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The 5 Models Of Content Curation

IMB_ArtGallery Curation has always been an underrated form of creation. The Getty Center in Los Angeles is one of the most frequently visited museums in America – and started as a private art collection from one man (J. Paul Getty) who had a passion for art. Aside from a few well known examples like this one, however, the term curation has rarely been used outside of the world of art … until now.

One of the hottest trends in social media right now is content curation – thanks in no small part to the leading efforts of several thought leaders actively promoting the idea. Joe Pulizzi is a “content marketing evangelist” who speaks and writes often about content marketing publishes a list of the best content marketing blogs across the web. Steve Rosenbaum just published a book called Curation Nation looking at the rise of content curation in the business world – and a recent post on the Psychology Today blog even declared that “content curation is the new black.

What Is Content Curation?

Back in 2009 I published a blog post called the “Manifesto For The Content Curator” which predicted that this role would be one of the fastest growing and most important jobs of the future. I would stand by this prediction today, but also in the post I shared one potential definition for content curation:

Content Curation is a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue.

It is such a powerful idea because curation does NOT focus on adding more content/noise to the chaotic information overload of social media, and instead focuses on helping any one of us to make sense of this information by bringing together what is most important.

The 5 Models Of Content Curation

Over time, the idea of content curation has felt like more and more of a catchphrase that is really encompassing many smaller activities that are adding structure and insight to the cacophony of information being published online. What if we could define not just content curation as a macro activity, but look at how curation might be applied in very specific situations? The rest of this post shares 5 potential models for content curation as a starting point for discussion:

  1. Aggregation - There is a flood of information online and Google can only give you a best guess at the most relevant, but there are millions and millions of pages returned for any search result. Aggregation is the act of curating the most relevant information about a particular topic into a single location. Often taking the form of catalog style blog posts which list “27 Great Resources For Small Business” (or similar aggregations), this is the most common form of content curation. Volume is not typically an issue when it comes to aggregation, so in this case you still may have hundreds of pieces of source material – but just the fact that it is in a single location and not millions of pieces of information has a high value for people interested in a particular topic.
  2. Distillation - The idea behind distillation is that adding a layer of simplicity is one of the most valuable activities that someone can undertake. Distillation is the act of curating information into a more simplistic format where only the most important or relevant ideas are shared. As a result, there may be quite a bit of additional content that is lost for the sake of simplicity – however the value comes from the fact that anyone digesting this content no longer has to contend with a high volume of content and can instead consume a more focused view of information.
  3. Elevation - The smaller ideas that are often shared online in 140 character bursts or pithy mobile phone images may point to a larger societal trend or shift. Elevation refers to curation with a mission of identifying a larger trend or insight from smaller daily musings posted online. Encompassing much of what many trend-focused websites do, this can be one of the hardest forms of content curation because it requires more expertise and analytical ability on the part of the person or organization during the curating. The benefit is that it can also be the most powerful in terms of sharing new ideas as well.
  4. Mashup - A term often used in the context of music to describe the growing trend of taking two or more pieces of music and fusing them together – there is a wider implication for mashups in relation to information. Mashups are unique curated justapositions where merging existing content is used to create a new point of view. Taking multiple points of view on a particular issue and sharing it in a single location would be one example of this type of behaviour – and could be used to describe the sort of activity that takes place every day on Wikipedia. More broadly, mashups can offer a way of creating something new while still using content curation as a basis for it because you are building on existing content.
  5. Chronology - One of the most interesting ways of looking at the evolution of information is over time – and how concepts or our understanding of topics has changed over time. Creating a Chronology is a form of curation that brings together historical information organized based on time to show an evolving understanding of a particular topic. Most useful when it comes to topics where understanding has shifted over time, this can be a powerful way of retelling history through informational artifacts that exist over time to prove how experiences and understandings have changed.

Content curation is certainly an emerging space and one where more and more thought leaders will continue to share their voices. This is simply a contribution to the curated universe of discussion on this topic – as well as an option invitation to others who have thought deeply about content curation to share their own visions for what the future may look like.

I’ll look forward to eventually reading the “Chronological Curation” of this discussion one day in the future where this post may be included among many others to spark a longer and deeper conversation about a topic that has the potential to transform how each of us sees the world around us.

Interested in learning more about content curation?  Click here to learn how to book Rohit to speak at your next event >>

Additional Posts About Content Curation:


  • Vijay Prakash Shukla

    I found this informative and interesting blog, so I think so it’s very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. In fact your creative writing abilities has inspired me. I really thought that blog is spreading its wings rapidly…
    Thanks a lot.

  • Alex

    Great blog with some fantastic ideas.
    People often say that there are no new ideas, just an evolution of the old ones. This is exactly what good content curating can be online.

  • Tracy

    I look forward to content curation becoming more prevalent on the web. It can be overwhelming and very time-consuming now when researching subjects on the web due to the sheer number of posts on any given subject. Finding different ways to organize and group information in a more stream-lined manner should have positive impacts.

    Your “distillation” model can be concerning since, as you mention, information may be lost. Depending on who is curating the information, censorship may play a negative role unless original sources are left as is to be found by those willing to do their own digging for information.

  • Nupur Maskara

    Thank you for doing all of that with this post:)

  • Sarah

    This is a very interesting post. If different websites were designed for each model of content curation, online searches would be faster and more relevant!! I wonder if Google will be the company to develop one or all of the models of content curation!

  • Eric

    Everyone is a docent link to

  • Oliver Starr

    Sarah, having different websites for each model might be interesting but I think having one platform that supports all the models is even more powerful. I may be biased since I’m the Chief Evangelist for a company that has one of the largest communities of content curators ( but I think you might find what we do very interesting because the flexible nature of what we’ve built is probably the only tool that currently allows curators to aggregate, distill, elevate, mash-up or provide a chronology for any kind of content that has a URL.

    Beyond this we also have the ability to be used as a meta-curation application. There are a number of great tools for curating real-time news such as Stori.fy for example, but most of them lack the archiving capability that would allow the curated material to remain as reference material in the future. By taking something curated in stori.fy for example, and adding the URL of that real time curation into Pearltrees, you’ve now curated the curation. For example someone could use stori.fy to curate the daily news from Libya and then by organizing each day’s curated material in Pearltrees you’ve built a chronology of the events day by day or even tweet by tweet.

    If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think.

    Oliver Starr, Chief Evangelist,
    oliver dot starr at pearltrees dot com

  • romanya vizesi

    thank you very much for information

  • Heidi Beezley

    Very interesting post. Content curation has been on my mind quite a bit recently. I work in the field of education and there are so many individuals and groups who are doing curation of content but aren’t necessarily talking to each other. So there are a multitude of aggregators or distillers to visit. A list that simply links to these various silos isn’t particularly helpful because it still requires the user to do quite a bit of sifting. So I look forward to a day when resources are more effectively curated so that accessing the best of the best is easier.

    I truly hope that meaningful and effective curation becomes a hot trend. One particularly dismaying effect of crowd-sourcing (which seems the easiest mechanism for curation) as curation is that information that is of poor quality or error-ridden pops up in curated collections. How can curation mechanisms not just aggregate what’s hot, but what is insightful, relevant, and correct? Do you see curation being mechanized? If the human element is important, will curation prioritize the experts in a field?

    It seems to me to be an exciting but complicated new horizon.

  • semwatch

    Thank you Rohit for your post, we think your article may help our SEOers clear the next direction in their way, especially in front of the Google’s farmer update.

    So, we translate your post into Chinese here: link to

    Thanks again.


  • Nick Stamoulis

    There is only so much “new” information out there. So content curation is really a big part of content marketing. The key to content marketing is that the information needs to be useful and interesting.

  • Dominique Moraux

    A lot of articles in french are inspired by your posts.
    But I think that they made a translation of your “curator definition” that is not exactly the good one.
    So, I’ve written a post in French on my blog, to analyse what you write and try to find a better translation : link to
    Your posts are really interesting :-)

  • Stephen

    This is a wonderful insight into content curation. Too many people focus on the noise, and even I have been guilty of that in the past. But the idea that grabbed me was Elevation. This goes along with the noise factor. And it really made me think about the companies content creation, and is it just adding noise, or is it elevating the right content to spark more interest and awareness from a trend.

  • lilac butterfly

    Thanks Rohit, I like this classification for its simplicity. Useful for learning curators as well – people who facilitate group discussions, particularly in training programmes, as well as people involved in curriculum design.

    Your post gave me an idea to do a graphic, which I’ve posted here and thought to share with you:
    link to

  • Pawan Deshpande

    Hi Rohit -

    Thanks for helping to illustrate the different models of curation.

    For new curators, it should be noted that there is no wrong model for curation. In fact, the same site can leverage any one of these models at different times – dependent on what style best syncs with the information being gathered and shared. This is where the ‘human element’ comes into play – a key requirement for strategic curation.

    Those new to curation or content marketing are invited to read the two recent posts I published below. In and of themselves, the posts are examples of the ‘aggregation’ model. By directing to the portals referenced in these posts, readers can see live examples of curation that leverage multiple different models:

    · 6 Content Curation Examples Illustrated
    link to

    · 6 More Content Curation Examples Illustrated
    link to

  • Craig Desmarais

    Content Curation will be a huge asset to your company’s arsenal for executing strategy. Not only will you be able to access and learn best practices from the top experts as it happens, but you will also learn what not to do as you read about the people who learned how NOT to do something, unfortunately the hard way.

    You could even take it a step further and start to track trends via the data your receive from the content and possibly predict a future trend and help prepare for it.

  • Voncelle Volté

    Thank you for writing this article regarding curating. You will love how I include my ode to pop culture via Etsy Treasury Lists on my blog. Stop by for a spell.

    Stay tuned into The Light.

    Voncelle Volté

  • Voncelle Volté

    Thank you for writing this article regarding curating. You will love how I include my ode to pop culture via Etsy Treasury Lists on my blog. Stop by for a spell.

    Stay tuned into The Light.

    Voncelle Volté

  • agenzie di modelle

    WOW ! This is really very Great blog with some fantastic ideas. People often say that there are no new ideas, just an evolution of the old ones. This is exactly what good content curating can be online.Thanks for this nice and fantastic post. great works

  • Scott Abel

    If you’re interested in Content Curation, read my post about the Content Curation Porcess. I’m presenting about this at Confab, The Content Strategy Conference in Minneapolis May 10, 2011.

    Content Curation: Streamlining The Process Of Populating Your Social Networks With Relevant, Interesting and Engaging Content –> link to

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