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24 JULY 2014

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Loyalty Magazine reports on customer retention,loyalty schemes, rewards, affinity, CRM, call centre issues, direct and viral marketing, mobile and internet channels for both B2B and B2C enterprises. It covers all global markets and business sectors, including retail, financial services, travel and hotels, telecoms and electronic commerce.

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Wednesday, 08 June 2011 09:50
Curation Nation fails to convince Loyalty Magazine
You cannot fail to notice the proliferation of sites that claim to be a collective of “important industry intelligence” but in effect are simply copying stuff on the web that other sites have published.

Not Loyalty Magazine obviously, whose staff spend a considerable amount of time and effort interviewing industry leaders, attending conferences, checking facts, confirming the authenticity of sources and writing original material.

No, we are referring to the “curation sites, the aggregators that duplicate content, often repeating inaccuracies and misinformation and clogging the internet with copies of copies.

Steven Rosenbaum, author of “Curation Nation” would not agree with this assessment of the state of information gathering on the internet.

He quotes Guy Kawasaki, co-founder of Alltop and author of Enchantment who stated: “Curation, not creation, is king.”

Rosenbaum believes that being a human aggregator is the key to growing an existing business or starting a new one. He suggests that curation is the only way to extract value from an otherwise useless chaos of digital noise and position yourself as a trust source of information and goods.

What he fails to be convincing about, is how organisations can possibly be trusted sources of information, if all they are doing is copying content from someone else. Surely in the first place, there needs to be creators, who write, edit and produce the articles, information and content in the first place?

“This is great news for businesses, as it takes away the traditional pressure of having to consistently create something new,” writes Rosenbaum.

Is he serious? This looks like a setting for a modern day version of Brave New World, or a rewrite of  EM Forster’s “The Machine Stops”.

Put an end to creativity and new content; it can’t be trusted. If we simply regurgitate the old stuff, then we are on safe ground, seems to be the message.

Baloney we say.

But first let us qualify the difference between curation, which we see as (at best) copyright breaking infringement of the creative work of others, and the encouragement of community and consumer engagement (which we think is a great idea).

Rosenbaum gives the example of the Pepsi Refresh campaign, which asks people and organisations to submit ideas for how it should spend its money to make a positive social impact and then suggesting they vote to determine which projects should receive the funding. This is good; very good. It shows strong engagement with the customer,showing that the company prepared to listen to comment; it sends out a strong message of corporate social responsibility and it respects the voice of the customer by asking people to vote.

But to suggest that in a world of curation, data should be shared freely and anyone can copy from anyone else is surely a recipe for disaster.

Amateur content
In his book “The Cult of the Amateur”, Andrew Keen takes exception to the internet world of ‘amateur content’ where the sheer volume of unfiltered content leaves readers overwhelmed and unsatisfied. He writes: “I still have faith in the meritocracy that most things require training and require hierarchy. And most people can’t do most things, so you need to examine systems and professional organisations and gatekeepers, and all the other infrastructure that is necessary for meritocracy to operate. For people who fly planes, or people who are heart surgeons, or journalists, or film directors, in a professionalised, industrial, particularly a post-industrial economy, there is a need for some sort of collective agreement on wha determines expertise.”

Rosenbaum reproduces this statement in his book but only to shoot it down. He writes: “The irony of Keen’s rant is that while we all agree that airline pilots should have training and expertise and licenses, it’s hard to see how those same concerns or agreed standards should be held up by journalists or film directors. For example, some would say that Keen shouldn’t have an author’s licence. Others would strongly disagree. But Keen continues taking aim at the adoption of curation and the lack of an agreed-upon professional standard for this new breed of curators.”

Loyalty magazine suggests that curation only works while there is a little of it. While the majority of curation sites are copying the work of professional journalists, who have checked the facts and embarked on reasonable analysis, the system has some credence, if not merit.

An example of when this works, is the Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington makes no secret of her tastes or political persuasions. Her site is opinionated but honest. Her choices are subjective, but transparent.

If however, a time came when all she had to choose from were copies of copies, rather than the work of experienced, informed and professional journalists, then how good would it be?

Once everyone is lazily acting as a curator, there will be a dearth of proper journalism, and it is this danger that Loyalty Magazine finds alarming.

As if to pacify those who work to produce something original, Rosenbaum quotes Sharon Waxman of curation site The Wrap: “I certainly feel that all aggregation should involve proper credit and a link. That just seems good manners. And most people on the internet do that.”

Do they? And even if they do, a credit doesn’t feed the starving children. Online digital copyright is going to be one of the big challenges of this generation. How are people going to be persuaded to pay?

So what is positive about this book?
That it raises an important topic and gives a title to what has turned from a trend into a flood. Rosenbaum comments: We’re living through a funny time in history. Machines are making content creation easier, faster, and noisier. At the same time, battle lines are being drawn between the folks who say that machines can become publishers and the folks who say machines need humans behind them. It’s the battle of the machines versus the humans. And it’s just getting interesting.”
Yes it is, but more is not necessarily better.

Rosenbaum admits that plumbing of the internet is needed to filter out the overflow and bring back quality. He is suggesting that the mobile will help to do this because of its size. He also says that real-time will prevail, which is happening already with 24 hour news sites where instantaneous feeds are crucial to their business.

But he is missing out on another important point. That while we want the real-time notification that something is happening, we also want to buy the newspaper or the magazine, or subscribe to the quality information service, to learn the background, read the analysis and consider the future implications of the event from an organisation that we trust.

If this were not the case, there would be no Financial Times, no Economist, no New Scientist, no Sunday newspapers, no BBC.

The world is wired for the web, and it is an open channel, which is good for marketers who are prepared to engage with their customers and embark on a two way dialogue. It is good for commenting on things and stating an opinion. It is not so good if you want to learn the truth, and the opinion of those you value. Not, that is, unless you are prepared to go and read the blog of all those individuals one by one, or email them all for an opinion.

Loyalty Magazine is arguing the case for quality professional journalism – in whatever sphere.

But go read Curation Nation yourself. You can’t fail to finish it without taking a stance, and possibly cementing a few of your thoughts as to what is taking place online and whether or not your company is following the right strategy.

“Curation Nation – How to win in a world where consumers are creators” by Steven Rosenbaum founder and CEO of Magnify.net, is published by McGraw Hill, price £19.99.
 
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