator“. Erin gives a rather scholarly, insightful view of content curation, and I believe she reflects a further refining of what content curation is, and how it should be understood. She did it just before 2010, so I still consider her’s a important contribution to the development of Content Curation as a marketing technique. Here’s an excerpt:

The term “curate” is the interactive world’s new buzzword. During content creation and governance discussions, client pitches and creative brainstorms, I’ve watched this word gain traction at almost warp speed. As a transplant from museums and libraries into interactive media, I can’t help but ask what is it about this word that deserves redefinition for the web?

Content Curation: Central to Content Marketing

Once you get into 2010 and onward, Content Curation becomes more and more the “normal” way to talk about the technique (art?) of filtering the overwhelming volume of content, and providing a particular context for it in order to serve your readers.

We begin to see people like Seth Godin, Steve Rosenbaum, Robert Scoble and others that do the hard work of distilling, analyzing further, articulating the definitions, sharing models, and promoting further development.

Content Curation is truly in the CENTER of many content marketing discussions today. Depending on how you define it, your curation efforts will be designed to ‘support’ or ‘carry’ or ‘enhance’ or ‘speed up’ your overall content marketing objectives. It’s in the middle of all we do now, and it’s about time people stop thinking of it as a “new technique”!

Now it’s your turn!

Please react to these ideas, and participate with a comment. And sign up for email alerts so you’ll get a notice when we post new content. Thanks!

Comments on this Article: 6

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  1. Robin Good says:

    Hello Ron, excellent job. Thanks for researching and posting this valuable article.

    If you are seriously looking into the roots of this evolution, beyond the specifics of word usage, you may want to look also into these articles which I authored and which were published a few years before most of the public discourse about news and content curation did emerge.

    1) 2008 – http://www.masternewmedia.org/what_is_newsmastering_and_what_are_newsradars/

    2) 2006 – http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2006/05/24/the_human_news_aggregator_an.htm

    3) 2004 – http://www.masternewmedia.org/2004/03/02/the_rss_newsmaster.htm

  2. Robin Good says:

    Scoble himself has been a very early curator and evangelist of such approach.

    Back in 2004 he wrote: “It’s the new marketing, er trolling. Instead of being desperate and saying “look at me look at me” you tell your readers to get lost. Go someplace else.

    What’s the philosophy? Those sites will take you to the coolest stuff on the Internet. with is post about “sending your readers away”.

    (Source: http://radio-weblogs.com/0001011/2004/10/31.html#a8544)

  3. Robin. Thanks a ton for the input here. I’m going to continue this discussion on my blog (where the original post is), and make the changes you’ve alerted me to. I can’t believe I forgot to include you in the developmental history, Robin. Sorry!
    For the rest, go to: http://ronvanpeursem.com/2013/03/when-did-content-curation-begin/

  4. I UPDATED THIS POST AFTER GETTING SOME EXCELLENT INPUT ABOUT THE EARLY YEARS (2003/2004). PLEASE READ THE UPDATED POST HERE: http://ronvanpeursem.com/2013/03/when-did-content-curation-begin/

  5. Ron, thought provoking piece to be sure. I just wanted to let you know that Pearltrees was perhaps the very first product/platform specifically dedicated to curation for curation’s sake. The product was conceived in 2007 and went into open beta at LeWeb in 2009. We continue to iterate and innovate today and in fact have a new release coming out tomorrow that we called “Bottecelli” internally since the main focus has been on transforming the product into something truly beautiful, a library that itself is a work of art.

    In addition, with 50,000,000 objects organized into 6,000,000 curated collections we’re perhaps the largest crowd-sourced library in the world.

    It would be great if you’d take a look at the product and if you feel like reviewing the latest version shoot me an email and I’ll send you the release and some screen shots.

    Sincerely,

    Oliver Starr

  6. Oliver, thanks for the input and helpful background. I have taken a look at PearlTrees, and gave it once quick ‘test flight’, but have to admit, I didn’t really give it a decent shot. Hey, please transfer your comment over to my own blog, where my article actually gives a fuller treatment of this subject. You and I can continue our conversation there.
    Thanks, Oliver!

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