Time to bring back the lost art of curation

Journalist covering a past press conference.

Audience engagement is at the heart of a successful media business.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Audience engagement is at the heart of a successful media business.
  • With emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, audience targeting has never been more accurate.
  • As media firms continue to invest heavily in all manner of AI-enabled tools to better serve their audiences – and rightly so – there is one thing we must not forget; we need to bring back the lost art of curation.

Audience engagement is at the heart of a successful media business.

Any well-meaning editor wants to know what their audiences like to read and will do their best to provide that content in whatever format the audiences prefer, in whichever channels they like and at whatever time they need the content.

With emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, audience targeting has never been more accurate.

The use of data from audience demographics and psychographics has made it easier for media companies to better understand their audience's preferences and lifestyles and have tailored content to fit unique needs.

As media firms continue to invest heavily in all manner of AI-enabled tools to better serve their audiences – and rightly so – there is one thing we must not forget; we need to bring back the lost art of curation.

It has been a big debate and topic for research in media circles; would audiences rather have a machine or an editor recommend their content?

While machines and AI do a wonderful job of accurately recommending content based on readers’ tastes and preferences, the place of humans in content recommendation and curation must never be taken for granted.

AI tools do a great job of saving time and resources, but they can never—and must never – replace the human touch.

This is why I argue that we must bring human curation back to our newsrooms because there are just some things that even the most expensive AI tool cannot do.

Curation, easy and straightforward as it might sound, is a complex and unique exercise that requires a deep understanding of the audience, the topics at hand and of course a hard-earned knack for keeping your audiences interested.

Newsrooms must allocate resources to build the curation capacity of their internal staff – editors, journalists, writers and columnists – to understand their varied audience segments and begin curating content specifically for these audiences.

It does not have to be complicated at first, newsrooms could start by identifying interesting topics that pique audience interests and begin putting together a series of interesting items that speak those topics. 

Expertise and experience 

Seasoned editors and journalists would be a great resource for this exercise owing to their subject matter expertise and experience in reporting and editing specific topics for decades.

Newsrooms could also work with external resources such as experts to curate content for niche audiences who would appreciate a good series of stories on their favourite subject.

Curation is of course a very specialised area of journalism work and is targeted to a very specific – possibly niche – a segment of the audience.

The good news is, this could be a monetisable area for media organisations that are seeking to appeal to a certain audience that would appreciate a series of 10 or more long-reads on say, climate change or agriculture.

Like any other new area of expertise, curation in the newsroom will take a while to develop, which of course could be resolved through partnerships with compatible organisations to bring back this lost art.

Dr Chege is a media and technology researcher.

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