I am the first to admit that, in the digital age, it is easy to play fast and loose with attribution. We are all guilty of it sometimes. For instance, when most of your writing is for the web, you get so used to linking to an article-rather than meticulously naming it and its author-that when you are writing for print, you might forget how to let your readers know exactly where a quote or statistic came from without the help of a hyperlink. This isn't a scholarly journal--no one wants to read footnotes, least of all me--but it's still important to give credit where credit it is due. It's one of those gray areas in which some people expect precise attribution for every fact and figure, and the rest of us are happy with a good faith effort that says, "This came from somewhere else." But lately, I've seen some plagiaristic antics that make my head spin-all in the name of content curation.
Here are a couple of scenarios I've run into:
- A company cuts and pastes an article-including the author's byline-from a site and reposts it on its blog. Maybe there is a link to the original, maybe there isn't. Either way, it doesn't really matter because anyone who stopped to read it on a company blog isn't going to go read it on the original site.
- A company scans an article from a printed magazine and creates a PDF that it then promotes via social media. The company doesn't claim ownership, but it also doesn't seem to understand that you can't reprint an entire article without permission.
I've been thinking about this for a while now, because every time I start to forget about it, some new company sends out a tweet with a suspicious link to something I have to then ask them to take down. And I've been developing a theory as to why this all of a sudden seems to be a problem. I've finally decided that the pressures of content marketing have driven otherwise good people to basically steal content.
Those of us immersed in the content world are used to hearing the hard sell when it comes to content curation. It's almost reminiscent of an infomercial: "Having trouble keeping up with content demands? No fear, Content Curation is here to help. For just three easy payments of $69.95, Content Curation can help marketers keep up with the increasing demand for quality content!"
Similar to Flex Seal or the ShamWow, content curation can be the answer to all your problems. It can help you flesh out your social media feeds and give you fodder for your blog. Got a newsletter? Well, if you do it properly, content curation can help you with that too. But there are some rules you need to follow to make sure content curation is a help and not a hindrance:
1. Learn the difference between curation and stealing. We all live in the sharing economy. We understand the value of other people noticing our content and pointing it out to their audiences. But bogarting the attention is never cool. Give credit where it is due, and send your audience back to the original source.
2. Don't forget to create as well as curate. Curating is great to help round out your content marketing efforts. But if all you are doing is passing along other people's ideas, why would anyone be interested in what you and your company have to offer? The cornerstone of your content marketing should be original content.
3. Use solid sources. There's a lot of content out there. You'll need tools to help you find the good stuff, but you can also make your job easier by finding good, go-to sources of information. Whether it's a favorite blog or an excellent Twitter account, having those sources at your fingertips will help you in the long run.
Getting content curation right is trickier than one might expect. Consistency and quality are key. But starting out with these simple rules will make sure you aren't beat before you even begin.