Curation, Creation | Enemies or Friends?

Aug 1, 2012
Vote on Hacker News

Content CurationThere’s no denying the old Internet mantra, that Content is King. All major Internet companies eventually tend towards it: AOL & Yahoo are drowning in it, Google’s transitioning into a content company, trying to transition from a search monopoly to a content monopoly. Facebook & Twitter don’t create their own content, but their revenue model harnesses user content. Google is constantly making improvements to its search engine algorithm to weed out sites who aggregate content, and promote original content.

So why is content King? Is it because expertise is so difficult to find? Because content consumers sniff out the amount of effort put into content and deem it more difficult and thus more worthy than aggregated content? Or is it just like any other commodity, whose value depends on its being rare? If so, then this Kingdom’s about to tumble.

Scoop.itSitting down with Scoop.it co-founder and CEO Marc Rougier, we found ourselves discussing the history of writing – my having majored in Latin and Ancient Greek may have contributed to that, though Rougier admits he has an unfinished book on the history of writing. Rougier began the discussion with the assertion that content creation was done by very few, from 2000 years ago up until web 2.0 (not even with web 1.0), and that it was done like that on purpose; however, with web 2.0, (micro) blogging, etc., everyone has the capability to create content, and thus, the “noise level” has gone up.

Plenty of services have come out looking to solve this noise issue – that is, filtering out the noise. Klout rates users by their influence over certain topics, presumably due in part to their contribution of content to certain subjects and their relevant ‘expertise.’ Semantic engines like Mesagraph will weed through the noise and tell you what’s really important, what people are really saying about you. Some services, like Paper.li, a service that vastly resembles Rougier’s Scoop.it, will curate the best content from your various social streams and create a personalized newspaper just for you.

Rougier, however, argues there is another problem, whose solution, while it resembles competitors from a distance, serves the needs of much more people. While most services serve to identify experts and highlight their content, Scoop.it takes the other route, and hopes to turn curators into experts, by providing them an outlet for demonstrating their expertise in a subject, without actually creating content.

Rougier’s current product Scoop.it comes from their first product, Goojet (I’ve been told the name was an attempt at blending “google” and “objects” – definitely not the first thing I thought of). The product was launched back in 2006, and allowed users to access curated topics of information directly from their phones – feature or smart.

Curation, Creation: Where’s the Line?

While I’m pretty sure that, as a journalist, I’m supposed to defend creation to the core, I’m obliged to wonder what the difference is between a good content creator, and a good content curator.Each one creates a story build from several sources – no doubt that plenty of journalists (especially in France) either translate English versions of articles or copy+paste press releases – in that case, I’d argue that PR firms are the real creators.

But of course, the proud journalist might add that the value of “created” content is the overall conclusion drawn, the vision of the writer, and the analysis built on top of the facts provided from several sources. To that I note that scoop.it allows curators to curate not only their own content within the service, but also to add comments on each article they “scoop.”

Still not convinced? Well 3M visitors/month seem to be

Whether you’re a curator, creator, aggregator, or instigator, it’s clear the Scoop.it has figured something out. Allowing curators to create different scoop.it pages for each subject of interest seems to be key for the Paris startup: “Your interests and mine may overlap, such as tech & web, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to be interested in violins, like I am” says Rougier, “by allowing curators to separate content by subject and interest, they are sure to only attract people who are interested in that topic.” Rougier says that he hopes that graphing content and users according to their interests and subject matter will bring about a true 3rd graph (on top of the “google” graph, and the open social graphs) – that of the interest graph. As Rougier notes, I am not interested in the same music as my neighbor’s daughter, just because we’re close by and socially connected – I do, however, seek out strangers on the Internet who have proven their expert ability to provide news, whether their own or someone else’s, in subjects that interest me.

“We’ve received an email per week for that past fifty weeks asking us for a premium version…”

While the free version may be all any small-time curator needs, the real experts, or those trying to define their expertise for a bit of personal marketing, may join the batch of premium users currently using Scoop.it Pro! Tacking on analytics, more customizable social media features, and the ability to export your scoop.it to Tumblr, WordPress, etc., it’s your standard Freemium set up – a little for free, and a lot for a little.

However, what really interested me was their Business version, which allows companies to use Scoop.it as their blogging platform, essentially. As Rougier pointed out, blogging, even on a company blog, takes time. A lot of time (seriously, it does). And for companies who just don’t want to commit the resources to blog more than once every two weeks, Scoop.it is a great platform to demonstrate your company’s expertise. Allowing companies to host the scoop.it layout on their own hosted domain, as well as schedule posts in advance and have multiple (up to 5) curators for each topic, I can see why companies like Orange, AllMyApps [disclosure: I work with them currently] & France Digitale (of which Rougier is a founding member) have already become using it. I had actually been following the Scoop.it page for France Digitale, the French startup/VC lobbying association, since they launched, because, frankly, they kept curating some pretty great news about the French government in relation to startups/VC.

Scoop.it vs. The Journalists | a futile fight

Rougier told me that, while adoption in the US has been quite positive, and journalists are now contacting the startup to find out how they can get on the scoop.it pages of certain topic experts, he noted that he has had a few run-ins with French journalists who accused the curation service of “stealing” the article. Whether or not scoop.it hurts journalists or not, there’s no arguing that curation is the future for a lot of people, and instead of trying to fight services who push forwards, journalists need to find a new way to make their content valuable.

In the end, I feel readers will always be drawn to the source of information, as it proves to be the most fruitful part of the information flow, but for experts who define themselves by their ability to scour every inch of the Internet to find the best creators in the most obscure of topics, there is certainly room for them to grow their brand, and perhaps even monetize it.

Scoop.it recently announced a new product layout on their product, which I highly recommend you check out. Hell, Scoop this page right now!