Tools to unleash your inner curator

By Laura Haight

Originally published by Upstate Business Journal on Aug 9, 2013 

There are players and spectators, doers and observers, those who can do and those who teach. In social media, there are creators and curators

A creator is a person, thought-leader or company that develops unique content on blogs, social media. Someone other people read and follow. While a curator is one who reads, evaluates and publicizes content

Most of us are practicing curation without really thinking about it. That’s what you’re doing everytime to share a link or retweet a post.

But there are more formal curation methods that let you create digital publications from content you and your readers/clients/customers may be interested in.

There are tools to help. They range from super simple to much more full featured (read that: pricey).

Here’s a look at a few:

You might overlook this at first, but Pinterest is a curation tool. I know! I thought it was just for shopping too. A cool way to tag a great pair of shoes. But as most things on the Internet, it has outgrown its programming. Pinners have determined for themselves what it’s going to be - and it turns out there are a lot of organizations out there building boards with interesting content they want to share. These boards, of course, are only on Pinterest so you can point people to them or hope that Pinterest users stumble across them, but that’s as far as it goes for publicizing your efforts.

Paper.li (http://www.paper.li) let’s you create an online newspapers from a variety of content sources, trending tags and contributors. Your papers is virtually published with refreshed content on your customized schedule. You can publicize your work in a variety of ways - by sharing on social sites, by getting subscribers who get each new edition emailed to them, or - for an upgrade fee of $9 per month, you can embed the code in your website. I set one up (http://paper.li/f-1333812961) on virtual events/online meetings. The challenge is that you really have to watch the content. All kind of content gets pulled in and you - as the editor/publisher - have control over whether to include it and how to display it. If you aren’t really watching a lot of junk creeps in.

Depending on how active a role you want to take, paper.li could have many great features or lots of drawbacks. You really have to review the content, but you can control where it appears, how it is displayed and remove unwanted posts. Because the first time you see most of these stories is when they appear in your paper, the format is promising but requires a lot of work from you.

Flipboard is a great tool that just in the past two weeks got even better. Flipboard is a mobile app that aggregates content on the web into magazine style pages. As a program to make your social media reading more accessible, it is great. But it also lets readers create their own magazines. The Flipboard magazines require that you populate them, either as you read other content in Flipboard that you can “flip” into one of your magazines or as you read or come across things online, you can use a bookmarklet to save a web page into your magazine. The magazines can be only for you - a way to aggregate things you wanted to save for later reading. Or for distribution. Although responsively designed for mobile use, they can now be viewed online as well. www.flipboard.com. Check out our digital magazine - SmartTech.

While Flipboard is more theme oriented, Storify is a great way to curate an event or a single issue. It pulls in content across the web based on searches, hashtags or other specifics. Like Flipboard and Paper.li, there’s a bookmarklet to let you grab content for your story as you browse web pages. For free, you can create as many stories as you want and embed them in your websites or blog.  For a business upgrade you can rid yourself of ad support, create branded stories that match your website in color, look and feel or add more users.

These are just the tip of the iceberg - and generally I’ve looked at those most accessible factoring in cost and ease of use. But if you’re a bigger company and want a much more business oriented publishing solution, there are plenty of programs out there from Pressjack to Curata and everything in between. 

Although it is an old term - curating on the web is one of the most engaging ways of making sense out of what can often seem to be just digital noise.