Why do travel brands curate content and why should travel bloggers care?
Article by guest author Matthew Barker who is a co-founder of OutBounding.org.
As professional bloggers, PTBA members will already be well attuned to the rise of content curation as part of digital marketing strategies. Travel brands, tourism boards and other travel organisations are very interested in finding relevant content and then sharing it with their audiences. Quite often, that content comes from travel bloggers.
The significance of content curation grew in part as a result of problems surrounding content creation, namely that commissioning great content tends to be expensive and time-consuming. Few brands can realistically commission their own content to fuel all their digital activities, and neither would they want to. They know there’s a lot of great material already out there – words, pictures and videos – but finding it can require as much effort (and sometimes cost) as buying it.
Content curation provides a solution: Instead of creating the content, a brand can zero in on something that already exists and share that with their audiences. This is usually done through social media, via email, or by quoting and linking to it in articles.
Brands benefit by using credible content from respected publishers and influencers to reinforce their own messaging. They also benefit from the content’s independence to further engage their audiences. In certain cases this can be more beneficial than creating a piece of proprietary content to do the same job.
But what about you, as a blogger and publisher?
In theory this also benefits bloggers since, when handled ethically and legally, curated content consists of short excerpts or quotes, with full attribution and links directly back to the sources. This is good for you as it reinforces your status as an influencer and it sends new audiences to your content.
But there are certain things to be aware of to protect your content and influence from being unfairly exploited, and to make sure you get an equal share of the benefits.
From a legal perspective, US copyright law enshrines the principle of “fair use” of copyrighted works for criticism, comment, news, reporting and other uses, although it doesn’t define exactly what constitutes fair use, as this varies on a case-by-case basis.
To be honest, the law leaves a lot open to interpretation, but there are some ethical best practices, established by Kimberly Isbell at the Nieman Journalism Lab and based on a Harvard Law report, that curators should follow for their own benefit, as well as yours as the source publishers.
You should expect any organisation that curates your content to adhere to the following ethical standards:
1) They reproduce only what is necessary to make their point. They do not reproduce your story in its entirety.
2) They do not rely exclusively on curating content from a single source, i.e. they do not simply scrape all your content, but only what is directly relevant to their audiences.
3) They prominently identify you as the source.
4) They link directly to the original source.
5) They provide additional context or commentary for the material they use.
In this excellent article, Pawan Deshpande adds some additional best practices:
6) When sharing images, only thumbnails should be used unless explicit permission is given by the rights holder.
7) Links should be prominent, not hidden at the end of the post.
8) Any excerpts should only be brief portions of the original article.
9) Additional commentary should be longer and more detailed than any reproduced excerpts.
10) Curated content should be retitled from the original source.
11) Curated content should not be displayed in a frame or share bar with no option to go directly to the source site.
12) Curators should not use no_follow links to the source content.
Curators that follow these best practices can offer a lot of value to you as a content creator and publisher, particularly because travel brands, tourism boards and other organisations tend to connect directly with travel consumers and the wider public. Being picked up and curated by these organisations can bring significant new audiences to your content.
Some examples of this in action are GAdventures’ Facebook, Lonely Planet’s #lp tag (although recently they seem to be sharing much more of their own content than others’), National Geographic’s #NGTradar tag, and Outbounding.org, a new travel content curation project that I am proud to be involved with.
Strategies to help you stay in the curation mix
Aside from ensuring that both you and your content are being treated ethically, how can you get in on the action and enjoy the benefits? Some of the following may seem blindingly obvious, but you would be very surprised how many (even major) sites get many of these things wrong!
Write for the required purpose and audience: Bear in mind what brands are looking for. By and large they want to share content that is inspirational, entertaining or practical, as those are the main drivers for engagement and conversions on their end. Think about the content that performs best on your own social media; that is likely to be the kind of content they are looking for too. As you know, achieving this without simply dumbing it down is no easy task!
Go image heavy and optimise: Images are a hugely important driver of engagement on social media, and curators are looking for content with compelling visuals that will grab people’s attention and immediately elicit a reaction. Pictures and video are also great ways to improve your own discoverability: curators will often run image searches for their subjects of interest. Use descriptive alt tags in your images to improve your visibility.
Check your social wiring: If someone clicks your tweet button, what pops up? You should configure your plugins to display the article title, link, your handle and any hashtags you follow. You would not believe the number of times I see tweet text that contains no article title, no handle (or worse the standard via @sharethis handle), and so on. If you have multiple contributors to your site, find a plugin that connects the author’s own handle with their article.
The same applies to other networks. If you’re running WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin allows you to configure your Facebook open graph tags to customise how your content appears when it’s shared, and you can use this tool for a preview.
Catch and convert new traffic: A spike in traffic generated by a piece of curated content is fine, but you can turn some of those numbers into genuine audiences with clever use of follow buttons and subscription forms. Design and layout is important here but so is your messaging – give transient readers a compelling reason to follow your blog and they might turn become a loyal audience.
Matthew Barker is a co-founder of OutBounding.org, a content curation project that aims to identify and celebrate excellent travel content and then share it with new audiences across the web. PTBA members and the entire blogging community are very welcome to join and participate.