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Content curation is disrupting content creation. Are content marketers moving fast enough?

First published on LinkedIn.

A few weeks ago, I made the trip down to Content Marketing World, “the largest content marketing event on the planet” with over 2600 delegates representing 50 countries.

I wanted to explore how the activity of content curation—the process of collecting, organizing and displaying information relevant to a particular area of interest—was impacting this massive content marketing industry.

Content curation may be one of the most disruptive forces in marketing, with an impact crater particularly devastating to activities directly and indirectly linked to content creation.

Based on a review of the activities at Content Marketing World and a supporting data analysis of thousands of articles in the media, content marketers appear slow to respond to this change.

The activity of curation is perceived as subordinate to content creation, complementary but not disruptive. Content curation is a new engine of content marketing, but the industry is tightly coupling it to the old activity of content creation.

The response from marketers? “It’s not creation or curation, it’s both!” Yes, it’s both. I would have had a tremendously difficult time making the arguments in this post without creating the content for it.

However, to say it’s both misses the point of a disruptive change and raises your risks of ending up under that crater.

Is content curation disrupting content creation?

Before one can argue that content curation is disrupting content creation, we need some clarity on what constitutes a disruption.

disruptive innovation leverages new connections in an ecosystem to get the job done more conveniently and productively than the incumbent approaches.

Content, and the form that it takes, is only the means to getting the job done: to tell your unique brand story, to clarify your positioning in the market and to engage your target audience.

The two innovations in question are content creation and content curation, and while they are complementary in some aspects, they are also competitors.

The productivity of curation for telling your brand story, clarifying your position in the market, and critically, engaging your audience in the way they want to be engaged, recommends that marketing budgets shift from creation to curation.

Stefan Pollack, President of The Pollack PR Marketing Group, Adjunct Professor at USC Annenberg, sums it up neatly:

In the post-disruption world, consumers don’t listen to brands, they listen to other consumers…Curating content means implied objectivity about who you are and what you are offering. There is no attempt to “sell” when you are collecting valuable information and offering it to people who are looking for it…There is more need for curation today than there ever was.

Content curation demands a larger relative share of our marketing budgets. In many respects, it’s more cost-effective than creating original content and it’s more congruent with how consumers wish to be treated by marketers.

Content creation dominates content curation

Despite these advantages, the industry has been slow to adjust to the disruptive impact of content curation.

As reported in eMarketer, based on research from Curata, content marketers are looking to shift efforts to include more curation, but “every step along the journey is a struggle”.

According to the survey, there is a slight shift towards curation as the ideal mix (from 24% to 27%). Underneath the surface of these averages, however, most of this shift is coming from a group that is not presently using curation at all.

Overall, the industry is maintaining the status quo, keeping the same relative mix between creation and curation.

The dominance of content creation over content curation was overwhelming at Content Marketing World. In over 80 sessions, only two were focused on content curation.

In contrast, the conference was dominated by activities focused around original content, not only directly in areas such as content development, writing, journalism, videos, and blogging, but indirectly in areas such as native advertising, SEO, content auditing, and the processes for managing a content pipeline across the enterprise.

To examine this attentional budget more closely, my company, Primal, curated a content marketing hub on Pressly, exhaustively surveying the subject matter represented at the conference.

In the process of building this hub, Primal semantically analyzed almost 13,000 articles about content marketing, categorizing the content by topic.

As illustrated in the chart produced from that data, content curation is certainly one of the hot topics in content marketing. However, the more important insight is the complexity of the industry across so many different aspects, and how many of those aspects are coupled to content creation.

The conference organizers did a fine job representing the interests of the industry, as these interests are mirrored in the media coverage.

The conclusion is that the attention in the industry directed to activities associated with content creation dominates the attention given to curation. Content curation is an important but subordinate feature within a content marketing industry entrenched in content creation.

Are content marketers moving fast enough to embrace curation?

The current state of content marketing is exactly what you would expect in an environment of disruptive innovation. As with any disruptive change, there are powerful, systemic forces that make it difficult for organizations and professionals to change their existing activities.

Compared to the water wheel of content creation, content curation is a steam engine. Yet the industry is hooking the steam engine to the water wheel, rather than fully exploring this disruptive innovation as a competing alternative.

It’s a painful process to shift our approach to marketing. It impacts the lives of professionals who have honed their skills within an industry dominated by content creation.

However, if curation is legitimately a disruptive innovation, a large proportion of content marketers will see their core activities eroded, in much the same way other content industries such as journalism have been disrupted in the past.

The skills of content creation will forever remain relevant to marketing, but theirrelative importance will decrease with the rise of content curation as new activities are introduced.

Do you find content curation a more productive activity for content marketing than content creation? Is your audience more often persuaded by your story when the arguments are drawn from an objective third-party? Do you find your customers and consumers are often better ambassadors of your company than you are?

If so, then the question becomes, Why are we spending so much of our time creating instead of curating, speaking instead of listening?

Thanks to the following for reviewing an earlier draft of this post: Pawan Deshpande, Michael Gerard, Stefan Pollack, Jeff Brenner, and Peter Kieltyka.