Real-Time News Curation - The Complete Guide Part 6: The Tools Universe
What tools do I need to do "content curation"? Do I need a different technology if I want to curate the news and not the rest? How about if I want to curate only video clips. Is there something just for that? How many "curation" tools are out there and what are the key differences among them?
After having spent time understanding why content curation fulfills such a great need, having clarified the differences between automated aggregation / filtering and manual curation, having shown real-world examples to understand what aggregation and curation look like, and having defined the process, tasks and the skills that a news or content curator should have, this part of the Real-Time News Curation Guide is devoted to analyze the exploding universe of curation tools out there, what is out there, what characterizes these tools and what features we will need in the near future to make them even more useful.
For this purpose, in the course of the last few months I have been putting together a curation toolkit map that attempts to map out all of the content and news curation tools available online.
It is amazing to see how many tools already contribute to this emerging new universe of interest. In the arc of only a few months over 10 new curation tools have come to the light and more are going to be released in the coming weeks and months.
In total honesty, I have been anticipating, and actually hoping for, this wide and growing acknowledgment of the importance and power of content curation, or newsmastering as I labeled it back in 2004, for a long-time. I am tremendously excited to see that my original ideas on newsmastering and content curation via newsradars, inspired also by the ideas of Stephen Downes were all on the right track.
"The result of this second layer is that the Internet will self-organize, that information generated in a thousand or a million places will cluster, become composite, interpreted, specialized, and produce highly targeted, highly specific resource feeds at the output end."
Just a bit too much ahead of their own times.
Real-Time News Curation: Part 6 - The Tools and Technologies
In this part of the guide you will find:
1. A Brief History of News Curation Tools
2. The 15 Basic Traits of a News / Content Curation System
3. The Universe of News and Content Curation Tools
4. Beyond the Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators of Robert Scoble
5. My Recommendations
"I've spent a good deal of time searching for a word other than "Curation" in part because of the connection to museums (which I feared sounded elitist and historic).
But the fact is that it is the right word, with the right results.
The biggest shift from mainstream media publishing to curation is that the expert curator has no obligation to rely on 'expert' or 'professional' sources. In fact, very much the opposite.
Because speed and authenticity are increasingly essential - a good curator can publish, and then edit and update as the conversation or the story requires.
What is missing - but arriving -are curation tools... that give publishers the ability to find, and sort, and publish.
But there are good pieces of this already in place.. and more on the way."
Comment by Steve Rosenbaum on Curation and Journalists as Curators by Mindy McAdams
1) A Brief History of News Curation Tools
The first news curation tools that I am aware of came out in late 2004 - early 2005, reflecting from the very beginning a growing need for both small publishers as well as for medium and large content publishers to be able to aggregate, filter and manually re-order and select the specific content items to be published in a news channel.
MySyndicaat, whose parent company, Kipcast has now grown into a multi-faceted service providing advanced news aggregation and republishing widgets for online brands and media companies, has been the true pioneer of this space. Though its interface remains clunky and difficult for the new user, the power and number of features it packs is absolutely impressive. To this day, if it was not for its terrible UI, this remains a very, very powerful news and content curation machine. The service is not presently open to the public, but if you contact the owners through the dedicated form available on their home page suggesting an interesting service or application, and possibly mentioning my name ;-) - you will get likely get a positive answer and an opportunity to test the system out.
Another early player in this space, alive and kicking to this day, is Pito Salas' formidable BlogBridge, a cross-platform downloadable application that has most if not all of the features a modern content or news curator would want. Blogbridge - attention please - is open-source and free, and works on PC, Mac and Linux machines.
With both tools the hard part is knowing "how to do" things. This is certainly not immediately evident in either one and one has to place a lot of work and patience in trying to reverse engineer the developer brain mappings and to learn where do you start and how you carry out a complete curation workflow.
To me, these are the original "curation tools" race originators and my evaluation of all many of the new tools that have recently appeared stems from my experience and exposure to these two technologies.
To this day I still utilize MySyndicaat to manually "curate" my MasterNewMedia Breaking News radar on the home page of my site and to power a myriad of custom and very specific news radars I have included inside articles or reports on very specific topics.
The new content curation tools
The new curation tools that are out there, differ quite a bit over the pioneering ones I have been working for so long, improving on many aspects of the curation process, adding new capabilities and "intelligence" to the gathering process, and in some cases offering a very positive user experience for the newsmaster at work.
The key difference between the news curation technologies I have been using until today and most of these new ones, is the fact that these new tool leverage quite smartly the power of social media, to identify valuable content, trustworthy links and breaking stories in ways that were not even thinkable back in 2005.
None of the tools and services I have tested for this research is yet the new "ideal" news curation tool, as each one has its own great set of features as well as its own limitations.
The good news is that now there is a growing set of simple real-time news curation tools that anyone can use, and a real true opportunity for a much larger number of individuals to see, appreciate and understand the value of this curation work.
The bad news is the realization that many companies have yet to fully understand the real-world requirements and down-to-earth needs that curators expect.
During my research for this guide I have contacted, discussed and talked to many of the companies you will see listed in this report. Some were very snobby and did not want to provide me information or access to their platforms, while at the other extreme I have found plenty of nice and courteous people who have unrolled red carpets for me to see their technology at work.
Due to this, my perception and appreciation of all of these tools, is not as comprehensive and detailed as I would have liked it to be, but tends to improve as I get my hands on more of these systems for longer than the time of an official demo.
In this light, I invite any of the companies in this curation space to give me free opportunity, unguided, to test more of their systems and to find out firsthand what it is in store for those who like me, have a deep interest for utilizing these new curation technologies but have learned not to trust those who sell it over those who actually use them.
2) The 15 Basic Traits of a News / Content Curation System
In general, the traits that characterize news and content curation tools include the ability to:
a. gather, aggregate,
b. filter and
c. provide the curator with the ability to manually select or to automatically "program" content or news.
d. publish into a stream / channel / collection / bundle / news radar / etc. - a curated collection.
e. distribute, syndicate and share in multiple ways the newly curated content to multiple destinations and media platforms.
But recently, I have received a number of emails asking me how to approach in a precise and methodical way the selection an effective newsmastering / content curation tool.
In fact, if you were to go out and select a news or generic online content curation tool, what kind of basic key features should you be looking for?
Here is a list of items and questions I have developed for this purpose helping you remember what to look specifically for:
1. Aggregation of Content Sources
Input original content sources by way of RSS feeds (or OPML bundles) including "media feeds" containing audio / video / images or interface directly with other news sources such as Twitter. (what sources can you aggregate? RSS, Twitter, etc. - pls list)
Configure and set persistent searches / filters across major content sites such as Amazon, Wikipedia, etc.
Apply global and individual filters (for each source) to all incoming content, deduplicate stories being republished.
(what kind of filtering do you offer? manual, automated, feed by feed, global, please specify)
Select manually, approve, flag or block individual news stories.
(can individual news stories be selected and published manually?)
Add comments, opinions and other relevant or complementary info to any selected news / content story.
(can each curated item be commented?)
5. Source Editing
Edit, comment, add summaries or intros to individually selected stories.
(can each curated story be edited - title, description, image, etc. ?)
Automatically capture, display, link back and provide visible full credit to the content sources being utilized.
(are original stories fully credited and linked back to?)
7. Layout - Organize
Sort, re-organize and sequence content items in any you want.
(can selected comtent items be re-organized and sequenced at will?)
8. Multiple Channels
Create one or more "channels" that will contain themed curated content collections.
(can multiple channels, topics be curated?)
9. Manual or Automated
Select and choose manually each content item versus setting up and configuring a system that goes mostly on automatic.
(can the manual curation-publishing mode be switched to automated aggregation and auto filtering? That is: can this thing go all on "auto" while still producing quality results?)
Tracking and monitoring of readers behaviour including traffic, clicks, time, etc.
(do you provide analytics reporting?)
11. Output Formats
12. Social Distribution
Share and distribute generated curated content to major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Delicious, etc.
(can the curated collection be easily shared on one or more social networks? Which ones?)
13. Ad - Sponsorship integration
Integrate easily ad netwoks such as Google AdSense or provide facility to sponsor-brand fully a curated channel.
(do you integrate ads, or offer the opportunity to brand the channel? )
14. Data export
Export and save all of the data curated outside of the curation system.
(can I export all of my curation work out of your platform?)
15. Trial - Free - Demo
Test, try out, preview, see a demo of the curation system.
(what is the pricing of your service? Is it public? Do you have a free trial available? Can I see it what it looks like on the backend?)
What Else to Look For: Key Differences
Given the above 15 reference key traits, and assuming that these are all satisfied by a some of the content curation solutions you have selected, what are key differentiators that you sould be paying attention to when evaluating which technology to choose?
Here is what I suggest:
a) Ease of Use
How easy is to learn? Do you need to be assisted, guided and trained to use it or can you learn and use everything all by yourself?
b) Interface Design
How clear and intuitive is the user interface? Can you make sense of it by yourself or do you need a manual and a guide?
c) Setup and Configuration
How long does it take to set up this curation tool? How much preparatory work is there to do? How difficult is to configure the various options available?
How flexible is the system in accepting content sources of different kinds?
e) Speed, Responsiveness
How fast and responsive is the system? If your curated content is going to be hosted how fast is the server on which your content is going to be hosted?
f) Editing Ease
Can you edit original content, to correct, add or refine it?
How good, readable and useful are the type of analytics reporting offered?
h) Social Media Intelligence
Does the system leverage social media intelligence, reputation and influence indicators, traffic and authority to identify new relevant content and sources?
What's the cost? Is it a monthly fee or an annual one? Can you get out when you want? What about if you will not be satisfied with the service?
3) The Universe of News and Content Curation Tools
What you can find here is the result of a long research period, lasting from 2004 to today, in which I have been monitoring and tracking the evolution of this curation technology space, collecting, testing and documenting the tools and services that have been appearing in this new growing market.
One key difficulty I have met in organizing this growing number of aggregation, filtering and specific content curation tools and services has been identifying the categories under which to group these different technologies.
What would be most appropriate?
Application and use?
I rapidly realized this was not going to be an easy choice, as several tools would belong to more than one category, while many others have either not yet identified their own target market, their curation focus or key application area.
And so, I have opted for categorizing all of the real-time news curation tools into groups that best describe what these tools can do. These are:
a. Full featured news and content curation tools
b. Real-time news curation
c. Twitter curation
d. other more specific categories (video curation, etc.)
Since much of the work of a digital curator consists in selecting, aggregating, filtering and mixing RSS-based content feeds, a large section of this map (the left side) is devoted to also illustrate, besides typical curation tools, the great number of tools and services available for these very specific purposes.
Here it is: my super mindmap showcasing all of the news and content curation tools available out there.
The map is followed by four custom comparison tables, placing next to each other the two major classes of content curation tools in a way that allows you to see at a glance their key differences.
Real-Time News and Content Curation Tools Universe Map
To best navigate this map, place your cursor on the map and make a click. Then simply use your mouse / trackpad to move in the desired direction simply by pointing to the area you want to see. The tools are grouped and layout in a star pattern around a central node. For the best view click the "full screen button" or go to this URL: http://www.mindmeister.com/55395228.
I will be updating this tools universe map on an ongoing basis. This will be possible also thanks to all of your great suggestions via emails, comments and tweets on this very topic. As always, I'll be listening, so please do not hesitate to let me know what is missing, needs to added or corrected.
Full-featured News and Content Curation Tools Compared - Part 1
Full-featured News and Content Curation Tools Compared - Part 2
Real-Time News Curation Tools Compared - Part 1
Real-Time News Curation Tools Compared - Part 2
4) Beyond The Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators of Robert Scoble
A few months back, Robert Scoble, wrote a fantastic, stimulating article on the emerging needs that content curators were encountering in their desire to "make sense" of the huge amount of individual bits of valuable content available out there. How to pull together such individual "atoms" into a "molecule"?
How to create a "bundle", a collection of curated content items on a specific theme or topic?
I must thank Robert, for the great inspiration he has given to all those small companies and individuals like me who have been looking at curation for a while with great passion and interest. He has acknowledged a true existing need and has elegantly pushed the boundaries of understanding and defining what a content curation is all about.
I think Scoble is 100% correct in the vision he has been articulating through his series of very stimulating articles on content curation he has written on this topic throughout 2010. Real-time news and content curation toos are indeed coming and they have already a lot to offer to those interested in jumping in this fascinating work.
But, I think there is more then those seven needs alone.
Here below, are the features and traits that content and news curation companies should cultivate most next, as I think these represent the next level of needs and expectations davanced professional content curators will expect from them.
1. Flexible Content Capture and Clipping
Greater flexibility in collecting, gathering, clipping and bringing-in all types of content.
What I miss is the ability to grab and curate the specific "parts" of content I think are most valuable. A link is often insufficient and grabbing a whole web page is most often a waste. It's the dimension in between these two extremes that can provide the maximum curation "space" for existing online content. The bookmarklet approach is also its most natural technological implementation.
Note: Of all the tools presently out there, Amplify is the one that comes closest to utilizing this approach, by allowing any of its users to clip and curate any content component of an existing article into something you have personalized. But Amplify doesn't yet let you curate together a bunch of related content items as a full news or content curator would want to do. Yes, my stream can be by itself the "curated" channel, the bundle, the collection, but as a curator may like to cover different areas of interest, it becomes immediately evident that the standard, personal feed generated by tools like Amplify is often not enough to do the type of content curation described so far.
2. Search Integration
Greater search integration with existing content sources. This feature will allow to easily tap and extract valuable content from key major online content sources such as Wikipedia, Amazon, Google News and others without ever leaving your curator dashboard.
(where you can find it already: MySyndicaat, Habit Stream, BlogBridge.)
3. New Sources Auto-Identification
Ability to identify on an ongoing basis new relevant content sources based on previous selections, social graph and relevance to the topic being curated.
4. Source Content Editing
While it may appear questionable to consider editing other people's content there are many opportunities indeed to do so in positive and value-addign ways. Just as an example consider error or overlooks on the part of the original author himself. With such feature these can be easily amended. Consider titling and intros. Isn't a curator job, to appropriately title and summarize while preserving the original content item title? Full ability to edit, clean-up, enrich and complement existing news or content items with additional text, images, or complementary news streams is an extremely valuable feature that will soon make its way into some of these tools.
(where you can find it already: MySyndicaat, Habit Stream, CIThread, BlogBridge)
5. Source Auto-Profiling
Auto-capture source profile, bio, links and other relevant related info for any identified source with the option to provide access to it via a bundled link. Micro-curation on a small scale can provide great benefits to both the curator, the reader and the authors at the sources being utilized.
6. Content Assignment
Easy assignment of any "selected" content items to one or more possible existing curated channels-collections.
7. Ease of Generating Diversified Outputs
Provision of as many publishing options as possible supported by a wizard-like technology to generate output in a number of different formats (RSS, embed code, widget, mini-site, etc.) with maximum ease and personalization options.
(where you can find it already: Habit Stream)
Integration of at least one output publishing formats "transparent" (visible) to search engine robots. The provision of PHP-based includes or the use of dedicated discussion pages for each story published, providing the specific content item key information, as well as related keywords, related categories and optinally a space open to the public to review, rate and discuss it can both provide a solution to this important need.
(where you can find it already: OneSpot, BrowseMyStuff, Curata, MySyndicaat)
9. Selective Syndication
Maximum options and controls for sharing curated content newsradars, collections or bundles to different social media platforms with direct distribution control over which social media destinations are used and worth the opportunity to diversify and personalize the content for each one.
(where you can find it already: CurationStation - sports ability to output directly to a custom Facebook tab or directly to your WordPress web site.)
10. Branding and Personalization
Opportunity to brand, provide white-label options, and to personalize in multiple ways the output look and feel and design-layout.
(where you can find it already: Habit Stream)
11. Crowsdsource, Moderate Content Contributions
Ability to crowdsource and moderate content contribution, with the support of automated algorithms to filter and identify new, relevant content.
(where you can find it already: SwiftRiver, Kapost, ScribbleLive)
12. Output in Multiple Media Formats
Output and optimized rendering for multiple media formats-devices such as the
Web, email newsletter, mobile, iPod / iPad, GoogleTV, YouTube, PDF, ePub, print.
Capability to store, archive and export the actual content being curated, including the original full text, links, video and images utilized. At present, many of the existing curation tools do not archive or preserve such content making it easily volatile and prone to a short lifespan as sources go offline, change page addresses or modify links unilaterally.
14. Export - Download
Option to save and export any curated collection outside of the curating platform.
15. Social Intelligence
Opportunity to leverage "social intelligence" by actively looking for social indicators indicating the potential value of a story or the "trendiness" of a certain topic. Also, by utilizing choices and selections made by influencers, thought leaders and experts in specific niches, curation system can more easily "suggest" relevant new authors, stories or resource to include, track or monitor. Social intelligence, like any other variable utilized to select, filter or promote supposedly "higher quality" content, should always be twickable and customized directly by the curator of the channel, according to his / her specific needs.
16. Web Intelligence
Opportunity to leverage non-social, but more established traffic and authority indicators to evaluate incoming new content, stories and other material. These may include individually selectable indicators such ranking, traffic, reputation, age, and more.
17. Learning Filters
Capability of the system to learn and memorize vetting and blocking choices and to gradually extract relevant patterns for re-use. Any such learning filter should provide ability to be systematically checked and questioned by curator by offering a "transparent" view of its automated exclusion-inclusion selections for further correction and fine-tuning.
18. Ad integration - Full Sponsorship
As curated channels, collections, bundles and newsradars offer great value it is very likely that they will be, in my humble opinion, perfect vehicles for strong branding and sponsorship opportunities. A curated news channel on a specific topic, issue or technology can be a perfect high-value match for any advertiser wanting to reach people specifically interested in that topic. As a matter of fact I see sponsorship or full-branding of custom curated channels as a more effective match than introducing non contextual, traditional type of ads.
For one, ad curation, providing access to the original inventory, may even be something that future pioneering content curators may start consider doing. Thus, some of their collections, newsradars or bundles, might contain specific ads selected and organized by the curator to effectively complement the content being presented. If such advertising messages were to be presented as consistent information messages, as in the original crop of AdSense ads, thereby spoiling them of any distractive characteristics, hyping language and "pushy" elements, they could very well provide useful high-value information, especially if, as I am suggesting is the curator-publisher that could select them from a relevant inventory.
Additional opportunities for the monetization of curated news and content may also derive from premium access fees, subscription services and marketing of highly-relevant affiliate products or services.
19. Editors Management
Opportunity to manage multiple editors or a crowdsourced newsroom, by having the option to set approval and review procedures flexibly. From all manual to all automated.
(where you can find it already: ScribbleLive, SwiftRiver, Kapost, OneSpot)
Opportunity for other services and tools to tap into the curation engine and to expand and enrich its present abilities.
(where you can find it already: OneSpot)
21. Licensing and Re-Use
Let, with the permission of the curator, collections be extended and updated with new content and information by other users. Let other curators re-use, re-mix, re-curate existing collections.
Ability to update existing collections with new content.
23. Analytics Integration
Analyze, track and report in detail readers usage of the curated content. What is read, what is clicked, for how long. Integrate URL-shortening service.
24. Visual Output Formats
Opportunity to output curated collections not just as linear sequences but also as maps and as other forms of data visualization such as in the generation of curated mindmaps and interactive, dynamic tag clouds.
(where you can find it already: MySyndicaat)
25. Real-Time Collaboration
Option to have multiple moderated / unmoderated contributors / curators to a curated channel.
5) My Recommendations
I think it is very difficult to make specific recommendations on which one of these tools is best, because I think that they all have peculiar benefits and advantages which could be best exploited by targeting, as a few do, a specific target market or application area.
Who is looking for a system that rapidly generates quality content to populate sections of his site or to establish some thought leadership in a niche vertical has definitely a very different set of needs from those, who moved by true passion and subject-matter expertise choose or are assigned by a publisher to "curate" the best content out there to create a news channel, a guide, a report or a showcase on a specific topic.
From the individual blogger to the large corporate brand, the need for curating content and generating extra value out of it is consistently present. But the approach, the features and delivery methods may differ quite a bit depending on your audience, topic and final objective.
So, all of these tools have both the space and opportunity to do well, as long as they rapidly stop fighting on features and start characterizing themselves for specific applications / uses and target user profiles. This is where their greatest opportunity rest.
In any case, here are a few basic recommendations:
- Among the new tools for small publishers that cost between $0 and $100/mo Storify and CurationStation are my favorite ones. They have a nice set of basic features and sport simple and very intuitive interface.
- If you are a journalist you may want to look into Publish2 and its offering.
- If you are a mid-sized to large company wanting some specific customization for your target vertical you may be better off checking with CiThread, Curata or BrowseMyStuff. With these companies, customers get a lot of attention, and custom sites or topical channels are created without the customer having to do much.
- For big brands and big budgets the relevant choices would appear to be Loud3r, Daylife, OneSpot and some of the other names you see listed in the map, but since I have not had the opportunity to test and talk to many of these, I look forward to find out more in the future before speculating on something I do not really know.
Overall, I think there are a lot of interesting options among which to choose from. I expect a lot of new tools to appear in the near future and a lot of changes and refinements to the existing ones. So there will have to be a ot of updating in this guide.
This time, the best is yet to come, and I look forward to it.
End of Part 6 - The Tools Universe
Coming up next in this Complete Guide to Real-Time News Content Curation:
In Part 7 - Business Applications and Trends
In Part 8 - Legal issues
Originally written and "curated" by Robin Good with the editorial help of Elia Lombardi and first published on MasterNewMedia on October 13th, 2010 as "Real-Time News Curation - The Complete Guide Part 6: The Tools Universe"
Robin Good -
A Brief History of News Curation Tools - Kmit Ivan
The 15 Basic Traits of a News / Content Curation System - MentalArt
The Universe of News and Content Curation Tools - Pleio
Beyond the Seven Needs of Real-Time Curators of Robert Scoble - Hong Kong Ham
My Recommendations - Robin Good
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