Phil Friedman

7 years ago · 8 min. reading time · ~100 ·

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Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?

Content Curation: Innocent Sharing or Just Another Pile of Digital Marketing Bull Chips?

He Said...He Said


Th Cramer’ Petras CONVELSAtiol S

Preface:  This is the 22nd installment of He Said He Said, produced after a brief hiatus during which we received a large number of requests to return to the format. Truth be told, Jim Murray and I agree that writing this series is about as much fun as two straight guys can have together, and so we're continuing to do it. For the record, the process is pretty much real time live, with each of us writing quickly and off the cuff, although we do consciously pick topics that are likely to provoke disagreement and discussion. For to us, the exchange between us and our readers is what it's all about. So please feel free to read and join the conversation.


PHIL:  An article that appeared a few years ago in the digital magazine EContent defined ‘content curation’ as, "… the act of discovering, gathering and presenting digital content that surrounds specific subject matter … Unlike Content Marketing, content curation does not include generating content, but instead, amassing content from a variety of sources, and delivering … [it] to readers in a mash-up style.”

In my experience, “curated content” is used mainly in the service of “Content Marketing” and frequently without the consent of the original creator.

It, therefore, seems to me that content curation is the epitome of predatory content theft.

Whether it is a form of theft that rises to the level of plagiarism and/or violation of copyright is a complicated question. But the bottom line appears clearly to me to be that it is theft, plain and simple.

Yet, content curation is not only tolerated in today’s digital publishing world, it’s widely accepted as standard practice, even lauded.

Do you think, Jim, that we’ve just become too lazy to create original content for marketing purposes, or that we’re just too cheap to be willing to pay even the pittance it would take to purchase rights to original content? Or is content curation, like Rap “music”, the devolutionary adaptation to seriously waning levels of available creative talent?


JIM: Well since you asked…I believe that the whole concept of Content Marketing is bullshit. I always have. As are the notions that people need to know all kinds of stuff about you before they make a purchase decision…that content management programs are designed to get people to warm up to your brand…and that people no longer believe the claims that advertisers make in conventional advertising.

This is all crap. All you have to do to understand that is read Bob Hoffman’s weekly newsletter, which I have been doing for the past year.
Bob has done a lot of industry research to basically demonstrate that content management programs without the aid of paid media advertising are literally 99% ineffective.

So what does this all have to do with curation? Well, once you come to the realization that Content Marketing is mostly, and by mostly I mean close to 100% useless, you also start to realize that that curation is a rather pointless activity.

Whether this constitutes plagiarism is a good question. For this, I would refer to the good old 80/20 Differential, which IMHO would put plagiarized or partly plagiarized content in the 80%. Because let’s face it, most of this stuff is cranked out by propeller heads whose main skill is skimming cutting and pasting. They're not writers. They're hacks and the stuff they produce is mashed-up crap for the most part.

All of this is the brainchild of the digital marketing industry whose main objective is to get you into a content management program that they will gladly manage for you, mostly with content that they harvest from content banks populated with skim, cut and paste junk on whatever topics fit your product.

It’s a scam that a whole lot of companies bought into and legitimized. But these days you’re starting to see companies like Proctor & Gamble reducing their content management program by 75% due to under-performance. Other companies have already started pulling back and more will soon follow.

This is why I have avoided it for years and choose to write op/ed stuff instead. Op/ed is the best kind of content for a writer to produce anyway because it’s a little personal and therefore more difficult to steal because all it primarily promotes is your writing skills and industry knowledge.

I know you have had problems with plagiarism in the past. But you have to admit that hasn’t been chronic. In fact, you could probably file it under ‘shit happens’.

~PHIL: Well, that’s just great, Jimbo, just great. I ask you to join me in trashing content curation and content curators… and you immediately divert off to trashing Content Marketing.

But okay, let’s take a step back and talk first about what Bob Hoffman is saying, namely, that Content Marketing, in and by itself, is almost totally ineffective.

Personally, I’m inclined to accept Hoffman’s claim. Indeed, I’ve found that most people, who use the term “content”, do so with the attitude that it is a generic commodity, dropped into one's blog page or website or other marketing vehicles, for the sole purpose of disguising a sales pitch as the “delivery of value”.

That purported delivery of value is supposed to build credibility for one’s brand, and win the loyalty of potential customers. Which is precisely why almost all Content Marketing fails.

Most of those who buy into Content Marketing as a strategy invariably fail to understand that it matters what you provide as content.

For example, if you are thinking about outfitting a home workshop, you might give preference to a tool and equipment firm that posts consistently interesting, informative and believable content about tools and machinery, woodworking and welding, and so on.

What is not going to impress you as a prospect in such cases are cat memes, weather reports for the Colorado ski slopes (unless, I suppose, you’re getting ready to go skiing in Colorado), or the latest “fun facts” about using WD40 lubricant for all manner of non-standard applications. And because firms don’t understand that the nature of the content delivered matters, they see Content Marketing as a cheap way to brand and build sales.

The situation is reminiscent of when a firm feels it can’t afford a decent advertising budget, so decides to take cheap advertising space in publications that don’t have genuine circulation. When a firm does that, it is simply because it wants to feel comforted by advertising somewhere. Never mind that somewhere is often a useless venue, and they’d be just as well, or perhaps better off not advertising anywhere.


JIM: Hold your horses there, boat boy, I have to take a bit of an issue with your allegation here. IMHO, (hardly ever H), I thought I did a pretty good job of connecting the dots.

I mean, if content curation isn’t one of the main activities of content marketing, then something is definitely amiss. You can’t really discuss one without the other. And that brings me right back to the main issue which is that content marketing could, maybe on a good day, be generally improved by more thoughtful content curation.

But even in the best of all possible worlds, there is still a massive, constantly growing glut of content out there, which is a true sign that this medium, as become bloated and as such it is much harder to be successful, or even break through the clutter than it was in the early days.

But I don't think this is so much a result of laziness as is it of taking advantage of algorithmic technology to assemble (and consequently de-personalize) the content that a lot of pretty high-profile brands are putting out there.

Here’s what I mean. A couple years ago a friend of mine asked me to look at the content marketing program for a fairly high profile brand. They had created a Facebook page and had several different streams of content rotating through on an average of 21 postings a week.

Their ad agency’s digital marketing department charged them about $160,000 to do this over a 20-week cycle. And that was just for curating/managing the content. It didn’t include creative, photography, illustration, writing, art direction and posting, which added another $90,000.

What my friend’s client wanted to know was if they were getting ripped off.

Well, all you had to do to figure that out was scroll down the page, and check the actual engagement in terms of comments. It was pathetic. Most of the comments felt like they were written by 10-year-olds, and after a good deal of scrolling down their page, I had trouble getting the number of comments to add up to 100.

Obviously, the content was crap. But they paid through the nose for it. Close to half a million bucks a year. (for two 20 week cycles)

The point this that you can’t talk about content curation without paying attention to the results that the marketing it supports achieves. Not everybody’s results are going to be this pathetic. But even if you are being generous, it’s still a lot of bull chips and for most brands and pretty much a waste of marketing dollars, unless you are spending big in conventional media to drive traffic to the landing or content pages.

And even then, you have to have an incentive attached to that, which adds even more to the cost.

Copynight © 2016 by


Tul § nedman and Jim Moray — AL RGHE, ReservedPHIL:  I have to point out that the numbers don't seem quite as outrageous if we take into consideration the value of the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. dollar. [Smile]

Seriously, though, you and I are coming at this from two opposite directions. I am pretty much saying it is the poor content, created by content curators, that makes Content Marketing just a pile of bull chips.

You, on the other hand, are saying that Content Marketing is, if not an outright con, a bungled notion all on its own.

Perhaps, we can agree that however one comes at them, Content Marketing and its hand-maiden content curation are wrong-headed, both in terms of concept and execution.

I would say you've put your finger on the Achilles heel of Content Marketing, which is that nobody can be attracted to even the highest quality content until and unless they are first exposed to it. So even if you pack a website with the greatest, most attractive, most credible content available, you still have first to drive traffic to the website, before anything can happen. And you can’t do that by means of Content Marketing.  Or can you?

What would happen if content marketers stopped taking the cheap and easy route of using second or third rate curated content which is concurrently available at numerous sites on the web and instead commissioned the creation of high-quality original content, then posted that content in updates and long-form pieces across numerous social media platforms?

I suspect that might just work to give a Content Marketing campaign the kick-start it inevitably needs to begin building brand recognition and driving initial traffic to a firm’s website or blog. Let’s call it Foothold- or Prelude-marketing.

Of course, to implement such an approach, content marketers would have to stop stealing via curation and start paying for the creation of credible original content.

Afterword: JimMurray can, and always will speak for himself.  However, you are free to post comments directed to either Jim or me, on either his post of HSHS No. 22, or mine. You'll always get an answer one way or the other.

Author's Notes:   If you found this interesting and would like to receive notifications of my writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee archive page. Better yet, you can arrange on that same page to follow my "blogging" by email. As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me (and in the case of "He Said He Said", Jim as well) properly as the author(s), and include a live link to the original post.

About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation.

In a previous life, I was formally trained as an academic philosopher and taught logic and philosophy at university.

Before writing comes thinking.  ( The optional-to-read pitch) :  

As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.




PH siogoets]

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To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult or to sit in on one of our online group sessions, email: I look forward to speaking with you soon.




David B. Grinberg

7 years ago #29

Thanks for adding even more clarity to this discussion, Phil. This is helpful for the rest of us, who are neophytes on the topic. I admire your passion and being outspoken on this issue. You certainly set a fine example for the rest of us. Also, I'll remember the "idiot defense" just in case -- as I'm often called an idiot anyway (lol). Lastly, I'm certainly insistent that you're never inconsistent. Yet another admirable trait, Phil. Keep buzzing, my friend.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #28

David, for what it's worth, I place a copyright notice on all my work. Because the courts general recognize the "idiot defense" for the "first" violation (Gee, your honor, I didn't know it was covered by copyright.) But for the work I post on social media, I include under author's notes a license to share and repost as follows: "Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+, provided only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to the original post."

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #27

David, inconsistent not insistent as the autocorrector insisted.:-)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #26

David, it is easy, as is demonstrated in this comment thread, to confuse the issues --- particularly by arbitrarily adopting a definition of "content curating" that is insistent with the reality of what is commonly referred to by its practitioners as curating content. When someone copies entire texts and supplies them for use by a client on the client's website as part of a content marketing program... And collects a fee for doing so, that IS a commercial theft of intellectual property, performed for the profit of the "content curator" at the expense of the creator, who could sell right to that original content. The creator may not care, or may feel it not worth pursuing. But that does not change the facts of the violation of copyright. Google does not commit textual copyright violation because it does not reprint articles, it provides a link and a path to reaching the original. And Google does not charge, so is functioning as a library educationally. The siuruation re photos is more complicated, but I think nobody with half a brain wants to stop Google from displaying the works of photographers, least of all the photographers themselves. But again that does not in itself change the algal facts, whatever those may be.

David B. Grinberg

7 years ago #25

Thanks for chiming in with excellent advice and observations Robert Bacal's analogy about folks driving over the speed limit but rarely being stopped. It would be interesting to see one of the copyright infringement cases per social media content curation be decided by a court. I know there have been cases regarding intellectual property and copyright infringements with online photos/images.

David B. Grinberg

7 years ago #24

Phil, one clarification: I'm not talking about "for profit" but the opposite. Like how I shared this very buzz on several hives or retweeted it per Jim Murray. Should I have received permission first or be potentially subjected to some sort of copyright infringement? I understand how copyright laws apply to photos, images, recordings and major bodies of written work (film scripts, books, etc.). However, I believe there's still legal ambiguity about how copyright infringement applies to blog posts or related social media content. I'm no lawyer, of course, and I know you've researched and written about this topic extensively. Thus, any further clarification per the above would be appreciated at your convenience? Thanks again.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #23

PS David, common disregard flor copyright law does not legalize the stealing of material for profit.Every driver I know, including the thousands I drive alongside every day, routinely exceeds the road speed limits by 10 mph or more. That doesn't make it legal or protect them from a fine, should a policeman decide to cite them for the legal violation.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #22

David, the last time I looked, you couldn't "tweet" a 2,000 word article. Copying and sharing a phrase (or two) with a link appended is not the same as curating an article by copying and pasting the entire text or a very substantial portion of it into a new article. No, it is not legalese. Especially, if you use the purloined text or photos in a commercial, revenue generating context. And no, sharing an article on beBee is not the same as again you are not copying and pasting the article into a new post, but simply passing along to your connections what has been "sent" to you. Cheers!

David B. Grinberg

7 years ago #21

Phil or Jim Murray: Are you saying it's problematic for content curation on social media via blog posts and other digital content -- even citing the author and/or source? If yes, then wouldn't this logic "securing permission" likewise apply to Twitter retweets and/or shares on beBee, Facebook, LI, etc.? Am I missing some technical nuances here because I know most social media users don't get permission to share other's content, they just do it with citation as a courtesy, for which the author is usually thankful. I hope we aren't getting caught up in "legalese" here, are we? What's the technical distinction to draw the line? And, if permission is required, why doesn't anyone seek it out first?

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #20

Thank you, Pooh, for reading and commenting. I think we are agreed that "sloppy copy and curated crap" is too much for a brand to bear. Cheers!

Jerry Fletcher

7 years ago #19

Huzzahs from the Brand Poobah! Both of you are correct. Original content is critical to real Brand development. It is glossed over too often. Where the content is revealed is another matter which has received less attention than needed. In simple terms, My own research with clients over the lat 25 years plus that done by colleagues in the last 10 years all say the same thing: Original content delivered with personality in web sites, blogs (and variants) only work if they build trust. And since Brand is the outcome of Trust, sloppy copy and curated crap turns clients or customers away. Other than that, I have no strong feelings on the matter.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #18

Wayne, I agree that there is some grey area in regard of "sharing" content, when such sharing does not generate revenue for the sharer. Of course, the copyright law would likely allow sharing a few lines verbatim from an article, with a link to the original, without permission --- under the concept of "fair use". However, my understanding of fair use is that it does not cover commercial uses, say, in advertising and marketing. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #17

Wayne, I agree that there is some grey area in regard of "sharing" content, when such sharing does not generate revenue for the sharer. Of course, the copyright law would like allow sharing only a few lines verbatim from an article, with a link to the original --- under the concept of "fair use". Cheers!

Wayne Yoshida

7 years ago #16

Agreed. Especially in the example of magazines, product reviews and advertisers.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #15

If the curator sails to secure prrmission, and tha author does not shaw a blanket license, yes.

David B. Grinberg

7 years ago #14

Thanks for another enlightening exchange Phil and Jim Murray. Do you think curating content is problematic even if the author and/or source is cited?

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #13

Good points, Wayne. Although we all need to keep in mind that even consumer product reviews have not escaped the polluting hand of digital dishonesty. There are firms who, for pay, will post a variety of shill positive reviews for a product. Is that any worse than a heavy advertiser in Car & Driver receiving some very positive reviews in print for new product? Probably not. But it still sucks... bigtime. Cheers!

Wayne Yoshida

7 years ago #12

Glad to see the He Said/He Said series back. One problem with "curators" is the mindless boinking of a "share" button. Far too many people think this is a good thing, a way to get noticed without actually doing anything. roponents of the boink feature say this is a simple and easy (key words there) way to say "thank you" for the post. Maybe there needs to be a "Thank You" button. As in, "I am too lazy to read the entire thing, but it looks like it could be good. Thank you for the nice post." Even easier than replying with the comment "Great post." [Wasn't this covered before?] I never liked this boink function, it mostly floods our incoming feeds with useless junk: Anything from a photo with no caption (OK, I see the image of a person and some doo-dad their company makes - is there some message I am supposed to understand? Do you think I am going to buy that item? What makes you think I am looking to buy your stuff?) to one of those work at home opportunities and genius tests. Time to stop the boinkng. . . But if someone takes the time to point out what / why this item is so important we should drop everything and read - it becomes slightly different. It (usually/sometimes) tells me there is some thinking behind the boinking. On Phil's power tools example -- a constant barrage of messages to buy this item does not work for me. I rely on product reviews and friends with similar tastes and requirements. And no, famous spokespeople don't work for me, either. I really don't care if Rory McIlroy uses this special golf club - especially since I know that putter is not going to improve my short game. Here's one thing that did influence me on a recent purchase: Product reviews for LCD flat screen TVs. I looked at the product reviews and there is an interesting pattern of difference between purchasers of the various brands. Since I had several hundred bucks in rebate checks to spend, price was not a factor. I chose a new Sony.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #11

Personally, Don, I always found "The Sorrows of Young Werther" somewhat on the effete side of things. But I am but a simple street urchin from Chicago, who has had the good fortune to rise, however fleetingly, above my station as part of the greater Karmic plan. Seriously, Paul Frank Gilbert's piece is well worth a read, and I join you in recommending it. ( ) Cheers! +2

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #10

Kevin, although the term "curate" appears to derive from art cataloguing or compiling lists of music, the digital content version seems almost always to lack the original contribution of brief review by an editor or art critic. Which may explain why almost always the block-copy-and-past "curating" ends up so much of the time in placing the curated piece in an irrelevant venue, thereby assuring it will receive zero notice. I concluded early on in my LinkedIn days that most people "curated" content because it made them look like they were doing something and put their face and name out there in front of readers, without their having to do a lick of significant work. Thank you for reading and commenting.

don kerr

7 years ago #9

"The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation." Goethe Not much to say here. Some of us have become a nation of lazy headline readers. Searching only for the content that supports our beliefs. Knowing this our “media”, who has all too often shown themselves to be only bloggers looking to earn a paycheck by clicks, has given up journalism to take advantage of our laziness. Fight back. Take responsibility for your mind and your thoughts. I just lifted this from Paul Frank Gilbert's post which you can find here

don kerr

7 years ago #8

Welcome back boys Jim Murray. Pleased to see that your hiatus did nothing whatsoever to improve your moods. While content curation and content marketing may offer a dubious return to all, I find some of the curated sites useful if for no other reason than efficiency. If one finds a site that offers content that is relevant to one's interests it can be useful in expanding one's reading universe and enabling quick scanning to determine if further time is warranted. I do concur that much of content marketing is beyond useless and would challenge any creator or sponsor to show a quantitative return on investment. That is very little different from the days of traditional advertising when much of what we were presented was blown by in mere milliseconds. The old maxim of, "I know I am wasting 50% of my ad budget, I just don't know which 50%" could well be revised to "I think I am wasting 90% of my content marketing budget, but I can't be sure." A return to the olde days is not the solution. Learning measurement methodologies that offer quantitative and qualitative understanding may offer some hope. In the face though of rampant snake-oil salespeople in the 'new' media arena, however, I hold out little hope. Look forward to the commentary thread on this post (and hope that commentary will be relevant to the topic and reveal that people have actually read the post).

Kevin Pashuk

7 years ago #7

You don't mind if I post this on my page do you? I'm seeing two separate issues here. I'll start with Jim's - content marketing. Isn't this just an extension of the day when newsletters were the thing to do? Do everyone did a newsletter. Then having a web page was the way to go, so everyone got a webpage. Quality didn't matter as much as the ability to say you had one. Somehow marketers think that I have time to read dozens of 'whitepapers' and 'case studies' and reams of drivel and flood my inbox on a daily basis. Is there a "THIS DOESN"T WORK!!" button I could push to let them know that they are wasting their time? Now for Phil's - Content Curation. I've had several of my posts 'curated' (mostly through the hashtags I've put in the Twitter notice) and I can say that spitting into the wind produces more tangible results than anything I've ever seen from having my posts shared in this manner. At least they attribute the article back to me. I would agree with Phil that content curation, from having a Paper.Li journal, to re-posting a link on beBee, LI, or FB, without any accompanying editorial /opinion clogs the channel. Perhaps we need a Michelin Star system for online content? But then, who would determine quality? I suppose if Michelin found a way to do it for food, that some smart brain could find a way to identify the good stuff. My $0.02 (Canadian)

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #6

thank you, Mohammed, for joining the conversation. I agree. Cheers!

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #5

Thanks, Harvey, for reading and commenting. I think some of my reaction to the term comes from a long background as a print media writer. Cheers!

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

7 years ago #4 matters most when you create authentic content, passionately engage with your online communities and rely and respond on convincing data.

Harvey Lloyd

7 years ago #3

I enjoyed this post. Just wading into this aspect of customer engagement and feel a little like little red riding hood at a wolf convention. Appreciate you taking the time in describing "content" from a perspective i have not heard.

Jim Murray

7 years ago #2

Thanks. I'll post on Friday AM.

Phil Friedman

7 years ago #1

Jim Murray, FYI just published Wed evg.

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