Curated Content's Blog

Content marketing articles from our agency


Jul 2011

Content Curation: Understanding the Social Fire Hose

Posted by / in Blog, Content Strategy, Social Media Management, Social Media Marketing / 7 comments

As the tragic events of Oslo unfolded, so too did the importance of content curation in the social sphere.

Some interesting commentary on the reporting of the Oslo massacre by FastCompany further advances the vital role of content curators in piecing together time-lines of events as they actually unfold based on real-time tweets.

Now this is nothing new. We know that social media channels, in particular Twitter, have been used for some time in contributing to ‘on the scene’ reporting by citizen journalist. It started to reach the attention of big media around the time of the student uprisings in Iran as a result of the government’s crackdown on media, and has continued ever since. The Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Arab Spring uprising and of course this latest tragedy are excellent examples of the role Twitter plays in journalism, and this type of reporting will continue to
interact with mainstream reportage.

What is especially interesting to us, is the curation piece – more often than not, performed manually in an increasing number of newsrooms. As FastCompany explained in their article, when an event unfolds in real time, most tweets go to an unfiltered hashtag that is trending at the time. Hence the fire hose theory – millions of tweets spewing out – different languages, mostly personal, some from people actually there, authorities, governments, media outlets, fake media outlets…you name it. And then someone has to make sense of it all – but if they do, the reward is possibly the most accurate, unbiased real-time account of an event you’re ever
likely to get.

The Director of the BBC Global Peter Horrocks, was one of the first media bosses to see the value of Twitter as a journalism source stating in February 2010:

“Aggregating and curating content with attribution should become part of a BBC journalist’s assignment”

(And then for fun he said any BBC journalist not on Twitter should be sacked)

Getting back to his point though, curating of tweets is now essential journalism, but it does come with
the cost of trying to curate the contributions of an audience in the millions.

A bloke called Andy Carvin, senior Digital Media Strategist at the NPR (National Public Radio – kind of
like America’s version of  Radio National) became a self-taught expert in compiling innovative breaking news packages, primarily thanks to his grasp of Twitter. During the first three weeks of the Arab Spring Egyptian uprising he described his twitter feed as ‘a personal newswire for Egypt’.

The interview Andy gave to the Atlantic at the height of the Egyptian Revolution provides the best ‘how to’ we’ve read so far.  As Andy points out, there’s no hard and fast on this (except maybe, hard and fast) – massive bits of information are being pinged to and fro – and sitting in front of Tweetdeck watching it all happen in real-time makes us think of being in a control tower or the producer booth during the recording of a live TV event.

Andy’s self-taught tips and advice, however, provide the right tools for the journalism kit just about
anyone has access to today.

And while it’s vital that this kind of reporting continues to play its crucial role in best practice journalism, it’s a system of real-time curation that can be applied to just about anything.

Featured image by bazylekoo @ flickr






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