03 April 2024 |

Curation is back

By Tracey Wallace

Have you read through all 201 pages of Forerunner’s 2024 trend report

It’s a report that bucks all ideas that long-form content doesn’t work or isn’t good –– and that content needs to be gated to be effective. 

Nonetheless, I haven’t read through all 201 pages of it, but I’m at least 3/4ths of the way through. And there’s one section in particular (so far!) that has me writing about it today: slides 40-45. 

Here, Forerunner makes a compelling case that culture is shifting from a desire for all access to everything to a need for edited consumption, i.e. curation. 

I’d be hard pressed to say I don’t notice this in my own life. 

The internet used to feel like the next frontier, something to be explored and adventured, with endless information and options. Today, that feels overwhelming. I prefer instead to follow the people I know and admire, take recommendations from them, and bee line my way to those options. 

I don’t want endless. I want specific. 

And this made me think––of course––about content marketing. 

For example, for a lot of us, how we create content has changed in the last couple years: 

  • Used to: We’d create long-form articles that covered an entire topic including the definition, why to do it, how to do it, and best practices for doing it. 
  • Now: We create specific articles that cover a specific need in someone’s journey: the definition of something, why to do it, how to do it, and best practices for doing it. 

We’ve found that doing the former produces more organic search traffic, content engagement, and that the internal teams share these articles more because they are shorter and to the point. 

But one area we’ve been struggling with is sequencing. How do you pique someone’s interest from a specific thing (one of these shorter articles) to something… else, something bigger. How do you provide context between individual assets? 

One page we launched to test this was a hub. Not a new concept, but a good way to bring disparate assets together into a cohesive experience where you can hold someone’s hand a bit more through the UX. In other words, you curate to create a sequence.

Ah, sequences. We’re obsessed with them in marketing. Funnels and journeys and CTAs. But, are sequences even real? We know there’s no one buyer journey, for instance. And that content made for “top of the funnel” can be found driving revenue, too, and vice versa. 

The internet has long been decrying the loss of album sequencing. Here’s a 2010 forum talking about this lost art. 

But perhaps in the era of information overload, what we need, what our readers need, is exactly what we’ve lost: a sequence. 

What would it look like for content marketers to create these curated experiences for our readers? To add context and purpose to the ordering––to create journeys, not based on someone’s stage of the funnel, or the channel by which they came to your site, but instead on the topic as a whole?

To add more fuel to this, Google conducted research in 2020 to figure out how users buy products. They observed 310,000 purchase journeys across 1,000 people, 31 categories and 10 simulations. 

Their conclusion: there is no straight line between trigger and purchase (duh). Instead of a straight line, users oscillate between exploration and evaluation until they find the ideal product.

Exploration and evaluation. 

Well, if that isn’t a problem for curated content to solve, I don’t know what is. 

Curated collections of content, designed as unique and engaging experiences, can bridge this gap. Curation can solve for our desire to move between exploration and evaluation on topics and in our search for new products. 

Maybe it’s really not about creating more (as so many have said). Maybe now it’s about curating more, helping people see your content’s relevance, connecting the dots, and doing so in a way that stops them in their tracks, pulls them away from social media or Slack, and demands that they explore this line of thinking. 

I don’t have answers here, but this certainly has me feeling excited about content possibilities. And, of course I’ve already put together some proposals for the team to address it, to test it, to see if maybe this is part of a new content marketing playbook. 

We shall see.