The Content Strategist as Digital Curator

by Erin Scime

15 Reader Comments

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  1. Really great article.  Proper content strategy gets forgotten or downplayed so easily in the mix of everything else ...mostly because it is not realized by most how the content (and all aspects of that content & its relation to other content) is the lifeblood of the site itself. Love the curator/ museum analogy.  Thoroughly enjoyed the article.  Thanks for writing it.
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  2. The notion of content-strategist-as-curator, as a distinct discipline, strikes me as a merger of UX (or perhaps simply design and Web creative development) and IA. We could spilt hairs over roles and responsibilities until we’re blue in the face. Like with everything in our field disciplines are constantly evolving driven by, among other things, technology. Nevertheless the word ‘curator’ implies one is concerned with both visual presentation and content structure if you think of the museum exhibit analogy. One could argue designers and creatives become the ultimate curators “responsible for selling the collection to users” because a site lacking design integrity or a cohesive visual aesthetic will fail to be sold on the user experience front.
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  3. Erin, this is phenomenal! Thank you for sharing your perspective around curating—it’s more than just an accurate metaphor, as we see how so much of the thinking, skills, and issues translate from museum exhibits to web experiences. You really drive home the point that in order to effectively display your content, you first need to know what you have. Yay, qualitative and quantitative content audits! We’ve all seen shiny new sites that just blindly siphon in the old content, sucking it in without ensuring it’s current, relevant, and brand appropriate. Perhaps it’s just as bad when a client cranks open the faucet for More Content!, and their only goals are More and New.  How do they know what they need and what it should do if they don’t know what they have and if it’s working? Moving from audit mode to curation, it strikes me that when articles, news, and information are the main wares of a site, the content strategist can adopt the practices of a merchandiser as well.  Retail merchandising brings together products to make new meaning through context. Put all the red items together in a window display, and voila! It’s time to shop for Valentine’s Day! Mix together pens, folders, and lunch sacks, and look! It’s time to go back to school! As content strategists, we may more easily communicate ROI for “merchandising” content, especially for retail clients that are starting to complement product selection with rich editorial.
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  4. Congratulations on wrangling this gigantic topic into something so coherent and deeply considered. This article should be distributed at every conference as a pamphlet. (Elephant illustration made me laugh for like 10 minutes.)
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  5. Once again, amazing content on ALA. Each paragraph in this article would be a worthy discussion in itself, so it’s hard to respond in a comment, other than saying ‘Great job’.
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  6. Erin, I loved the article.  What a unique blend of the museum/library view on curation with web strategy. Do you by any chance ever speak on this topic at conferences?
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  7. Wow, this article was SO much more thorough and useful than most anything I’ve read about site strategy, in weeks. I think the analogy is perfect and also underscores the potential for subject matter experts to rise to the fore if they have the tenacity to curate their knowledge via the web. One of the things I would add is that I truly believe none of this can be “faked.” In that sense, I have a bit of difficulty with the notion that you create content for “where the audience is going.” For a site that is mission-driven, you gotta stick to it our your audience will sniff you out. I could go on an on, too. Thanks for the post.
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  8. Like Darryl, I see overlap with your “curator” analogy and the responsibilities of user experience designers and information architects. The difference, I think, is that while UX designers and IAs create interaction models at the outset, a content curator engages users in dialogical manner by listening to their interests and needs and responding accordingly, by using “judgment and a refined sense of style to select and arrange [content] to create a narrative,” or by restructuring interaction models. Of course, if the UX designers and IAs were forward thinking enough, the content curator can spend time considering content relationships rather than remodeling interaction. Erin, the “curator” analogy is an excellent one and creates space for much needed subject matter experts as Web content begins to mature and evergreen institutions proliferate. Thanks for an enjoyable read.
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  9. Thank you for the thought-provoking article, Erin. Understanding web content as being worthy of deliberate curation (audit, planning, strategy and GOSH - even maintenance) is important. I do agree with Darryl but I’d suggest the content users, or consumers, if you prefer, are the ultimate curators. In designing and enhancing UX we are now combining data from research samples as well as ever-increasing real results from real users.
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  10. Erin, nice work,  it’s nice to see the elephant dancing!
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  11. Very impressive! I’d call myself a life-long learner, especially when it comes to my love of anything web.  Well, I’d say I learned something new today!  What a great way to both think and explain the whole concept behind content creation, structure, and layout!  As I read this article I started to think about my own web site and how I needed to improve it to make it more structured like walking through my own little museum. (Right now, you might get lost and be looking for some kind of sign to tell you where to go next… ) Thanks for making me think straight and giving me a new tool to help explain it to my clients!
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  12. Wow, what a well-written piece on content management. Makes me proud to be in this business. Thank you for adding the section about Analytics. This is an under used tool. Editors and writers should look under the hood and see what’s happening on their site. That will help them create better content. Looking forward to your next article. —Buddy
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  13. This article is a tremendous reminder to me and my web team that online content really is a valuable resource. It is so easy to get bogged down in churning out information for a website, but when you look at what is being developed as artifacts that will live on forever - or at least a long time - it makes you pause a bit and take some extra care in its development. There is a major shortage of e-content coming out of the Middle East (where I work), but the key for us is not just throwing content out there, it is creating quality content that will add value. I would love to talk to more people about how to go about encouraging this region to develop strong online content - and then display in their online exhibits!
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  14. Great article Erin!  I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.
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  15. I especially like the fact that you included the key role of the analyst.
    I would like to add that content should always be tested. Whether A/B or multiV.
    In this way, reaction to content by users against a qualified hypothesis can be measured in a timely manner.
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