Mediakar

The best content curation tools for journalists

Image courtesy of verbeeldingskr8 / Flickr

Image courtesy of verbeeldingskr8 / Flickr

Content curation helps journalists keep abreast of the latest developments in their beats. It also means that journalists become personal “human filters” for their audiences, offering them more value and insight into what is being posted on the web.

Content curation is not new. In fact, this is something journalists have always been doing by organizing information and presenting it to the public. Still, content curation is new. The role of journalists is shifting from gatekeepers to sense-makers and gate-watchers, says German journalist, Internet expert and DW-AKADEMIE trainer Markus Bösch. That’s where curation comes into play.

By curating content, journalists can embrace new tools which will make their voice heard as well as discover new research possibilities on the web. To get attention, reporters don’t have to produce exclusive content any more. They can also offer their expertise and serve as “human filters” that their audiences can trust.

What does a curator do?

Curation means filtering and selecting best pieces of content on the web – and doing it systematically and coherently. Curators not only discover useful information on the Internet but – and that is at least equally important – organize, present and share it.

Although curators don’t have to create original content, their selection of related content can be a value in itself. As Josh Sternberg wrote in a Mashable article called “Why Curation Is Important to the Future of Journalism”, the torrent of content emanating from innumerable sources (blogs, mainstream media, social networks) has created a vacuum between reporter and reader — or information gatherer and information seeker. This makes it necessary to have a trusted human editor to help sort out all this information.

With the development of online journalism, the role of curators will be growing too. Up until now, curators seem to fall into two categories: those aggregating and reblogging content without any editorializing, and those providing additional thoughts as part of their reblog, retweet, etc.

Providing related content in a context means that a new way of storytelling appears. The way in which it is done depends to a large extent on the tools chosen.

Before you start to curate

Before you start curating a topic on one of the available platforms, ask yourself: what and how exactly do you want to cover it, advises Andy Bull, a journalism trainer and author of the book Multimedia Journalism – A Practical Guide. For example, you can either cover one particular story or concentrate on an on-going issue or industry.

After that you can look for a particular platform that will suit your needs: some platforms are designed for single story curation, others for long-term coverage. There are a number of specialized curation platforms that are worth a closer look:

Tools for content curation

Storify is a tool which allows you to syndicate content from major social services such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. It will also import content from Google Search and chosen RSS feeds. Moreover, you can embed URLs, which means you are not limited in the choice of the stuff you want to present. After pulling in content based on the key words you can arrange it and include your own text which will explain pieces of content that follow.

After creating your story stream and arranging it in the right order, you can publish it directly on the platform. Note that your story will remain interactive after publication: for example, users will be able to react to tweets you imported into the story. A link will be automatically generated for your Twitter account and Twitter users mentioned in your Storify will be notified. You can also export the story into your blog and format it afterwards.

Here’s an example of a Storify created by CBC News: “Social media: Cleaning up in Egypt”.

Scoop.it is good for curating a particular subject of interest, as Andy Bull notes. Necessary steps to create your own stream are: you decide on the topic, you name your stream and define the language and sources, after which you hand-pick content from the sources and publish selected items. Scoop.it will suggest some content for you from the web based on the key words you entered. After setting up your account, you can explore other account by keywords and subscribe to them. You will be able to “re-scoop” their posts.

After publishing a “scoop” you can share it with your social circles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or publish the link in your WordPress or Tumblr blog.

Aspiring multimedia reporters should subscribe to the multimedia journalism stream curated by Andy Bull. Another good stream is called Online Curating Tools. I also started a stream dedicated to storytelling online.

Bundlr defines a bundle as a collection of content you find on the web. The platform helps organize content from texts, pictures, tweets, links or video in bundles and share them. The principle is the same as in Scoop.it. Other than in Scoop.it, you don’t need an invitation. Just sign in using your Facebook or Twitter account. You can add other bundles on your topic to favorites. After creating a bundle, you can share it by email or on social networks. Here’s an example of a bundle on open data visualization.

Pearltrees is another interesting project based in Paris. It has a strong visual side in that pieces of content are represented as “pearls” on a tree which looks like a mind map. Also, the platform enables collaboration of several people on a Team Pearltree.

With Snip.it you can import your Facebook posts to start a collection and then bookmark (“snip”) pieces of content you want to save for yourself or share with others. You can read more about this service here.

Using Kurat you can create one or more customized news streams based on key words and hashtags which will collect content from all over the Internet, including tweets and RSS feeds.
Other curation tools include:

Qrait 
Redux 
BagTheWeb 
Eqentia 
Shareist – currently in beta / by invite only
Pinterest – currently in beta / by invite only
Curata – a tool for marketers, available in a free 30-day trial version

Twitter-based services

There are also a number of services which primarily help store and organize tweets about a topic, event, company or whatever comes to mind. These include:
Keepstream , which adds tweets and organizes them into collections which can be embedded on a website or blog.
Curated.by: Apart from tweets, you can also add other links via a browser bookmarklet and a Google Chrome extension.
Chirpstory: You can also add text and links to photos and videos and adjust text size and colors.
Cadmus is still about content curation, but from a different perspective. The service helps manage your own Twitter stream by showing general trends and personal trending topics, that is, what people you follow are talking about. While the service still seems a little chaotic, its positive side is that it allows you to directly see responses to a particular tweet.

Social bookmarks

Although popularity of social bookmarking services such as StumbleUpon and Reddit has sunk, some of them can serve as an attractive alternative to specialized curation platforms.

Let’s take a look at the new Delicious which was recently relaunched. Not only can you store your bookmarks online and make them either public or private, but you can also create stacks which are pretty much the same as bundles, or scoops. You can still edit your stacks after publishing, add new and delete the old ones. Here, I created a stack on content curation. The bad thing is, you can’t share your stack on social services. Instead, you have to send a link to it via email which is clearly not enough.

A completely different approach is taken by Utopic which automatically aggregates and publishes all the links you’ve shared or liked on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Google Reader plus stores links you’ve saved directly to Utopic. The service will also suggest people you may want to follow.

Paper.li works along the same lines and turns your Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds into an online newspaper. It will collect content and publish it as a daily collection of the most popular items.

More tools are mentioned here.

How to find suitable content

Although content curation may include posting your own original content, it’s mostly about collecting and presenting information already available on the web. But before you publish something, you first have to find it. In this case content aggregators and specialized search engines come in handy.

To find content that is fit to be published you can try aggregators as well as social search engines such as Topsy.

And remember: No matter which tools you use to find and organize content, it’s your engagement as a curator that really makes the difference.

First published by Deutsche Welle Asia
Spanish version: Curador de contenido: ¿la nueva función del periodista?

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