When I read Eric Wittlake‘s post Three Reasons Content Curation is Overrated I found myself in an odd position: I agree with the basic thesis, but I disagree with the arguments he uses to make his case and ultimately with the conclusions he draws.

Let’s start with the agreements. I agree that content curation is often misunderstood and, therefore, misused as a shortcut to thought leadership. And I have no quarrel with the point that you need to create your own content that articulates your vision in order to establish thought leadership.

However, I would say it differently.

Thought leadership is about demonstrating clarity of vision and in order to establish it you need to create content that expresses that vision. But you also need to show that you can recognize that vision in others. To my mind, thought leaders both articulate their own vision and identify it and tease it out of other people’s work. It’s not an either/or proposition.

And here’s where I think the author goes on to argue the case against content curation using arguments that are, for the most part, not true. For instance:

“When you just curate other people’s content, your audience doesn’t learn anything about your thinking.”

I think this is false. If you curate content effectively, you add your own opinion and context to the content you are sharing which can reveal very much about your thinking. Plus, just the choice of what you share and what you omit can say a lot about what you think is important and what is not.

Curation, by itself, is not enough to differentiate you. It just makes you one more source of links and similar perspectives.”

Don’t agree. If you are doing it properly, your content selection and filtering activities are unique and relevant to your audience. The fact is, none of us really has the same audience because we all have different social networks and, more importantly, different relationships to the people in our networks. Curation, if done well, leverages these differences. However, if you’re just copying other people’s curation, you will indeed have trouble differentiating yourself to your network.

Linking to others is “reinforcing someone else’s thought leadership.”

I believe this is true. But it’s not an argument against curation, as I see it.

This is where the “leadership” part comes into play. I think thought leadership is an inherently social concept. The community decides who its leaders are based on both the demonstration of vision and adding value to the collective understanding of an issue. Curating other people’s great content is part of the value-add that the crowd uses to ascribe thought leadership.

In the end, thought leadership is a product of both content creation and curation activities that add value and clarity of vision to a topic. Either activity, if done poorly or without the support of the other, will hamper your ability to build leadership around your vision.

Thanks, Eric, for helping me clarify my own thoughts on this topic.