I’m a big fan of soul music.
There’s nothing I like more than to listen to an LP from one of my favorite soul artists from the 60’s and 70’s. Singers like Bobby Bland, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Withers and Etta James always perk me up with their emotional and rich ballads, even if the subject matter isn’t particularly sunny.
It’s a passion that I share with others: I relish showing off soul artists to people who’ve never heard of them almost as much as I enjoy listening to them myself. I love putting on a great soul record when I’m entertaining guests and waiting for the inevitable moment when one of them asks me for the name of the artist.
The tendency to share my music taste with others is my way of curating content: I find what I deem to be quality content (in this case it’s in the form of old vinyl LPs) and share it with people who I think would benefit from hearing it. I’m not a soul musician by trade—I’m not creating any new content in that regard—but I am doing a service to unknown soul musicians and those who’ve gone out of style by showing their work to people who normally would never see it.
When it comes to curating, though, bloggers and web entrepreneurs don’t have the same luxuries that I enjoy. They must be both the curators and the creators of content, churning out their own work while drawing attention to content from other writers who have smart things to say. In essence, they have to sing their original soul tunes as much as they must boast the talent of other artists.
The debate on the value of curating content versus creating it is a rich one in the blogosphere, and in my opinion it’s a wasted one. The truth of the matter is that bloggers and web entrepreneurs can’t make a successful career out of doing solely one or the other. A blogger that writes article after article without putting his work in the context of the greater conversation going on among his peers is arrogant at best and foolish at worst. Those who spend the entirety of their time sharing articles and retweeting other bloggers amount to nothing more than a human aggregate of the topics in their own niche
The web is a communal space, one where a person’s success is measured by the number of connections, friends, readers, viewers, likes, and pageviews that they have. Given that fact, it’s absolutely imperative that a blogger understands the importance of working with others. This is the curating side of things: sharing an insightful post from a colleague on Twitter, posting a link to your favorite news aggregate blog, recommending sites to your readers. The more you get involved with the actual community that makes up your niche, the better chance you have at reaching more potential readers and customers.
Like I said though, curating interesting content is something that should be done tastefully and with the knowledge that overdoing it could erase your own online presence. That’s why you should always be pushing yourself to put your own material out there. The only way to distinguish yourself online is to create content that is uniquely you, some perspective or insight that only you could have written. A single well-researched and strongly written article will do you many more favors than sharing dozens of links to interesting tidbits and factoids that might endear you to your followers but say nothing about your perspective as a blogger or entrepreneur. That’s the truth no matter what niche you’re covering, from education to tech to childcare.
Above all, people on the web are hungry for content. They don’t care where it comes from, so they’ll take as many links as you share with them. It’s up to you to decide whether or not those links lead to works written by your own hand or those written by others.
Samantha Gray received her undergraduate education online, and enjoys guiding her readers through the process of doing the same. She is now a freelance writer by day, and she also moonlights as a tutor and zoo tour guide in her spare time. She may be reached for questions and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.