The argument for content curation has always been one of efficiency. It allows you to cover more ground, in less time.
Companies are finding opportunities to get creative with the process though as more media bring some form of curation into their mix and it officially becomes part of a new content troika, along with original and user-generated streams.
ALM has had success bringing curation to its legal intelligence database. The company acquired the “listening” platform RivalEdge for an undisclosed amount in September as its first purchase under new CEO Bill Carter.
Like a traditional curation service, RivalEdge draws information from the open web and distributes it to a base of readers—a subscriber base of law firms who pay about $20,000 per year, in ALM’s case. Unlike most curation services, ALM records and catalogs that information. They aren’t logging everything though, says Kevin Iredell, vice president of research and continuing education products for ALM, just the changes.
“We’re not databasing all of their content,” he says. “We monitor their website for changes, and what we database is the delta. Anyone can go to a law firm’s website and see how many partners are there. The value is in knowing how that’s different from last week. It’s not relevant unless there’s analysis behind it.”
ALM’s analysis is in the aggregate. A customizable dashboard sits behind the news feed that allows users to quantify industry trends with sortable lists. The company added a data visualization component in January with charts and graphs.
The Human Element
While RivalEdge can be fully automated, there’s value in maintaining a human layer. Categorizing a large portion of any industry en masse would be a challenge for a software program, Iredell says, especially in a segment like legal services that has its own non-standardized jargon.
“You have one law firm that’s ‘copyright and patent,’ and another whose practice area is ‘intellectual property,’” he says. “They’re really the same thing, but you’re not going to get a hit when you try to do an apples-to-apples comparison or a Google search on those particular keywords.”
ALM editorial staff sifted through about 1,000 practice areas, paring them down to 27 before automating the search process from there. That formula is present throughout RivalEdge. There isn’t an editorial slant to ALM’s curation, but the human element is an integral piece. Editors ultimately determine what gets distributed and databased.
ALM also provides a crowdsourcing admin tool for subscribers to request coverage of a specific firm or area of practice. Staff will review and add the request within 24 hours. Close to 20 percent of the 750 firms the platform monitors came this way, Iredell says.
Curation: Identifying the right uses
Ziff Davis uses curation in the more traditional editorial sense, finding and linking to stories across the web from its own homepages, but its managed to improve traffic back to its own sites by leading with original, high-value content.
Used primarily by the publisher’s tech-focused b-to-b brands, Ziff Davis has used the PublishThis platform to boost return visits to its sites by 105x.
Steve Horowitz, COO of Ziff Davis, attributes that growth directly to the increased volume of content his team is able to put up now.
The key to quality growth has been in recognizing how to leverage the platform appropriately. News is usually curated at the bottom of the page on a rapid daily cycle, while enterprise articles sit above, refreshed on more of a weekly basis. In-depth whitepapers are above that, with community posts, “popular” items and promotions alongside.
While the numbers are up as a whole, that specificity can make comparisons between the sections difficult. There are a variety of expectations associated with each of those types of stories.
“The content is a little too different to say we’re seeing interaction with one more than another,” he says. “We’d expect engagement with [news, articles and whitepapers] to be different.”