By Robert Rose published November 13, 2013

Content Curation Buyer’s Guide

How should I use content curation in my content marketing strategy?

content curation-cmi titleThis is a question we began hearing at Content Marketing Institute (CMI) five years ago, as content marketing started to get traction as a process within businesses. To this day, the term “content curation” continues to promote debate — even among content curation companies themselves.

What is content curation?

In our second, and newest, Content Marketing Technology Landscape Report, Content Curation & Conversation Tools, we spoke with a dozen content curation companies. After gathering their input, we’ve cooked up our own point of view on how curating content feeds the content marketing approach. In short: content curation is a means by which we either supplement or promote our brand’s point of view to our specific audiences within the context of how the “world” is talking about that particular topic. We see it as a spectrum of activities that evolve from one point to the next:

  • Simple aggregation and collection of content (with or without a distinct point of view)
  • Active curation and promotion of a point of view using that collection as a source
  • Aggregation and curation of user-generated content and social conversation around reported events or news in order to build an engaged community
  • Active real-time coverage of events and “newsroom” coverage of events around trending topics

content management workflow chart

The benefits of content curation

If you want to use curation but are not sure how it could fit into your content marketing strategy, consider these four business benefits. These observations come from our consultations with more than 70 Fortune 1000 companies on the process of content marketing. We have found that the enterprises that are successfully using content curation as a marketing strategy are, in most cases, deploying solutions that focus on one or more of these four business benefits: 

  1. “Taming the firehose of content”

Many content marketers still struggle with “feeding the beast” of content (although, we’d argue, the beast should go on a diet in many instances) and look to content aggregation tools to help them filter — and provide topical relevance to — content they may want to deploy for any of the approaches mentioned above. Additionally, some brands now need to curate their own content — i.e., the content they are producing in-house. This is a problem that will only grow, as brands start to produce more and more content across different channels. With the use of multiple web content management systems (WCMS), blogging tools, social media content, etc., becoming the status quo in managing content marketing, the need for multiple departments to curate content across a large enterprise is a huge challenge that content curation tools can help solve.

  1. Faster, more agile content marketing

With regard to real-time conversation with consumers, any tool that helps a brand monitor and aggregate what’s going on in its industry can be beneficial to the content marketing team. For the members of that team, understanding what’s “hot” and “trending” can mean the difference between a successful approach and one that’s constantly operating behind the curve. Beyond social listening tools, content curation and aggregation tools (especially those that also pull in conversations) can help a brand be “in tune” with what’s happening in real time.

  1. Adding points of view and distinct experiences

Producing original content certainly can be part of the curation process — and adding distinct points of view to curated content can be a huge benefit to the content marketing strategy. This is especially appropriate when a brand may want to “bundle” three, four, 12, etc.,  articles in a package and then, perhaps, write a short post contextualizing these articles with an opinion. Or, the brand may want to provide a complete “event” as a bundle and package it as a microsite.

Many content curation tools approach the curation idea from this perspective — where the content marketer has not only the capability to aggregate the content in a “portal” type of interface, but also to organize and add new content, and package it all in a way that may create an entirely new type of experience. This might include publishing microsites, adding bundles into email newsletters, or simply adding to existing social or web content channels.

  1. Empowering and engaging target audiences

Jeff Ernst, Vice President of Marketing at Forrester Research, has been quoted as saying, “Consumers don’t buy your product or service, they buy your approach to solving their problem.” This is certainly a core tenet of content marketing, and the idea of giving audiences both the incentive and the power to aggregate around a branded approach to a particular topic is an attractive one. For example, some content curation tools enable brands to create live online events, where they can aggregate influencers, resources, and audiences — all of which can interact and share with one another. These types of tools leverage the power of consumers to act as journalists for the brand at events, which helps feed the aforementioned “content beast.” Options here also include gamification, which is another strategy to promote further engagement with a brand. Similarly, other tools are enabling brands to create centralized online destinations where consumers can gather and interact with the brand in order to “unlock” some benefit (e.g., a discount or extra feature).

Finally, marketers with consumer product companies also can look to content aggregation tools to help them curate the overwhelming amount of content that may be appearing from users all over the web as part of their experience with the brand. For example, marketers can create “product walls,” where pictures, video, and other user-generated content is gathered around a particular product, sourced from every channel imaginable.

Evaluating content curation solutions

The content curation space has extraordinary diversity in differentiating technology. While some are, quite literally, just using basic web searches to aggregate content based on themes, other solutions have incredibly sophisticated semantic and indexing technologies that could ultimately provide true differentiating value to the business — or an acquiring company.

Additionally, these companies tend to take varied and niche approaches to their solutions. Some are purely focused on aggregating thematic content in some kind of easy-to-use interface for teams to more efficiently manage a process (e.g., “taming the firehose”). Others are providing everything from the ability to set up promotions and contests across social channels to managing content in mini “content management” systems, and even creating microsites, in some cases.

As such, it’s difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison in this space. Content marketers looking to add curation and conversation management to their approach will do well to truly understand what they are trying to achieve before going shopping. Certainly, the “shiny object syndrome” holds true here. As many of these vendors do vastly different things, it is easy for a buyer to be distracted by the first “sexy” demo and then (unfortunately) compare every subsequent demonstration to the shiny object that captured their initial attention.

Thus, we recommend developing (either internally or through consultation) a more thorough evaluation of the benefits a curation and conversation management process should achieve for your business. Then, consider the vendors that can solve that particular process most effectively. Based on the four key benefits above, here are some questions you may want to ask:

  • What sources can the tool curate content from? RSS feeds? Twitter? LinkedIn? Facebook?
  • How can the tool help me filter the best info?
  • Can it curate content that’s created in-house across different channels?
  • Can it help me understand what is “hot” and “trending”? (Side benefit: Even if you do not publish this content, it can help with editorial planning.)
  • Does it allow me to add my own point of view to the content I’ve curated?
  • Can I “bundle” several articles that I can use as the basis for a post?
  • Can I create a microsite from curated content?
  • Can I use the curated content to produce an email newsletter?
  • Can I use the tool to create a live online event?
  • Can I create a centralized online destination or “hub,” similar to a community, where consumers can gather and interact with my brand?
  • Can I use the platform for gamification or in other ways to promote engagement — for example, to encourage consumers to “play along” in order to unlock some type of benefit (e.g., a discount or extra feature)?

Looking forward

From a marketplace standpoint, this space is moving extraordinarily quickly. We expect that, within the next year (very much like the content collaboration space), most of these vendors will have been more fully funded by venture capital, or that one or more of the “large” enterprises focused on the full marketing stack (e.g., Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft, or will acquire one or more of these solutions.

The space is moving quickly from the technology buyers’ perspective, as well. As internal teams begin to de-silo within organizations, and as content becomes more central to the marketing approach, we expect there to be opportunity for the space to consolidate quickly. Web content management and marketing automation solutions may potentially become an optimal sweet spot for this aspect of the process (as illustrated by LiveFyre’s September 2013 acquisition of Storify).

One thing is certain: Many of these companies are doing very interesting and powerful things when it comes to some of the most fundamental concepts around content. These technologies are searching, indexing, categorizing, analyzing, and optimizing huge amounts of content — this is no small task, and these teams are bright and eager.

Learn more about content curation

If you are using content curation or thinking about implementing this strategy, I encourage you to download our latest technology report, Content Curation & Conversation Tools, which covers the following technology solutions:

  • Atomic Reach
  • Categorical
  • Curata
  • FeedMagnet
  • Flashissue
  • Mass Relevance
  • NextWorks
  • Percolate
  • PublishThis
  • ScribbleLive
  • Spundge

Access is still available for our first report from this Content Marketing Landscape Report series, Content Collaboration Tools.

Author: Robert Rose

As the Chief Strategy Officer for the Content Marketing Institute, Robert Rose leads the client advisory, education and training practices for the organization. As a recognized expert in content marketing strategy, digital media and the social Web, Robert innovates creative and technical strategies for a wide variety of clientele. He’s advised large enterprises such as FedEx, Dell, AT&T, KPMG, Staples, PTC and Petco.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Robert’s highly anticipated second book - Experiences: The Seventh Era of Marketing, has just been published. His first book, Managing Content Marketing, spent two weeks as a top ten marketing book on and is generally considered to be the “owners manual” of the Content Marketing process. Robert is also the co-host of the podcast PNR’s This Old Marketing, the #1 podcast as reviewed by Follow him on twitter @Robert_Rose.

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  • Greg Bardwell


    I look at your list of tools and your list of questions to evaluate them (based upon need. Most of these tools are can only answer yest to one these questions. Thus are not great business tools for a lot of content marketers. Our tool, the B2B Content Engine ( answers yes to a lot of these — especially focused on the B2B space.

    Just one feature does not help the success of a good content marketing strategy — which your recent survey highlights.


    • Henley Wing

      Greg, which one feature do you think is the most critical for a content curation tool?

      • Greg Bardwell


        Important for whom? That is the question.

        As a platform that has all but two of the ones listed (gamification and live event) we have users that would pick a different answer depending on their goals and industry.

        Curate Tweets? This is built-in to every tweet stream viewer — called a ReTweet — so not so much.

        Trending in a niche, which is where the value of curation can really play, has less value. After-all, if everyone has already seen a blog post, curating may add less value overall. (But, this may reflect our market space.) Unless you can add your own niche context…

        If I had to pick one it would be adding your own context. Better yet, collecting multiple related articles and then adding context. Both.


  • Aaron


    Awesome article. “The firehouse” is a main driver for many content publishers, as our audiences are drowning in content of varied quality. I am seeing more and more brands shift to the “best of” and “news” formats, bringing distilled and actionable content to their audiences. Sharing now :)


    • Robert Rose

      Aaron… right on the money – and thanks for the kind words…. I’m also pretty sure you meant fire HOSE as opposed to House – but interestingly both really work as an interesting metaphor… :-)

      • Aaron

        whoops (dang auto-correct). thanks Robert.

  • Henley Wing

    Even though I am creating a product in this space, I can’t help but wonder if too much curation will hurt your reputation as a thought leader. I rather have my content be curated, than curate other people’s content.

  • Pawan Deshpande

    Thanks for putting this together, Robert! Much needed.

    Other than Sue McKittrick’s report from a few years ago, there has been relatively few comprehensive reviews of curation platforms despite a lot of market interest.


    Pawan Deshpande

    • Robert Rose

      Thanks Pawan…. I know – right…. As I started researching this piece, it kind of amazed me how little analyst coverage has been put into this space… Hopefully this is the kick-off of a trend :-)

  • Naomi Garnice

    Great article. Especially this: ‘”Jeff Ernst, Vice President of Marketing at Forrester Research, has been
    quoted as saying, “Consumers don’t buy your product or service, they buy
    your approach to solving their problem.” This is certainly a core tenet
    of content marketing,'”

  • Abey Mathew

    Good takeaways. Useful and informative. In the best tradition of content marketing. Thanks Robert.

  • Meryl K Evans

    Suggest including B2B Content Engine, ContentGems and Eqentia in the next volume.

  • Adella @ Wishpond

    Hi Robert. I totally agree about the effectiveness of content curation. As a content marketer, I’m using a good combination of Feedly and Buffer. I’m very satisfied with the built-in Buffer sharing extention on Feedly. With a Buffer account, I simply log in via Feedly share the best, most relevant content by using the Buffer share button. Have you tried this before?

  • pokama33

    my classmate’s step-sister makes $60 an hour on the computer. She has been laid off for 8 months but last month her income was $19871 just working on the computer for a few hours. Check This Out ­j­o­b­s­6­4­.­c­o­m

  • Dan Auito

    This Rocked Robert. Mucho Garcia for keeping your finger squarely on the pulse of the leading edge! It’s all about a relevant and targeted conversation!

  • Grannelle

    Great article, though I am a bit surprised there is no mention of that trusty-though-forgotten Web 2.0 artifice, wikis, used and managed in-house, esp. for documentation of tacit knowledge & skills. Still, the substance is on point; nice job!

  • michael bian

    Nice to read this one, thanks article your awesome.