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What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
One way to know that tectonic changes are happening in an industry is to see people’s titles change when they aren’t being promoted. Newest example? Editors are becoming Content Strategists, and there is increasing demand for this ‘new’ specialty:
The Rise of the Content Strategist - Cheryl Lowry via Flip the Media
Kristina Halvorson’s Content Strategy for the Web, first published in 2009, has been a big influence, as Peter notes in his post. In her book, Halvorson defines content strategy as “the practice of planning for the creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content.” How does this differ, though, from what professional content writers, editors and managers have been doing all along?
I see it as a question of abundance. When I began writing content, creation was the goal. Marketing copy. User guides. FAQs. Help systems. Writers and editors produced and published words, and moving up the chain meant managing an editorial calendar and other writers to produce ever greater sums of copy. As print gave way to the web, this became considerably easier and cheaper to do. Many companies employed (and still employ) a strategy that web usability expert Gerry McGovern refers to as “launch and leave:” produce a ton of content, and then leave it sitting there unmeasured and unmaintained. Clay Shirky calls this abundance a result of post-Gutenberg economics, in which “the cost of producing [content] has fallen through the floor… .and so [now] there’s no economic logic that says you have to filter for quality before you publish.”
However, several recent trends have contributed to organizations demanding more from content.. The Great Recession, the rise of web analytics, and the voice of the customer amplified by social networks have all given companies more tools and incentive to create and maintain “useful, usable content.” Organizations are now realizing that content ought to earn its keep — it should drive conversion (sales, donations), or reduce call drivers (solve frequent and actual problems customers have). If it doesn’t, it’s just polluting the relevance and searchability of content that does.
So, the content strategist is concerned with the full lifecycle of media, not just production or aggregation. I think this title will absorb the brief rise of ‘content curator’, because it sounds shinier.
Mathew Ingram, responding to new research from Pew, in If you have news, it will be aggregated and/or curated via GigaOM
Kate Niederhofer via Social Abacus
I’ve blogged before about Wegner’s notion of the transactive memory, a concept I love about how we get information into our heads (encode), arrange and add context (store), and eventually access when needed (retrieve) *as a group*. In my mind, this is underpinning of the success that Twitter is. It also helps explain this tendency we have to read-and-share as a means to coordinate our social network. That is, by sharing certain content with specific people, we more effectively encode, store, and retrieve information as a social network. Think of it like really effective curating. Simply by sharing links, we’re making sense out of our expanding networks.
But something else happens when we read-and-share. We create virtual spaces. As the great sociologist Ray Oldenburg might say, we create “a third place.” Places, really. Salons. Sharing links creates places for us to meet and talk about our shared interests. Traditionally a “third place” is a place of refuge. It’s not your home, not your job. So these virtual salons we create let us escape— or augment our reality— while performing social network maintenance: clustering and categorizing our network.
Yes, I believe that by curating we are sharing more than links, although it’s not a space that we define, but a way to share time: to still the time we are in, and share it with others, who experience it themselves.
We are sharing experience: Time is the new space.
I wrote recently about Maria Popova’s promoting some very hard-to-use microsyntax for curation, called Curator’s Code. The skinny? In principle, I’m down with making a distinction between via and h/t (hat tip), but I don’t think that her symbology, ᔥ and ↬, respectively, will catch on: Too hard to use, and they don’t add anything to the well-established via and h/t.
Marco Arment weighs in on the discovery angle:
Marco Arment via Marco.org
I completely disagree with Popova on the value of discovery.
The value of authorship is much more clear. But regardless of how much time it takes to find interesting links every day, I don’t think most intermediaries deserve credit for simply sharing a link to someone else’s work.
Reliably linking to great work is a good way to build an audience for your site. That’s your compensation.
But if another link-blogger posts a link they found from your link-blog, I don’t think they need to credit you. Discovering something doesn’t transfer any ownership to you. Therefore, I don’t think anyone needs to give you credit for showing them the way to something great, since it’s not yours. Some might as a courtesy, but it shouldn’t be considered an obligation.
Every link-blogger has their own standards for when to use a “via” link (or a “hat-tip” — again, I doubt most of us know the difference). I add a “via” if it’s convenient (if I can remember where I found the link) and I probably wouldn’t have seen it from any other sources.
If your standard is never to add a “via” to intermediate linkers, even when I am an intermediate linker, that’s fine with me, too.
And my syntax for adding a “via” link is… a link, often prepended by the word “via”. My readers understand.
The proper place for ethics and codes is in ensuring that a reasonable number of people go to the source instead of just reading your rehash.
Codifying “via” links with confusing symbols is solving the wrong problem.
I totally support the idea of a Curator’s Code, which is basically the use of microsyntax to represent different kinds of attribution in posts and or tweets:
ᔥ Maria Popova
The system is based on two basic types of attribution, each connoted by a special unicode character, much like ™ for “trademark” and for © “copyright”:
ᔥ stands for “via” and signifies a direct link of discovery, to be used when you simply repost a piece of content you found elsewhere, with little or no modification or addition. This type of attribution looks something like this:
↬ stands for the common “HT” or “hat tip,” signifying an indirect link of discovery, to be used for content you significantly modify or expand upon compared to your source, for story leads, or for indirect inspiration encountered elsewhere that led you to create your own original content. For example:
But I think the folks behind this made a few mistakes, ones that will kill the adoption of this Code.
First, there are well-established textual ways to accomplish what is envisioned, like via and h/t. They might have been better off to simply throw their weight behind a more uniform usage of those terms.
Second, the characters they picked for the microsyntax are hard to use. The sideways S, for example, doesn’t appear on Apple’s special characters. I tried using their bookmarklet, but it wouldn’t insert into Tumblr’s editor. Wouldn’t it have been better to use some sort of a ‘v’ for via, like shift-option-V = ‘◊’? Or maybe some sort of arrow? Like ‘←’?
I am emotionally in favor of this, but as a microsyntax observer, I don’t think it will catch on.
Here’s a big story, and the meta-story behind it:
The Collapse of Print Advertising in 1 Graph, Derek Thompson via The Atlantic
Print newspaper ads have fallen by two-thirds from $60 billion in the late-1990s to $20 billion in 2011.
Don’t just blame the bloggers. For decades, newspapers relied on a simple cross-subsidy to pay for their coverage. You can’t make much money advertising against A1 stories like bombings in Afghanistan and school shootings and deficit reduction. Those stories are the door through which readers walk to find stories that can take the ads: the car section, the style section, the travel section, and the classifieds. But ad dollars started flowing to websites that gave people their car, style, travel, or classifieds directly. So did the readers. And down went print.
The decline is stunning. “Last year’s ad revenues of about $21 billion were less than half of the $46 billion spent just four years ago in 2007, and less than one-third of the $64 billion spent in 2000,” Mark Perry writes. In the next few years — and hopefully, in the next few decades (I like print!) — we’ll see papers and magazines continue to invest in their websites and find advertising and pricing models that support journalism independently. Otherwise, one hopes that rich people continue to be fond of paying for the production of great writing on bundles of ink and paper.
I don’t think there is any business model that will prop up print newspapers as we know them. As media is being exploded into a thousand bits, the 20th century model of newspaper journalism is increasingly obsolete. Something else will come along, some sort of networked journalism.
Consider the way I read about this graphic: I saw a piece in my Tumblr stream by Futureamb, quoting a fragment of a Business Insider piece by Henry Blodget, where Futureamb actually didn’t add even a comment, but was curator zero for me. I then looked at the Blodget piece: he had a few things to add, but wasn’t the originator of the graph. The trail led to Derek Thompson at the Atlantic, who was citing Mark Perry's graphing of data from the Newspaper Association of America. Derek added real value, and an extra graph:
Wow! The Wall Street Journal is a singular institution since the majority of its subscribers are businesses, not individuals. All the other major US papers are falling like stones.
And now, I am adding my 2¢, which is likely how you are seeing this.
My point is that this trail of interactions is how we are increasingly experiencing the ‘news’, and it jumps from place to place, outside the boundaries of the newspapers officially publishing this bits of the ‘story’. Newspapers are built top-down — that’s how most businesses are oriented — but that’s doesn’t match the way that information transfer works in a networked world.
The social object — the information embedded in these graphs — is handed around, from curator to curator, each adding something, taking away, looking at it from a different angle. It’s additive and subtractive, kind of like Wikipedia, but distributed across a bunch of independent, cooperative posts instead of embodied in a consolidated Wikipedia entry.
We need new social technologies — a step past today’s curation tools — to support this new sprawling, liquid media world. That’s what how we’ll experience news in the near future.
I am betting that newspapers will fail to make a painless transition to a new business structure before hitting the bottom, and fracturing into a millions pieces. After that crash, some of those pieces might begin to create a new networked, post-journalism model of news organization, one that doesn’t have papers in it.
Eyal makes a good argument: that virality — users inviting their friends to try an app — is less important (and more annoying) than habitual use of apps: habit is the new viral.
Nir Eyal via TechCrunch
The Curated Web Will Run On Habits
Increasingly, companies will become experts at designing user habits. Curated Web companies already rely on these methods. This new breed of company, defined by the ability to help users find only the content they care about, includes such white-hot companies as Pinterest and Tumblr. These companies have habit formation embedded in their DNA. This is because data collection is at the heart of any Curated Web business and to succeed, they must predict what users will think is most personally relevant.
Curated Web companies can only improve if users tell their systems what they want to see more of. If users use the service sparingly, it is less valuable than if they use it habitually. The more the user engages with a Curated Web company, the more data the company has to tailor and improve the user’s experience. This self-improving feedback loop has the potential to be more useful – and more addictive — than anything we’ve seen before.
However, I think Eyal’s characterization — helping users ‘find only the content they care about’ — is too limited. Steve Jobs said the users don’t know what they want, so by extension, they don’t know what they care about.
Getting back to Eyal’s habituation remark, these new tools will have to meld into the user’s existing behaviors and amplify them in some adjacent way.
For example, I’ve started to experiment with the user of Timely.is instead of Bitly as a way to publish Tweets. It ‘fits the hand’ in the sense that it works much like Bitly: a bookmarklet in the browser that creates an editable tweet with a shortened URL back to the source. Like Bitly, it provides stats on clickthroughs, but adds one additional feature: the ability to queue tweets and have them post over time.
So, I am able to develop a new Timely habit because it is similar to my habituated use of Bitly, but adding an additional capability. And there is a viral vestige: the promotion of Timely in the footer of the tweets.
Q: Who’s doing the most interesting desktop app design these days?
Vihn: I’m passionate about the Mac and what’s possible on the desktop, and I think independent Mac developers are some of the most creative minds in technology… but right now the most interesting thing happening on the desktop, by far, is Apple’s iOS-ification of OS X. They’re clearly in the process of upending a decades-old paradigm for thinking about desktop software, and whether it’s successful or not is going to be very interesting.
Q: How should media publishers deal with the fact that readers are increasingly getting news, links, and more from a range of sources filtered through social networks? Is anyone doing it particularly well?
Vinh: I think news organizations have to get really, really serious about creating a social software product that leverages their product in a value-add way. This is basically what a few dozen startups are doing, and somebody is going to figure this out; if I were the owner of a news organization, I would put $10 million towards funding a few of my own startups to get a better shot at owning the winning solution. Because none of the existing ‘old media’ news brands are going to do it. Anyway, within a decade, we’ll have a social news powerhouse brand that can sit comfortably next to the New York Times, Economist, CNN, etc. That seems inevitable to me.
I really think Vinh is one of the smartest people out there in new media.
Curation is the new engagement:
Josh Sternberg via Digiday
Curation is the vogue digital term for the ability to not only aggregate and distribute carefully selected information, but also to provide a unique voice on top of the original pieces of information. In the age of Twitter and Facebook, it seems like all the world is curators now. Brands want in on the action.
Brands are trying to establish themselves as trusted sources of information. Hop onto Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr, and you’ll see brands that gather up articles from all sorts of publications and push them out to their followers. For example, look at IBM’s Tumblr, A Smarter Planet, which is a stream of curated content focused on areas of Big Blue’s core competencies. Or there’s American Express’ Open Forum Tumblr (yes, Tumblr is apparently a good platform for curation) that has cultivated a business community online by providing relevant tools and information to help business owners succeed.
“If a brand is an expert in a certain topic, their reputation might make them a credible source of information,” said Neil Chase, svp of editing and publishing at Federated Media. “But if a company that makes toasters gives health advice, they might not be credible. If they’re sending out recipes, that’s a reason to trust them.”
There’s little doubt that brands can amass sizable audiences of their own nowadays. Show me a chief marketing officer who isn’t interested in an owned, earned, paid media model — often in that order — and I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. It’s been four and a half years since Nike marketing chief Trevor Edwards plaintively said, “We’re not in the business of keeping media companies alive.” Translation: We can build direct connections with audiences, thank you very much.
The devil is in the details. Brands aren’t set up to be publishers. They don’t necessarily understand the editorial process or have the stomach for the length of time it takes to build an audience. Take AmEx’s OpenForum, for instance. It took four years to get 1 million people aboard, and now it gets about 150,000 unique visitors per month. They have the resources to build and cultivate an audience others may not. Additionally, OpenForum was put on the shoulders of the end-user: small-business owners. These business owners are able to communicate and share ideas with one another, but they must be American Express Cardmembers. AmEx recognized the need to provide small-business owners with a connection platform and information that will help their business succeed.
“Brands have a content story to tell,” said Colleen DeCourcy, CEO of Socialistic, a social media agency. “Some brands have data and research they have gathered in the creation of their products that can be contextualized and turned into content — which can give them both real authority on the topic and some real ROI for their effort.”
Publishing content in 2012 can be immensely complex or surprisingly simple, depending on your approach. Curation straddles the line. It can be difficult figuring out not only what tools to use, but also what platforms and, of course, what content to share. The plus side is that once you do figure out how you want to curate — how it becomes part of your broader communications strategy — it’s pretty easy to establish a voice.
Steve Rubel, Edelman’s evp of global strategy and insights, suggests brands start by having an editorial point of view and deciding where the content will live — the brand’s site or aggregation sites like Tumblr or Pinterest.
“The best way to do it is to identify a high-interest topic that you want to be perceived as an expert in,” he said. “Curate that topic and provide some context around it. If you’re curating a lot of content in a topic area, over time that leads to expertise and credibility.”
A few points: a curator must be able to tell the difference between great and good work (‘content’), and have a strong and insightful perspective. Great curators are usually people that have been doing it for some time. This is not something you take up on Monday and find yourself Friday with tens of thousands of followers.