By Joe Pulizzi published July 21, 2014

Why We Are Hiring for a New Content Role (and You Should Too)

hands holding old-fashioned slidesLast 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:

chart on content curation

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).

twitter example-dog-dwell

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

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi is the Founder of Content Marketing Institute, a UBM company, the leading education and training organization for content marketing, which includes the largest in-person content marketing event in the world, Content Marketing World. Joe is the winner of the 2014 John Caldwell Lifetime Achievement Award from the Content Council. Joe’s the author of five books, including his latest, Killing Marketing. His third book, Epic Content Marketing was named one of “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” by Fortune Magazine. If you ever see Joe in person, he’ll be wearing orange. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • NenadSenic

    This opens an interesting question for “new” companies, companies that are only a couple of years or even less young. They should find the way immediately or ASAP how to collect and archive their content so it is easy to find and reuse later. On the other hand, many, way too many organizations have had no such system. Is this new role for them? Where should they look for such a person or more?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      All good questions Nenad. I think new companies can build this into their content marketing program. As for the new role, I think it could be a social media person, or editor (I’m thinking this) could do a great job. Really needs to be someone that understands the audience.

  • Bill Cushard

    I’ve known I need to curate our own content more, but I get trapped in the routine of moving on to the next thing. There is a need for someone to own the curation process…especially on our own content. Who else does this well?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Bill…I just came from the Gettysburg Museum and they do an amazing job. They take one piece of content, and create a video, audio, infographic, interactive game and more…just from one chunk of content. It’s quite amazing actually.

      • Bill Cushard

        Thanks for that. I’ll starting giving that a whirl.

  • Adam P. Newton

    Intelligent curation of old content assets remains one of our largest obstacles, simply because we’re always looking forward to new projects and new product offerings. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make good on two re-purposing efforts we have scheduled for Q3 2014, since the greater points discussed in this article are increasingly relevant and valid to our company’s customer education efforts.

  • Dan

    Interesting. A Chief Content Curator can also curate content coming from other sources that add value to the company’s audience

  • Scott Frangos

    Thanks for another thoughtful analysis, Joe. We’re finding more opportunities to surface and leverage content during redesigns, but find a lot of designers and even developers are unaware of the full array of UI options just in the WordPress universe to do this. For instance, you could place a small carousel of related posts on an appropriate products or services page — and not just in the sidebar, if testing proves its worth. Any thoughts on that?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Scott…of course, it just depends on the goal and whether that would help the overall goal of the content (site). As you always talk about, it’s probably worth a test.

  • heidicohen

    Joe–I totally agree. Content Curation is a critical component of content marketing in 2014. That’s probably why you asked me to teach the pre-conference Content Curation workshop at Content Marketing World. Happy marketing, Heidi Cohen

    • Joe Pulizzi


  • Angie L.

    On the point of creating a new position, I’m curious to understand the need for a C-level person. As you’ve described the job, it’s a lot of content tagging (which seems like a production assistant job, a la ESPN), then analyzing those tags for trends and commonalities to identify opportunities for repackaging (which seems like something a talented marketer or editor should be able to do). What are the executive-level responsibilities?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Angie…thanks for the comment. No, it’s not a c-level position. The position would report into our director of content.

  • Sue Duris

    Great post, Joe. I’ve seen CMI do some of this already. It’s great to have it in one location. Good luck and I look forward to seeing more from CMI in the near future about this.

  • Jason Diller

    Been doing this since 2009. Woot.

  • amandakuda

    While I am down with “OPC,” if you will (que childish giggles coming from my office) this post was an important reminder that some of the best content is content you already own. I’ve been dreading going through our 25 years worth of content, while I know there will be a lot that I can’t re-purpose; there are undoubtedly some hidden gems in there. Great post, thanks Joe!

  • Neal Taparia

    We’ve been able to use our intranet to transform the content there into marketing articles

  • Pamela Muldoon

    This makes so much sense, Joe. Most organizations have more content than they are even aware of and it’s not being leveraged. Question: Would a role like this also be in charge of the content audit during time of content strategy planning or at the very least involved in that process?

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Thanks Pamela…this role could be in charge of the content audit if there is not a Director of Content role in the organization. Could be the lead marketing person as well…or possibly a content strategist in a larger organization. I see this person reporting into content or marketing working with the assets…but to your point, they need to know about all the assets to do their job well, so if you don’t at least start with a content audit, you’re in trouble.