Book Review: Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum

For today’s blog, I’d like to take a break from the discussion of content curation tools in order to review a key book in the development of the content curation movement. In 2011, Steven Rosenbaum wrote Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators. While his intended audience is for-profit internet entrepreneurs, the book offers a good grounding in the breadth of the content curation arena. Arianna Huffington, co-founder and chief editor for the Huffington Post calls Rosenbaum an “evangelist for the transformational power of curation done right — acknowledging the power of creation while respecting the rules of the road. Curation Nation combines a true believer’s passion with a clear-eyed practicality, and the result is an indispensable guide to the brave new media world.”

Rosenbaum does not intend the book to be a “how to” manual for content curation. You won’t find step-by-step guides to creating your Scoop.It account, or a comparison of the key features of Scoop.It to Storify. Instead, he offers up a valuable grounding of the importance of curation for publishers, brand marketers – virtually any entrepreneur hoping to launch a successful web-based venture.

Rosenbaum begins by describing what curation is. Curation, he asserts, was developed because of “our need to be able to find information in coherent, reasonably contextual groupings.” (p5) The Online Etymology Dictionary describes the roots of the term “curation” as “a taking care, attention, management” Indeed, when one thinks of a museum curator, for example, the image of an individual who is taking special care of his collection immediately comes to mind. Likewise, content curator takes on the responsibility for making sense of the content he captures online, providing a thoughtful collection for others.

Rosenbaum tells a number of stories throughout his book and introduces a number of interesting individuals. One of the best definitions for this new job of a content curator that he shares is from the 2009 Manifesto/Job Description of Content Curator by Rohit Bhargava (p. 14) who states: “The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors, publishing highly valuable compilations of content created by others.”

For several early chapters, Rosenbaum illustrates the history of curation by discussing various types of curation, from the Dewey Decimal system, to Reader’s Digest to Huffington Post to Shawn Collins who runs one of the advertising industry’s biggest networking conferences. This makes for entertaining reading and provides a broader view of content curation, taking us past the details of how we can best use Scoop.It to curate blog entries from around the web, and instead giving us a chance to step by and consider the big picture of information and how it is created and spread in the world.

Rosenbaum believes that in order to successfully implement content curation in a business, there are three major areas of focus: the publishing end, advertising (or affiliate marketing) and syndication, or spreading your message in such a way that it draws new consumers to your site. Blogging remains the core of content curation. Rosenbaum explains: “Blogging and curation are like parts of a set of Russian nesting dolls, with individual bloggers increasingly becoming link gatherers and curators.”(p161) So, if all these individual bloggers on one side and the affiliate marketers and businesses on the other are all creating and curating content, how are we going to keep the web from being just one giant, mixed-up, unruly mess of content like the old days of the Wild West? That, Rosenbaum says, is where content strategy comes in! Created by Kristina Halvorson in her book Content Strategy, we need to plan for not only the creation and curation of content, but also to step back and define why this content is valuable to publish in the first place, where it would be most effective, and how we will take care of it over the long haul.

So what is my opinion of the book Curation Nation? I found it an interesting read with many anecdotes and factoids about well-known businesses such as Huffington Post and Pepsi-Cola and their DEWmocracy campaign to name only a few. It was a good book for the discussion of the theory behind content curation, its effect on business and the development of the web today. It did tend to ramble a bit, and there were some claims the author made that I felt were totally off base. “Search is dead. It’s over. Done. Gone” (p252) His grand example “proving” this was a Google Image Search of his own name which brought back a number of different people and.. a dog? Isn’t he just proving that either the searcher is not expert enough with his searching capability or the search engine is not robust enough? At least, that is the answer that cries out from the librarian in me. But I am only one person. Read Curation Nation for yourself and make your own opinion. At the very least it will encourage you to start a conversation with someone about it.  You can also listen to the TED talk that Rosenbaum did at TEDxGrandRapids.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email