The Need for Content Curation

I am really honored that Lee and Marko asked me to join them when they decided to grow this blog. Here is my first blog post for the Big Men On Content:

Most content libraries start great. You pick a repository, populate it with some initial content, include decent metadata, establish ways for people to add more content, set some expiration policies, and voilà – you have your sales library, your marketing assets library, or your library of product information.

The library is easy to use and navigate. It was built by a small group of people who had a clear, shared concept of how to organize it. The users can find what they need and everybody is happy. We have another content management success story under our belt!

Now, let’s fast-forward a few months. People are regularly contributing additional artifacts to the library and the library’s growing. The team that has built the library has moved on to build something else. But that’s OK; they have done their work. The library is still well organized and everyone can find what they need, when they need it. This is content management at its best. Everybody is still happy.

A couple of years later, the library has grown substantially. Nobody really remembers the original structure or how content was to be stored, tagged, and classified. People are saving artifacts based on their view of the structure and everyone has a different view. Nobody has time to add proper metadata to content assets – most content is stored without metadata or with “lazy” metadata. The original project team has had the foresight to set default expiration rules for content but when content assets come up for review, there is no time for it and everything is being kept without ever deleting anything.

The library is no longer well organized. Nobody can easily navigate it and every search yields pages and pages of results. Hardly anyone is happy with the library. The library is now seen as this dreaded place where content goes to die. The users need something better to be productive. They need something simple, easy to navigate, not this bloated repository full of junk. The business blames IT and IT blames the vendor.

Eventually, they decide to build a new library…

What has gone wrong? Well, it wasn’t the content management system, no matter which vendor you chose. It was the process. More precisely, it was the lack of process. The library was built without a content curation process in place. Curation would ensure that somebody decides what to keep in the library and what not. Curation would also ensure that every new artifact is added the right way – in the right location and with the right metadata. Curation would also ensure that the structure, rules, metadata, and policies are evolving to keep up with the changing requirements of the organization.

Some of the curation processes can be automated and some of them may require manual work. But without curation, a successful content management deployment can quickly become a digital landfill.

4 thoughts on “The Need for Content Curation

  1. Welcome aboard!

    Great points on lack of curation and the ability to find content over time. User adoption changes the way the content is created and consumed and that means the “new” ECM solution needs to evolve. Too often an installation is thought to be completed once the go live goes by. But to keep the solution successful, you need to review the original business challenge and goals as well as the latest offering from your vendor regularly. It’s a good idea for deployments to undergo a once-a-year checkup.

  2. Excellent story Lubor. I have often seen the system blamed for poor process design and foresight. Organizations underuse the content assets they already have for several reasons. Some you point out, like laziness or lost faith in the ECM. Another one I’ve seen often is the lack of awareness of previously existing content (sometimes even your own previously created work!)

    We, alongside others, are developing software to bypass search for content and bring relevant content to the applications where users are working. (prevent breaks in workflow and increase content reuse). (plug: check it out at

    One of our continued challenges will always be more proactive content curation. Without it, even our contextually-aware software will begin to face the garbage-in, garbage-out problem.

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