President’s Column

by Steve Higgins, IABC/Tulsa President

A recent New York Times article pondered the unlikely staying power of the Drudge Report, the politically conservative website that first gained attention during the Clinton years.

The Drudge Report, according to the Times, drives more online news traffic than any other website except Google.

Whatever you think of Drudge’s political leanings, you have to be impressed with what he’s accomplished with a simple, plain-Jane home page inelegantly crammed full of text links. (The look and feel of the Drudge Report is grayer than the Gray Lady herself.) He’s basically created an enduring, trusted, popular news brand – using other people’s reporting.

He does it, apparently, by knowing his audience and collecting content that matters to them. Yes, he is known for writing his own sensational, even inflammatory, headlines to the stories he links to – that’s his way of further customizing the news to engage (or enrage) his readers. Yet the vast majority of the content on his page is not his own.

So what do you call what Drudge does? It’s not reporting. It’s not editing. It’s not journalism at all, per se. It’s “content curation.”

IABC President Julie Freeman talked about content curation at our May luncheon meeting during her speech on trends in business communication. Julie gave several examples of companies that are attracting followers by establishing themselves as the go-to content source for their customers or stakeholders.

Most of these companies appear to be doing basically what Matt Drudge has been doing for years – providing an aggregation point for headlines and links that appeal to a defined audience. What they’re not doing, for the most part, is creating original content of their own.

Long associated with museums, the word curation is kind of a buzzword right now. It’s being applied to everything from music festivals to clothing retailers to restaurant menus.

Nevertheless, the concept of content curation makes sense at a time when the competition for the public’s attention is greater than ever.

Many of us may not be fans of Drudge’s partisan political posturing. But you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of content curation building a massive, loyal audience – and without a speck of color on the page.