Published on January 8, 2014
REPORT PREVIEW Content Curation & Conversation Tools: An Analysis of 12 Technology Solutions in a Disruptive Marketplace A S pe cial Conte nt Marketing Institute Tec hnology Rep ort ht t p ://co nte n tma rketin g in s titu te .co m
Executive Summary Content Curation: To What End? T his is a question we began asking ourselves at Content Marketing Institute (CMI) five years ago as content marketing started to get traction as a process within businesses. To this day, and even among the companies we highlight in this report, the term “content curation” promotes debate. Is it simply aggregating third-party content on a “Content curation is a means particular topic or theme and providing a centralized by which we either supplement way of accessing it? or promote our brand’s point of view to our specific audiences Some might argue for this because the sheer act of choosing which content to aggregate and promote does within the context of how the inherently offer an editorial point of view. This idea even ‘world’ is talking about that fits into the more traditional idea of “curation.” The art particular topic.” curator, for example, offers a point of view not by writing an opinion of the art, but rather by displaying what’s in the collection he or she offers. The inclusion or omission of a piece is the statement the curator makes. An example of this approach for content marketing would be a nonprofit organization focused on climate change. As part of a content marketing strategy designed to engage its audience, the nonprofit might create a portal focused on environmental changes and how they are negatively affecting the planet. The nonprofit might purposely omit content from others who dispute or offer contrarian opinions on climate change because to do so would present a conflict. Or, does content curation provide a brand the opportunity to leverage timely content on multiple topics as a way to more frequently fuel a distinct point of view on a particular theme? From this perspective, the content marketing curator doesn’t necessarily want to provide exhaustive resources on a particular topic, but rather uses the general themes to promote his or her point of view. An example of this would be a software technology firm that uses general consumer or business news about hacking and other Internet security issues to present its point of view—despite the point of view of the original source. This is part of what David Meerman Scott calls “newsjacking.” Finally, a case could be made that content curation is about providing a source of community/ conversation around a general topic or theme. From this perspective, the content marketing curator provides a platform for the community to rally around a theme and/or gathers conversations from other platforms to provide a centralized “water cooler.” REPORT PREVIEW
An example of this would be a pet food company that provides a centralized website and/or coverage of offline pet adoption events, both reporting on the events and giving attendees the opportunity to contribute and converse on a centralized platform. So, what is the answer? At CMI, we believe that these—and possibly other applications—are ALL equal components of a content curation approach as part of a larger content marketing strategy. And, yes, they all clearly overlap with one another. Enter Content Curation & Conversation Tools As we discussed in the Executive Summary of our first report (on Content Collaboration Tools) in this series, CMI’s experience is that, within the overall process of content marketing, curation lies in the space where the aggregation and optimization of content overlaps with the promotion and conversation about the content (see Figure 1). In short, content curation is a means by which we either supplement or promote our brand’s point of view to our specific audiences within the context of how the “world” is talking about that particular topic. We see it as a spectrum, from: • • • • Simple aggregation and collection of content (with or without a distinct point of view) Active curation and promotion of a point of view using that collection as a source Aggregation and curation of user-generated content and social conversation around reported events or news in order to build an engaged community Active real-time coverage of events and “news-room” coverage of events around trending topics. Figure 1: Disruptive solutions fit in the “overlap” spaces between the four steps of an internal content marketing process. Content Collaboration Testing A/B, Multivariate Content Targeting Content Aggregation Web Content Management Blogging Online Editing, Collaboration Aggregate, Curate & Optimize Create, Edit & Manage Engagement Automation Web Analytics Social Analytics Business Intelligence Curation & Conversation Measure, Analyze & Learn Promote, Converse & Listen Social Platforms Social Collaboration Listening Tools Social Content Analytics REPORT PREVIEW
As the activity of the marketing curator moves from the aggregation of static (or evergreen) content into the active real-time coverage of events and trending topics, so too does the need for active workflow and content management needs. In short: the closer to real-time you get, the more sophisticated the need for integration into collaboration and content management tools becomes (see Figure 2). The technology tools that facilitate this process are solutions that help marketers collect, categorize, promote, publish, and measure content and conversation in meaningful ways. LOW Simple Aggregation Active Curation Workflow / Content Management Need Aggregation Of Live Events Real-Time Active Curation HIGH Conversation New/Trending Static Old/Evergreen Time Sensitivity Figure 2: As you move out from real-time curation of trending topics (and toward the aggregation of static content), the need for sophisticated workflow and content management decreases. At CMI, we’ve consulted with more than 70 Fortune 1000 companies on the process of content marketing. We have found that the enterprises that are successfully using curation as a marketing strategy are, in most cases, deploying solutions that focus on one or more of these four business benefits: 1. “Taming the Firehose of Content” As brands begin to act more like media companies, one of the primary benefits of deploying a content aggregation tool is to be able to filter incoming “ideas” for content (or the content itself) into a manageable and realistic volume. Many content marketers still struggle with “feeding the beast” of content (although, we’d argue, the beast should go on a diet in many instances) and look to content aggregation tools to help them filter, and provide topical relevance to, content they may want to deploy for any of the approaches mentioned above. Additionally, some brands now need to curate their own content, i.e., the content they are producing in-house. This is an increasingly large problem as brands start to produce more and more content across different channels. With multiple Web Content Management Systems, blogging tools, social media content, etc., the need for different departments in large enterprises to curate content across the enterprise is a huge challenge that a curation tool can help solve. REPORT PREVIEW
2. Faster, More Agile Content Marketing With regard to real-time conversation with consumers, any tool that helps a brand monitor and aggregate what’s going on in its industry can be beneficial to the content marketing team. For the members of that team, understanding what’s “hot” and “trending” can mean the difference between a successful approach and one that’s consistently behind the curve. Beyond social listening tools, content curation and aggregation tools (especially those that also pull in conversations) can help a brand be “in tune” with what’s happening in real time. This was certainly a point of focus for many providers we spoke with for this report. Notice how some of them encourage their clients to not only curate “interesting” content, but also to utilize their feeds as catalysts to inspire the team to brainstorm new content that might fit their editorial plans. 3. Adding Points Of View & Distinct Experiences Producing original content certainly can be part of the curation process—and adding distinct points of view to curated content can be a huge benefit to the content marketing strategy. This is especially appropriate when a brand may want to “bundle” three, four, or 12 articles in a package and then perhaps write a short post contextualizing these articles with an opinion. Or, the brand may want to provide a complete “event” as a bundle and package it as a microsite. CMI has certainly done this for events such as Content Marketing World, where we have roving “reporters” covering the event; we take their content and package it with content from the event to create a distinct experience. Many of the tools we cover here are approaching the content curation idea from this perspective—where the content marketer has not only the capability to aggregate the content in a “portal” type of interface, but also to organize and add new content, and package it all in a way that may create an entirely new type of experience. This might include publishing microsites, adding bundles into email newsletters, or simply adding to existing social or web content channels. 4. Empowering & Engaging Target Audiences Jeff Ernst, vice president of marketing at Forrester Research, has been quoted as saying, “Consumers don’t buy your product or service, they buy your approach to solving their problem.” This is certainly a core tenet of content marketing—and the idea of giving audiences both the incentive and the power to aggregate around a branded approach to a particular topic is an attractive one. For example, some of the tools in this report enable brands to create live online events where they can aggregate influencers, resources, and an audience—all of whom can interact and share with one another. These types of tools leverage the power of consumers to act as “journalists” for the brand at events, which helps “feed the content beast.” Some of the options also include gamification, which is another strategy to promote further engagement with the brand. Similarly, other tools are enabling brands to create centralized online destinations where consumers can gather and interact with the brand in order to “unlock” some benefit (e.g., a discount or extra feature). Finally, marketers with consumer product companies can use content aggregation tools to help them curate the overwhelming amount of content that may be appearing from users as part of their experience with the brand. Marketers can create, for example, “product walls” where pictures, video, and other usergenerated content around a particular product is gathered from all over the web. REPORT PREVIEW
With all of this in mind, for this report, we covered the following technology solutions: Atomic Reach Categorical Curata FeedMagnet FlashIssue MassRelevance NextWorks Percolate PublishThis Scoop.it ScribbleLive Spundge This is an incredibly dynamic space. Even during the time we spent preparing for this report and interviewing these companies, half a dozen new entrants came online, and at least as many were either acquired or stopped doing business. We will certainly add and remove companies from this report in subsequent versions. But these, from our perspective, are the solutions that we at CMI are presently seeing most frequently in the marketplace. Note: Among the vendors featured here, there was quite a bit of overlap between capabilities and features as they pertain to the spectrum we mention above. To be fair to the solutions, we didn’t explicitly break them out or assign each vendor a category; however, we hope their strengths in each area will come through as you read the profiles. As with any other purchase decision, a solid understanding of your pressing and future needs, as well as your strategy moving forward, will be key to selecting the right technology vendor. How to Read this Report The following profiles of each vendor are based on hour-long briefings conducted by CMI during the summer of 2013. We have purposely not ranked any of the solutions as “better” than another because we are not looking to “grade” the solutions. Rather, our goal here is to provide a clear sense of what each solution provides, and assemble a coherent stratification of the market for purchasers, investors, and those generally interested in understanding this space. Nothing in the profiles should be read as a tacit endorsement or particularly pointed critique of any particular solution. Our aim is to provide an unbiased examination of the tools without making any particular judgment as to their overall value. For each profile, we cover an overview of the solution, the specific challenge that each attempts to solve, and its pricing structure. Then, we cover the vendor’s approach to this challenge as it pertains to how a customer might utilize the solution. Finally, we provide a short history of the company, any interesting or unique features that we noted, and contact information. REPORT PREVIEW
Content Marketing Institute’s Take on this Space Unlike the Content Collaboration space that we covered in the first report in this series, the Content Curation & Conversation space has extraordinary diversity in differentiating technology. While some are, quite literally, just using basic web searches to aggregate content based on themes, some of the solutions here have incredibly sophisticated semantic and indexing technologies that could ultimately provide true differentiating value to the business or an acquiring company. Additionally, these companies tend to take much different, “Many of these companies and more niche, approaches to their solutions than do are doing very interesting the Content Collaboration providers. Some are purely and powerful things when it focused on aggregating thematic content in some kind of easy-to-use interface for teams to more efficiently manage comes to some of the most a process (“taming the firehose”). Others are providing fundamental concepts everything from the ability to set up promotions and around content.” contests across social channels, to managing content in mini “content management” systems, and even creating microsites in some cases. As such, it’s difficult to get an apples-to-apples comparison in this space. Content marketers looking to add curation and conversation management to their approach will do well to truly understand what they are trying to achieve before going shopping. Certainly, the “shiny object syndrome” holds here. Many of these vendors do vastly different things. It is easy to be distracted by the first sexy “demo” and then (unfortunately) compare every subsequent demonstration to the shiny object that captured the buyer’s initial attention. Thus, we recommend developing (either internally or through consultation) a more thorough version of what benefits (as we outlined above) a curation and conversation management process will achieve. Then, consider the vendors who can solve that particular process most effectively. From a marketplace standpoint, this space is moving extraordinarily quickly. We expect that, within the next year (very much like the content collaboration space), most of these vendors will have been acquired or more fully funded by venture capital. From the perspective of enterprise buyers of technology, the space is also moving quickly. As internal teams begin to de-silo in organizations and as content becomes more central to the marketing approach, we expect there to be opportunity for the space to consolidate quickly. Web content management and marketing automation solutions have the opportunity to become an optimal spot for this aspect of the process (as illustrated by LiveFyre’s September 2013 acquisition of Storify). (Note: We had originally intended to include Storify for this report, but excluded it because it does not offer a “business-oriented” solution. This will almost certainly change now that it is part of the LiveFyre suite of solutions.) We expect that one or more of the enterprise companies that are focused on the full marketing stack (e.g., Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft, and Salesforce.com) will acquire one or more of these solutions within the next year. REPORT PREVIEW
Ultimately, we believe that the curation strategy will merge into the “owned” content strategy and process. Using these tools will naturally focus on whatever part of the process the business is trying to optimize— whether it’s creating a more efficient way for teams to create new content, or supplement existing content with third-party contextualization. One thing is certain: Many of these companies are doing very interesting and powerful things when it comes to some of the most fundamental concepts around content. These technologies are searching, indexing, categorizing, and optimizing huge amounts of content—this is no small task, and these teams are bright and eager. This will be a space to watch for some time. Robert Rose Chief Strategist & Report Author Content Marketing Institute Joe Pulizzi Founder Content Marketing Institute Author’s Note: Special thanks to CMI contributor Chuck Frey, who assisted during the vendor review process. REPORT PREVIEW
Download the 43-page guide detailing 12 technology solutions focused on content curation and conversation. Each vendor profile provides a summary of the company’s offering, and highlights: Problems the platform is designed to solve Target market and pricing How to work with the platform The company’s origins and future directions DOWNLOAD About the Content Marketing Institute: The Content Marketing Institute is the leading global content marketing education and training organization. CMI teaches enterprise brands how to attract and retain customers through compelling, multi-channel storytelling. CMI’s Content Marketing World event, the largest content marketing-focused event, is held every September, and Content Marketing World Sydney, every March. CMI also produces the quarterly magazine Chief Content Officer, and provides strategic consulting and content marketing research for some of the best-known brands in the world. CMI is a 2012 and 2013 Inc. 500 company. Copyright © 2013 by Content Marketing Institute. All rights reserved. Published by Content Marketing Institute, Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this report, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this report and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for any loss of profit or other commercial damages, including, but not limited to, special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. Neither CMI nor Z Squared Media LLC has received any consideration, in any form, from any of the vendors for inclusion in this report.
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