Roger Ebert was a long-time movie critic audiences loved. His success came from the fact that audiences trusted his judgement in movies. His opinions determined what movies millions of people saw. The relationship he had with his audience is the same one that content curators have with their audiences today.
Like Ebert, content curators drive millions of visitors to articles because audiences trust their insight. That’s why it’s so important that the right content curation tools and processes are in place to discover the most relevant content for them.
Sending a newsletter in itself is not difficult. But curating an excellent newsletter that people love and find valuable is much more challenging. Creating a successful newsletter takes a lot more thought and effort than linking a handful of articles in an email template. You need a trusted arsenal of content curation tools to help you manage all the content.
Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to be a curator, the content curation tools available to you, and how you can find content that few people are already sharing.
To get started, there are three things a curator should do before they start to source their content.
1. Understand Your Topic and Audience
Want to generate signups? Then you need to build trust.
That’s why the first step to creating a valuable, curated newsletter is to really understand your topic and audience. If the topic you’re curating for doesn’t excite you and you’re not that knowledgeable about it, creating an excellent newsletter will be difficult. You won’t understand your audience’s problems, behaviors, where they currently get their news, and what they find interesting.
Hiten Shah is an serial entrepreneur, having founded popular SaaS companies like CrazyEgg and KISSmetrics. I trust that he understands SaaS and has his finger on the pulse of the industry. That’s why I’ve subscribed to his weekly newsletter, SaaS Weekly. This is also why people will sign up for your newsletter.
2. Come Up With Guidelines
Once you know your topic and who you’re curating content for, you have to come up with a few guidelines for your newsletter. Danielle Morrill, the CEO of Mattermark, has a rule for the content that’s published in their newsletter, Mattermark Daily. If their team can’t get through the article, it doesn’t get added to the email.
Unlike the vast majority of retweets that are never read, you can be assured that Mattermark has read and approved all the links that are sent out in their newsletter.
Recency of publishing date is another factor that some teams use as guidelines. Nick Frost is the curator of the Mattermark Daily and he told me his rule is that he doesn’t feature content that’s older than 48 hours.
Jason Hirschhorn, creator of the MediaRedef newsletter, also focuses on more recent content. However, he says, “Stories can be days, weeks, or a year old that I find in the haystack [and] are worthy of revisiting.”
These are just a few examples, you’ll have a better idea of what types of guidelines will work for you. But establishing guidelines before you curate a single article will enable you to more quickly go through content and determine whether or not it’s a fit for your newsletter.
3. Read Everything
If you want to be a successful curator, you’re going to need to read a lot of content. Reading is the key to being a great content curator. You’ll have to consume massive amounts of content on a daily basis to not only keep up with everyone else, but to find little nuggets of information that everyone else missed.
NextDraft curator David Pell reads a lot. His Twitter bio pokes fun at how much content he’s reading. The end of his bio reads, “I have a lot of tabs open right now.”
Through email, Hiten Shah said that he knows that the most valuable stuff isn’t be shared a lot because he’s constantly reading. You have to read, otherwise, you won’t truly know what’s valuable and what’s already being shared.
In order to read enough content that allows you to find the hidden gems that your subscribers want, you must have a process in place that enables you to go through a lot of content. This process hinges on your ability to continuously source great material, not your ability to read fast. That’s why your chosen content curation tools are so important when it comes to finding great content that other people haven’t found yet.
How to Source Content People Haven’t Read Yet
Nothing will make your newsletter more irrelevant than if people consistently see articles that they’ve already read. In addition to reading everything you can get your hands on, Frost offered another really useful tip to other content curators to avoid duplicate links.
As a rule, Frost doesn’t use any content that’s published on any of the major media sites, no matter how good it is. People are not subscribing to your newsletter so you can tell them what the New York Times or Wall Street Journal has to say.
They’re probably already reading those sites every day. Rather, people are subscribing so that they can discover new content. Which is why, as a curator, you have to roll up your sleeves to sort through as much content as you can.
Content Curation Tools to Help Find Unknown Content
Reddit – If you’re unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s a very popular social news site. The users of the site (known as Redditors) submit links to the site. What makes Reddit such a powerful tool for curators are the sub-Reddit communities. There are tens-of-thousands of micro-communities, divided by topics. Within these niche communities, you can find some of the latest blog posts that might not have gained widespread traction yet.
Twitter Lists – Twitter lists is a great Twitter feature that not enough people take advantage of. I suspect this is the case because it takes a while to build a useful list. But as you continue your journey as a curator, you’re going to come across some writers that produce excellent content. By adding them to a list, you’re able to tap into the links that they’re reading and sharing every day.
Quora – Not familiar with Quora? Maybe you’ve heard of it before, but haven’t used it? Think of Quora as Reddit-meets-Wikipedia: it’s a quasi-social network centered around user-posted and answer questions. Quora is a fantastic place to not only curate content, but to test your own original content ideas. Each topic (e.g., Brands and Branding) includes lots of questions and answers and can give you a quick read on how to craft your own content to garner the most attention.
Related: Looking for more? Here are 3 ways to discover and post content your customers will actually want to read.
Hat Tips From Popular Blogs
Have you ever read a blog post on a site like Gawker and Mashable and at the bottom there is an attribution link? That’s the author indicating where they got the scoop on the story. Often times these hat tips are from little known or very niche blogs. Instead of getting a scoop from Buzzfeed, you can go directly to the source. Add that blogger to a Twitter list or subscribe to their blog via Feedly’s RSS.
Feedly – Since Google killed off Google Reader, Feedly has become the defacto RSS feeder for many. Feedly makes it really easy for you to create your own lists of content feeds. You can narrow your search for content based on a topic or a single blog. Like building your Twitter list, it will take you some time to come up with a strong base of blogs you trust and want to share their content. But once you do, you’ll have a steady stream of content for your newsletter.
Nuzzel – Nuzzel is a great app that let’s you know what’s popular based on who you follow on Twitter. It might only take a few shares to get an article on your radar. Many of the links I see from my Nuzzel account will be found on a news aggregator the following day.
Hacker News – Hacker news is a popular news aggregator for hackers. The articles are often tech-based. You’d think this wouldn’t be a great resource since the front-page is determined by votes and popularity. That could be the case, but if you go to their New section, you’ll see the very latest links that are being shared. You’ll never know when you stumble onto a great article no one else has picked up yet.
Digg – Digg is still alive! Yes, some might think it’s a relic of the Web 2.0 era, but it was revived by Betaworks. Visit the Digg homepage and you’ll still see a variety of different links from different sites. You can select topics, like technology and entertainment, for a specific type of article.
Facebook – Yes, the world’s largest social network can help you find original content. Facebook’s algorithm has been increasingly putting more emphasis on media content. Whether you’re aware of it or not, Facebook has quietly become an RSS feed. Follow interesting people to gain access to great links before everyone else.
Google – Shah is the only curator I connected with that said his primary source for content is Google. But it makes sense since his newsletter is hyper-niche. According to this podcast, Shah says, “If you give me an obscure topic. I’ll be able to find you the best content within a few minutes.”
As you build your reputation for having a strong, curated newsletter, people will start to gravitate to you. You’ll start to get inbound interest, which includes unsolicited links for your newsletter. Some may just be interested in your ability for distribution, but those in your personal network will genuinely want to help you. There’s a lot of content out there and it’s impossible to sift through it all on your own. Having a few trusted people sending you links can prove to be very helpful.
Being a content curator isn’t a responsibility you should take lightly. Do it well and people will start to depend on you for their content. They’ll share your links because it will make them look good. Using content curation tools will help you find quality content that others might have missed.
If you’re looking to start a curated newsletter, use these content sources to get valuable links for your readers. But also, heed the wise words of NextDraft’s Dave Pell when it comes to creating a compelling newsletter:
“Personality is the key. Curation in many areas will become a commodity. The human element is the differentiator.”