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The Human Voice in Content Curation: Making Sense of It All

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Posted August 6, 2015

Just recently, Apple announced that it will be entering the content curation space with Apple News, a Fliboard-type app that pulls in news feeds from different publishers and displays them in a magazine-style format. But instead of using algorithms to unearth great content, Apple is hiring an editing team to “identify and deliver the best in breaking national, global, and local news.”

Surely this is a huge departure from the formula that the biggest content players like Google and Facebook are using now. Google has always been reliant on algorithms, which have been proven to be an inexpensive, comprehensive, and impartial way to aggregate essentially everything, from music and videos to news and search results. In fact, Google makes use of the most valuable algorithm in the world as it has the ability not only to find content but to rank it as well.

Unfortunately, algorithms are not that intelligent, in a sense that it cannot really derive meaning out of content. One simply has to look at Google Translate to see the limitations of algorithms, as even simple sentences cannot be translated properly, given the nuances of every language. These algorithmic limitations are also apparent in news curation, where journalistic expertise is needed in weeding out what’s valuable and what is not.

Take NYMag.com for instance. Michael Silberman, the general manager of media at New York magazine, said that his team tested a promising algorithm that automatically detected related articles at the bottom posts on Vulture, the magazine’s entertainment section. However, it turned out that the links curated by the editors themselves significantly outperformed those generated by the third party algorithm. “Humans are pretty good at figuring out what other humans are going to be interested in clicking,” said Silberman in his interview with Mashable.

For Ben Welsh of The Los Angeles Times, algorithms are helpful for short breaking news items, although he claims that each piece of news is still very much steeped in the editorial process. “There’s all sorts of information that a human will have when reading something that will put it in a greater context,” he said. “Computers are really literal. They do what you tell them to do—exactly what you tell them to do. There’s a blessing and curse to that.”

This has paved the way for human curation to creep back into the picture, with apps like Apple News leading the charge. There is also Twitter’s Project Lightning, a tool that “will bring event-based curated content to the Twitter platform.” A team of editors will be selecting what they think are the best and most relevant tweets and package them into a curated collection. Though the editors will be using data tools to sift through the humongous amount of tweets across Twitter’s servers, the final decision will remain up to them, and not to a computer.

In the business and finance news scene, the recently launched Born2Invest app aims to solve the problem of content overload by having a team of human curators who will collate the most relevant business and finance news from trusted sources like Forbes and Business Insider and summarize them into 80 words or less. It goes a bit further in personalizing the experience by making the app available in more than 50 languages.

“What we’re trying to do is break as quickly as possible into 150 plus markets around the world, which involves producing our content in native language iterations, literally 50 of them within the next six months,” Born2Invest founder Dom Einhorn said. “With this business app, we aim to become a dominant player in the business news production and syndication space.”

Written by Lily Portuguez

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