Over the past several years, many reporters have feared the eventual death of journalism, citing the dwindling readership reputable news sources like the New York Times. Apart from the economic downturn caused by the recession, the growing availability of up-to-the-minute, online news had been the major contributing factor, but, ironically, the same online news that threatened the institution of journalism may actually be the one thing that helps to sustain it.
While online news sources are touted as a way to quickly and easily disseminate real-time events across the web (and the world), they have also has brought with them new challenges for readers: with so much content available, how could anyone find what they were looking for? Although sites like Google News served to aggregate content, a more tailored approach was needed to help readers sort through the wealth of information they were seeing online.
The concept of curation works well with journalism because it actually follows the traditional model of a newsroom where information gathered by reporters is segmented by editors into specific sections of a publication, making it easier to locate and also making it easier for the readers to avoid articles that do no align with their interests. In fact, the co-founder of the curation tool Storify, Burt Herman, worked as a reporter for the Associated Press for 12 years. Whereas in a traditional newsroom, reports are limited by the beat or topics for which they write, curators only have one confine: what will be relevant to their audience. Curators are at liberty to either simply aggregate content or to editorialize and reblog content that has been created by someone else.
With the growth of social media and communication tools online, a new role for editors and reporters has evolved into something more synonymous with a personal tour guide or, as Josh Stemberg of Stemberg Strategics puts it: the journalistic curator. A good curator has already identified where to search and can share this path with his audience.
For example, Tumblr provides its users with curated topic pages that help them to discover content. On each page, contributors and editors curate displays tags which users can follow and have updates sent directly to their dashboard. Each page also displays the most popular posts within the topic pages.
But, in addition to providing information in an organized, easy to discover way, these curation tools also need to establish credibility among their users. In this vain, tools like Tumblr promote and publish content that comes from trusted sources, which include major traditional news organizations like the New York Times, CNN, or NPR. Conversely, the publications gain visibility among the niche followers of these same curators for whom they provide content. This in turn enables them to maintain readership levels and brand loyalty. What has developed is a mutually-dependent, but also mutually-beneficial relationship between content curators, creators, and readers alike – a marriage between traditional and non-traditional information sources.
Jennifer Cohen is an account specialist at iProspect