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Content Curation and the Personalization of the Web

by Jason Holland, Interactive Graphic Designer

Information on the Internet has become a collective repository of human civilization—past, present, and future. Initially, Google successfully tackled the challenge of categorizing this mass amount of data. But within the last decade, the explosion of information on the web has become so massive it is nearly impossible to discover relevant and engaging content through mere browsing and keyword search.

The problem is with so much information to process, it’s too hard to boil all this data into easily accessible and relevant chunks. Furthermore, what is considered “most popular” has become increasingly irrelevant to us individually. We’ve arrived at a place where the indexing of content needs to be personalized. The new buzzword for this solution is “Content Curation”.

Content Curation is essentially the act of finding, gathering and sharing digital content that surrounds a specific subject matter and then consolidating it in a format that is palatable and easy to digest. Think of it like a digital magazine that contains only the content you care about. Emerging curators understand that content is only half the story. Mike Klaas, CTO at Zite, says the other half of the story is understanding the relationship of the content and the person interacting with it.
Zite is a personalized magazine app for iPad that learns your interests based on your social feeds, Google Reader, and Delicious account. Based on these sources, Zite curates content from all over the web into content topics and then presents them in a magazine layout. As you continue to use the app, you are given the ability to approve or disapprove content presented, thereby fine-tuning the content delivered.

Flipboard’s iPad app, though more of a content aggregator, is a rather original alternative to browsing the web. Also a magazine-style layout, its breathtaking and engaging use of photos and white space takes full advantage of the iPad experience. In addition to pulling from Twitter and Google Reader, Flipboard also pulls content from Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media sites. Flipboard also provides many popular sources by topic and provides the ability to search for topics and create boards from your interests.

Another content curation pioneer is a company called Frequency. On both Frequency's iPad app and site, Frequency creates personalized channels for you from your favorite sources—everything from news and entertainment to what your friends are sharing on Facebook and Twitter.

In a recent email, Russ Gooberman, Head of Content at Frequency, told me "there are over 50,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every hour and that it’s literally impossible to watch everything.” He added, “The challenge, for us, is to deliver the best and most relevant video to any given individual who signs in. Our challenge is to shrink the vast world of web video into digestible, manageable and engaging individual experience.”

It’s this focus on the individual experience that is at the heart of content curation. Most of us have very little time in our day to constantly search the web for information that is relevant and interests us. Now with curators like Zite, Flipboard and Frequency, we have tools with categorized content in a format that is personalized, relevant, engaging and manageable.

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