The new frontiers for content curation tools and services are in a) providing advanced collaborative ("social)" features and in b) introducing and integrating new and effective, highly visual, delivery formats.
Photo credit: CaraMaria
Curating content and news is not just about the selection, editing and contextualization of stories about a specific topic or theme, but it is increasingly about how these information items are (collaboratively) gathered, organized, grouped, displayed and in which ways they can be accessed and browsed by those interested in them.
For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of this exploding content curation trend, is the speculative exploration of how "curated" content collections could best benefit from alternative and more effective delivery formats than the classic linear, top-to-bottom, chronological, river-of-news sequence.
Nothing wrong with this format, but it is a good format only if you want to give relevance to curated news stories in chronological order. Just like most news sources have done until today. The more recent, the higher in the list.
But anytime you are working to curate content according to non-chronological parameters, you are off into a largely unexplored and uncharted land.
At least for now.
As a matter of fact, there are positively more content types than the "breaking news" and the typical curated list, as much as there are a lot more ways to look at a curated set of information items beyond the habitual following of a linear vertical sequence.
In this article I lightly explore some of the reasons why I expect an explosion in content curated delivery formats, and then provide an extended list of both existing and new, emerging curated content delivery formats, that I expect you will start to see and use more frequently in the near future.
Here is what I see:
While there has recently been an explosion of content curation tools , 95% of them, deliver your curated collections as a linear stream of news or a typical top-to-bottom list of content items.
Some of these new curation tools output content as a newspaper page, others in a magazine-like format, others as lists, with most delivery formats grouped around the generation of page dense of titles and links. Little or no options, besides changing the number of columns, fonts, the background or layout colors are available to the new curators when it comes to selecting an appropriate delivery format for their high-value hand-picked content.
In other words, new content curation tools offer little or no features or options to help you highlight specific items or groups in your sets, nor tools to aide you in selecting the visual approach / design layout that could be most appropriate for the effective delivery of your curated collection.
How about "navigating" a curated collection? Are you offered options and alternatives that would help your readers explore and discover valuable items in your collection more easily?
Oh yeah, you can sort and move around curated items in a few of these tools, a few have a small set of design templates to play with, but the overall visual paradigm through which the curated content is served, is basically always the same: A linear sequence of information items caged inside a newspaper, magazine-like or vertical list metaphor.
The great opportunity for curation startups is in providing added value, features and premium options that would allow curators to choose and customize the delivery format of their "curated" content collections in ways that would enhance readers ability to explore, browse and make sense of what is being accessed.
This is why I anticipate that developers of curation tools will soon start paying much greater attention to exploring and designing new curation delivery formats beyond the popular newspaper-magazine feed we see most everywhere.
Curated content collections do not need to be confined to the two-dimensional print-legacy of newspapers and magazines.
The digital space provides so many more available dimensions, that it would be a pity not to put them to better use.
For example, a simple consideration I want to make is relative to the fact that readers, rather than publishers of curated collections, could be the ones that could be placed in the position of choosing the type of visual metaphor through which they would prefer to navigate and explore any kind of "curated" information space.
Do I want to use an horizontal scrollable timeline (see Memolane) or a fancy and zoomable iPad-like magazine or flipbook, or do I prefer a slideshow (Qwiki and Storify) rather than a visually navigable and zoomable mindmap a-la-(Pearltrees or like I often do with Mindmeister)?
It would be lovely if my readers could choose.
Or take "faceted search". Couldn't this be one of the new ways of delivering a curated set of information units?
If you have never heard about it, faceted classification of information units allows "the assignment of multiple classifications to an object, enabling the classifications to be ordered in multiple ways, rather than in a single, predetermined, taxonomic order.
...for example, a collection of books might be classified using an author facet, a subject facet, a date facet, etc." (Source: Wikipedia)
Kipcast, a company who has been a pioneering leader in the real-time automated news curation space, is making some notable progress in this direction by working on multiple fronts to gather and interlink related information items inside large information streams. See the Toronto Inside Chronicle beta for an idea of what is to come on this front by exploring the tags inside specific news stories pages.
The scope of curation work, can be seen as somewhat similar to the one of an artist: helping you discover what is not self-evident, obvious, accepted. The artist highlights unique elements in his artwork and shows familiar things from a new perspective. SHe guides you in seeing things through a new light.
Curators have much affinity with some of these traits, and as soon as there will be more content curators outside of the news area, the need to utilize different and more effective curated delivery formats will be felt more intensely.
Such curators do not need to pick and choose from the stream of a multitude of news sources what to put in their curated newsradars, but rather need to create finite "bundles" or "collections" of content items around a specific topic or theme, unbound from chronological, time-bound, sequential linear displays.
Take for example the need to curate the best and most interesting written pieces of content that exist already on a certain topic to create some kind of an introductory digest-guide to it. How do I go about curating this collection in a meaningful format?
An infographic? A map? A diagram?
A mindmap may bring the best of all these three formats into one. A mindmap in fact allows me to group inside a small visual space a lot of information, as well as some of the relationships between the items in my collection. A mindmap also allows me to zoom in and out of information items and, in some cases, to add links and multimedia objects, such as images, maps or videos to each information node.
But mindmaps, as they work now, are badly conceived to do this kind of work.
I have tried to bend them to this need and to awaken those making them to look with more interest in this direction, but with no positive results so far.
This is where the opportunity is.
Making visual communication tools, such as mindmaps for example, serve as new curated content delivery formats, by integrating features that would specifically support both the curator's gathering and organizing tasks, the social-collaborative aspect, as well as the navigational and discovery features for the reader-viewer.
Curators crave for the ability to search, collect, clip and edit content way before thinking about how they are going to organize it and deliver it. So this is an important aspect of any curation tool, and one that makes most mindmapping tools yet not mature for this task.
...but they are, like some other curation tools, getting closer... and this is where the opportunity is.
Visual communication tools, like mindmaps or presentation tools, do not see themselves yet as potential vehicles for curation work, while on the other side, curation tools have not yet understood the potential of utilizing highly visual delivery formats as a key competitive edge in their future development path.
P.S.: In strict theory, Google could be the one company whose mission and market perception could gain a tremendous boost from launching a service that helps its users organize and curate information and content sources in effective and useful ways. As a matter of fact, it has already developed several parts of this puzzle (Google Search, Google Books, Google bookmarks, Google lists, Google Maps, YouTube lists, G+, etc.) and I would not exclude the possibility that Google may indeed surface soon such a system.
To help you see and explore what I am envisioning, I have spent some time exploring - beyond what I have already done here - the many different existing content curation formats as well as some of the possible new ones.
Here below, I have listed some of the most popular content delivery formats, alongside some of thse that I think will be the new and emerging ones. I hope this list can serve as a starting inspiration point for anyone involved in exploring how to deliver curated content in more effective ways.
Curated News Portal
An aggregated information / news web site sourcing and curating stories from many different sites.
Newsradar - River of News
A linear, chronologically ordered, curated news digest on a specific topic.
A curated selection / collection of best content on a specific topic from various authors - sources.
(Smashingmagazine - Responsive Web Design Tehniques, Tools and Design Strategies has many of these)
Directory of Tools / Services
A curated list of tool / services with basic information about each one.
Curated collections of audio and music tracks, including compilations, thematic podcast channels and DJ mixes.
(Check the MasterNewMedia's music playlist guide for tools that allow the creation of such mixtapes such as Jampri, check iTunes mixed DJ sets such as e.g.: Bria Project and the Deep House Cat Show), Dubster), check out also Huffduffer as a great tool to curate different podcasts into a channel.)
Twitter Lists of People
Curated lists of individuals having a Twitter account and characterized by a common interest or skill.
Curated Video Channels
Hand-made selections of video clips ordered and sequenced into a specific video channel or compilation.
Web Pages Showcase
Sequence of hand-selected web pages on a specific topic.
Visual Maps of Industry Tools
A visual mindmap identifying - through different groups - the best online collaboration tools available today.
(Best Online Collaboration Tools) - Nonetheless the difficulties of navigating such a map, it still offers some advantages over traditional linear lists. In case you want to see another very rich industry tools map, check out the newsmaster toolkit map covering all kinds of curation tools and services too.
Comparison Review Tables
Scrollable and embeddable table of comparison for tools of all kinds.
Lists of tools, products or services created and curated collaboratively by multiple authors.
Curated App-sets, Suites, Packs and Toolkits
These are curated collections of plugins, portable apps, or other software tools, pre-selected and packaged for a specific need or use.
(Even Wikipedia recognizes this specific groups of curated bundles of apps and lists a few of the best ones. Popular ones include: AccessApps, Ceedo, MojoPac, LiberKey, PortableApps.com, U3, WebLaminarTools, WinPenPack. Such bundles can also include software tools for specific uses such as conversion and decoding codecs for audio-video applications like the Downloadable video-audio Codec Megapack or the many others you can find at Free-Codecs
Multimedia Digital Magazines
A magazine-like format giving emphasis to images and titles over content. Easy to browse and scan.
Curated Report Pages - News Story Page
These include special online magazine or newspaper pages where multiple investigative articles, reports, video clips and other information is organized together under a specific topic.
Curated visual maps and itineraries offering unique, personalized approaches to explore a certain travel interest or travel need.
Curated collections of tweets or news stories delivered as a sequence of slides.
(Animated) Data Maps
Data charts providing the ability to see data overlaid on maps, and / or being animated over time
Curated Guides - Learning Sites
Similar to custom-created textbooks, these are sites that focus on curating and organizing taccess to the very best courses and tutorials for a specific industry, topic or application.
(Lynda.com - Please suggest other relevant examples)
Collect an organize images and notes along a visual timeline.
Teacher Curated Textbooks
The time for what SafariU from O'Reilly tried to do over 6 years ago has probably come. Tools will allow teachers to curate and put together their own custom textbooks using the best and most relevant content already available out there.
Curated Color Palettes
Curated color palettes and swatches.
A film or movie created by curating user-contributions (crowdsourced) on a specific topic or theme.
Live Video Curation / Live Music Curation
Live platforms allowing to "curate" live, like a DJ does, music or video selections.
Summarized Open Questions
A synthesized overview of multiple answers provided in an open forum or Q&A site.
Curated Social Books
A book created by aggregating / curating personal social content posted online.
A "curated" collection of infographics, created by picking and organizing different types of information and organizing them into a custom visual, or by bringing together related infographics to get a bigger picture of a specific topic.
(CVgram is a supercool curated infographic service capable of generating a custom curated infographic of your professional profile.
Daytum allows you to curate an create infographics out of any data you have.
These instead are some good "curated" infographics collections: Awesome LinkedIn Infographics, 35 Cool Infographics for Web and Graphic Designers, SEOMoz Essential SEO Infographics
Curated Visual Compositions and Galleries
These are visually galleries and image pinboards where curators can organize, manage and publish visual sets around a specific topic or theme.
Curated Search Channels
Curated search engines and channels do not rely exclusively on software algorithms but make large use of user-driven selections and preferences.
The idea is not new, but the time has come now for it to become a viable reality. Anyone can put together a new book by utilizing licensed content from other sources and authors and organizing and formatting in completely new ways.
A curated set of events on a specific topic or theme, organized on an easily to navigate visual calendar.
(no tools yet available - please suggest)
Curated Offers and Coupons
This just came to mind as I was about to close this article. I have not seen this one yet, out there in the "wild", but I surely have no doubt that this will be another good one very soon.
New curated content delivery formats are rapidly emerging to support the increasing demand for collecting, organizing and republishing-sharing information collections of all kinds.
Due to rapid surge in the amount of information available under all forms, from news stories, to photos, videos, reports and scientific info, it is only inevitable that new roles and tools will emerge to help us filter, organize, and make sense of all this information available to us.
If you are a web publisher or author, I suggest you familiarize yourself with these new curated content formats as well as experimenting and introducing new ones.
If you are a startup or a company developing visual communication services or tools to help people curate content and information of all kinds, I recommend you strive toward trying to integrate features that allow the delivery of such curated content collections in new and effective ways, by taking inspiration from the samples I have listed above.
The above are some of the reasons why I expect a blossoming of new and innovative curated delivery formats, allowing a much broader application of the curator skills to many more content contexts beyond the typical curated news or link digest.
What is the problem? - Aliaksei Lakamkin
The Opportunity - Leli456
Collaborative Toolkits - Aha-Soft
Curated Report Pages - News Story Page - Carl Wood
Visual timeline of events - I Love Free Software
Other Icons - Icon Finder
Originally written by Robin Good and first published on MasterNewMedia.Robin Good -