Curation vs. Editing

by Lewis DVorkin and Forbes, Inc.

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Forbes Model For Journalism In The Digital Age.

Aggregation vs. Curation. Journalism vs. “Churnalism.” In the first tit-for-tat battle, Bill Keller of The New York Times takes on Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (or is it AOL?) In the second, it’s substance over page views (never mind they’re not mutually exclusive). Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr stated:

Make no mistake there’s a battle raging for the soul of new media. Not the clichéd war between print and Web or between Silicon Valley and New York, but rather a series of internal battles being fought within nearly every publication. It’s the battle between  journalism and churnalism.”  

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Aggregation vs. Curation. Journalism vs. “Churnalism.” In the first tit-for-tat battle, Bill Keller of The New York Times takes on Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post (or is it AOL?) In the second, it’s substance over page views (never mind they’re not mutually exclusive). Sarah Lacy and Paul Carr stated:

Make no mistake there’s a battle raging for the soul of new media. Not the clichéd war between print and Web or between Silicon Valley and New York, but rather a series of internal battles being fought within nearly every publication. It’s the battle between  journalism and churnalism.”  

via Journalism vs Churnalism Battle Rages On.

Ah, the “soul” of media. How it reminded me of the 1980’s with its now-quaint battle lines. On the one side, USA Today (with its snappy graphics and McNugget stories) and Entertainment Tonight (remember Mary Hart and the $2 million insurance policy on her shapely legs?). On the other, the “real” journalists, fighting for stories long enough to say something and mighty issues over fleeting celebrity (wonder who won that one?).

I’ll weigh in with a little twist: to me, it comes down to Curation vs. Editing. More than aggregation, more than “churnalism,” curation was considered in so many ways the next phase of edited journalism. Just as significant, curation-editing was fast transforming “who” the media is.

For nearly 100 years, Forbes, along with many traditional publishers, was about editing – words, sentences, paragraphs, stories, voice. We “edited” talent, too, carefully selecting the editors and reporters who wrote the words and filtered the stories that delivered our message and world view. What did all that add up to? You guessed it: curation.

The Forbes news experience, like so many others, evolved, but we remained steadfast in our focus on editing, or curation. The thing was, our competitors started to look different. They didn’t so much resemble our fellow Big Media companies any more. They increasingly looked like you and me – that is, members of the news audience.

On the Web today, knowledgeable people can publish content for next to nothing. With the tools of social media, those same people can build followings for next to nothing. Both are what Forbes and other traditional players do – for significantly more than nothing. Bottom line: there are lots of new, talented editor-curators out there who are attracting an audience using different labor, distribution and economic models.

Forbes adapted to this world while still adhering to what made us a trusted business news provider. We extended the Forbes brand to the new world of experienced, topic-specific content creators; to business news consumers who want to “follow” them and engage in conversation; and to marketers, who now publish content as experts both on Forbes.com and in Forbes magazine.  We called it “the content continuum,” and in all cases the content creator was clearly identified and labeled.

Forbes is at the forefront of the new editor-curator world. Yes, we dynamically aggregate content to help round out our digital experience. In fact, we take aggregation a step further. We provide our staff members and contributors with an easy-to-use headline tool that enables them to both curate and aggregate the Web for their audiences. Human curation and human aggregation.

In everything we’ve done at Forbes, I have constantly stressed that we need to give our staffers and contributors the publishing tools to do it all – “from inside the office or on the beach in Tahiti” (that’s the mantra of our TechDev team). I want them to be writers, photographers, videographers, curators, and producers of what they do.

Staff writer Dan Fisher (he normally covers finance and the law) did just that with this very real post about falling off the grid during and after Hurricane Irene. Besides explaining his frustrations with losing power, he got the photo, shot the video, and put it all together in a post using our WordPress tools. The New Newsroom curated the remainder of the post experience by inserting two related links (including a photo gallery I created for my Hurricane Post) into the Vest Pocket.

As we moved forward, Dan and his fellow content creators were given additional tools to do what they love to do – create content, dynamically, so their voices can be heard.
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