7 Qualities of Highly Effective Content Curators

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Every time I visit the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, I see something I’ve never seen before. In fact, t’s considered the most influential museum of modern art in the world. With that in mind, meet Klaus Biesenbach. Klaus holds the title “Chief Curator at Large” at MoMA. If you’ve visited the MoMA and walked away impressed (like I have), Klaus has a lot to do with that.

As content curators, we should all aspire to be like Klaus. After all, wouldn’t it be great if our content collections drew as much interest, respect and admiration as the collections at MoMA? In order to achieve this feat, we need to become highly effective content curators. In other words, we need to curate Internet content as we would fine art.

Let’s consider seven habits of content creation that would make Klaus Biesenbach proud.

1. Focus on Goals

What are your goals around content curation? If you can’t answer that question, stop right now. Stop reading this post, too. Go answer the question, then return when you’re done.

OK, thanks for coming back.

Now that you have goals (e.g. drive awareness, generate thought leadership, generate leads), determine the target audience that relates to those goals. For curation in a business setting, your target audience is your target customer. Write your goals and your target audience down on paper, because you’ll want to remind yourself of these in the curation that you do.

2. Have Empathy

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” You’ll need to have empathy for your target audience. In other words, the better you understand their thoughts, interests and challenges, the more effective you’ll be at content curation. When Klaus Biesenbach considers a piece of art for the next exhibit, how does he know museum visitors will like it? Because he understands the minds of said visitors.

3. Be Careful, Cautious and Selective

Quality is the number one downfall of ineffective content curators. A great exhibit at MoMA may have 50 hand-selected pieces. Imagine the same exhibit with 150 pieces, 100 of which were selected haphazardly. You’d walk away disappointed.

Every scoop (and tweet) counts. Every single one. Don’t get lazy. Make sure you read (and digest) every piece of content you curate. If you retweet based solely on a title, you risk your standing and reputation. Curate high quality content only, leaving the marginal pieces to the proverbial cutting room floor.

4. Editorialize

I LOVE going to bookstores and reading a handwritten review from one of the employees. I might not buy the book, but I love to hear an employee’s opinion, especially when it’s done in a personalized fashion (i.e. handwritten).

Do the same with your curation: don’t just share content, tell us why you like (or dislike) the piece. What can your target audience learn from reading it and what are the key takeaways? In a sense, editorializing creates a nice blend of creation and curation: as your curate content, you create “meta content,” in the form of commentary around that content.

5. Provide Attribution

I bet Klaus Biesenbach wishes he could “hyperlink” exhibit pieces to the artist who created it. That’s a capability we have that’s not available to Klaus. Providing attribution shows respect and helps drive visibility and awareness to content authors. As you curate, look up the author of the article (or blog post) and explicitly acknowledge them. They’ll appreciate the “shout out” and may decide to follow you or even subscribe to your collection.

6. Understand What’s Timely and Trending

Sharing fresh milk is good. Sharing spoiled milk is rotten. On social media, the half-life of content is short – it doesn’t even last as long as a half-gallon of milk. If you find content that is time sensitive, consider whether the “sharing window” has already passed. For instance, an article on “Best Outfits at This Year’s Oscar’s” is good to share in the first week after the Oscar Awards, but gets stale beyond that week.

7. Have an Eye for a Great Title

Not everyone will be as thorough as you when reviewing content. A lot of people will click on a link solely because of a compelling title. As you sharpen your curating skills, you’ll begin to figure out what separates great titles from good titles. If you come across a great article that has just a good title, consider changing the title text when you curate. Doing so means your audience is more inclined to read that article and experience its greatness.


Curating content is like curating art. Internet content, in fact, is produced at a far more rapid pace than fine art. With so much content to choose from, curators must become more and more selective, to ensure they’re giving their target audience what they want.

So channel your inner Klaus Biesenbach to make your collection the most influential museum in the world.

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About the Author

Dennis Shiao
Dennis is Director of Product Marketing at DNN (@DNNCorp), where he’s focused on product and content marketing. DNN creates solutions to help you manage content and community on your website and is the technology behind 800,000+ websites worldwide. Feel free to reach out to Dennis via email, dennis.shiao@dnnsoftware.com or find him on Twitter, @dshiao.
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10 years ago

Dennis Thought this was a great post and one I built 3 more tips on top. One curation tip must be to never harm a masterpiece (of any kind). I’ve spent a lot of time starring transfixed at Pollack’s Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/488978. Can your title be above or below the painting? This may seem like the worst kind of snobbery, but it isn’t. I studied painting with Alton Pickens at Vassar and it was a hard day when I realized as a painter I make a much better Internet marketer (lol). That particular masterpiece defines MoMA’s brave curation.… Read more »

10 years ago

j’aime ça

Barry Deutsch
Barry Deutsch
10 years ago

Great List. Since I began curating, I take an entirely different perspective on the person who is sharing the article. I still think the vast majority of article sharing falls into the category of sharing links with no thought, understanding, insight into the article. If this comprises 99% of article sharing – imagine the impact the 1% of us who actually curate can have in influencing and engaging our clients and customers. I would another that I consider on every curated piece I write: Be Bold. No one likes to read vanilla, boring, “just the facts” reporting. Share your point… Read more »

Dennis Shiao
Dennis Shiao
10 years ago
Reply to  Barry Deutsch

Thanks for your comments, Barry. I agree with your point about being bold, though my “filter” (or goal) is to be useful. Being bold and useful is fine, as long as the latter still holds true.

Pawan Saha
Pawan Saha
10 years ago

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9 years ago

I agree with this article in order to become an effective content curator you nee to be selective. That’s why Feed Curator to filter the content that are related to your website.

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