Last November, I keynoted the Niche CEO Summit alongside some amazing publishers, including Michela O’Connor Abrams, President of Dwell Media. If you are not familiar with Dwell, they have evolved from a small, niche print magazine focused on design to a fast-growing multimedia design brand.
Under Michela’s leadership, they’ve become one of the top websites in the world, have nearly 300,000 paid subscribers to their magazine, and have social media audience numbers that would make you blush (including over 500,000 followers on Twitter). Sure, they’ve struggled, like all of us have, with changes to how they create and distribute content… but it was one change that, in Michela’s words, made all the difference.
She hired a chief content curator.
Now, before you click to another article, this type of content curator is different. The conversation around content curation, for the most part, has involved taking other people’s content (let’s call this OPC) and adding to it, enhancing it, and/or giving it a new context or perspective so that it evolves into a new piece of content. Even CMI has played a role in this, defining content curation as:
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.
The degrees of content curation may look something like the chart below:
The forgotten curation role
While content curation with a focus on OPC is important, the content curation technique that took Dwell to the next level is focused on internal assets — that is, curating content Dwell had already created.
Dwell tasked this person with gaining an amazingly in-depth understanding of all the current content assets owned by the organization (i.e., no outside content gets factored in). Starting with a full-blown content audit, the curator who holds this position has ultimately taken responsibility for:
- Understanding the content assets available to work with, including textual content, imagery and audio content
- Effectively tagging, categorizing, and coordinating these materials into some kind of a data asset management system
- Working with the content marketing team on a clear channel plan
- Developing and executing on a content curation strategy by using existing resources.
Once the content is organized and there is a process in place for continual asset placement and management (including making sure those assets are easily findable), the curator can begin to fill needed gaps in the overall editorial calendar without having to spend money creating new content.
How does this work? Just a quick look at Dwell’s Twitter feed shows example after example of stories and images culled from archived stories.
When content is tagged correctly and the curator can start to spot themes, new content packages emerge (such as the design images featuring dogs below, all coming from different issues over the past years).
What media companies do
Granted, this role is not new to sophisticated media companies. For example, a friend of mine just took a tour of ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn. During the tour they were taken to a room of more than 50 production staffers tagging existing content for later reuse.
This is the way we need to start thinking as content marketers. Whether or not you have all the technology in place yet, this type of content curation role can fill a number of gaps in your content process, and may even be enough for you to pull back the throttle on creating more original content while getting better results.
I know this is a position we are going to add in the very near future. How about you?
Need help giving your content curation strategy a boost? Join Heidi Cohen as she presents a pre-conference workshop on How to Develop a Content Curation Strategy for Your Organization at Content Marketing World 2014. Register today.
Cover image by Ryan McGuire-Bells Design, via Gratisography