by Alison Lueders
One of the bits of advice you often hear is, “offer original content” if you want to draw people to your website. Offer something that they can’t find elsewhere.
This makes sense, but recently my work has included content aggregation – scanning broadly on a subject and filtering down to just a few key bits of information for dissemination – and content condensation – as in, summarizing a 250+ page book into a 10 page summary for a small group. Neither of these resulted in original content, but the value for the respective audiences was substantial.
For as long as I have been in business, people have complained of “information overload”. And it IS a huge challenge. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt noted last year that we now create 5 exabytes of information every 2 days. An exabyte is a 1 with 18 zeroes after it – an incomprehensibly large number. We read about “big data analytics” and “cloud computing” as tools to help manage all this, and I hope they do.
Yet even as our tools get better, there is still value in a human filtering through a subset of information to identify the best, most relevant material for a given client or readership. Tools can’t recognize, serendipitously, when things that might appear to be unrelated could, in fact, be or become related. That’s where creativity, imagination and experience come into play. And that kind of leap is something still beyond the reach of the content aggregation tools that I have seen.
The value of content condensation is more straightforward. It saves time for the reader while still imparting a substantial chunk of the intelligence contained in a full-length book. Something is always lost with condensation, but it can be useful in jump-starting a conversation in class or spurring questions. Time is the resource people lack most, so content condensation, while not sexy, can be quite valuable.
So while I do add original content to the 5-exabytes-every-2-days mountain, I also scan what’s out there and bring the best to the attention of my time-starved customers. They might otherwise miss both relevant and thought-provoking information that can help grow their businesses, or take them in new directions.
As a web editor, what portion of your time do you spend managing original content versus content from secondary sources? Which do your readers value most?