What can nonprofits learn from the best content curator on the planet?

An Interview with Robin Good

Content Curation for Nonprofits
View more presentations from Beth Kanter

Duration: 14 minutes

I taped this interview by SKYPE with Robin Good, the best content curator on the planet in advance of my talk on content curation for nonprofits at Social Media for Nonprofits in New York City on January 30th. The interview is long and served as a back up in the event that Internet problems prevent Robin Good from skyping into the conference to have a live conversation. This year, since content curation, is a social media competency that I’m focusing in my own learning and teaching. One of the best ways to get better at something is to interview the experts and ask them about their practice. Robin graciously spent 40 minutes with me on SKYPE sharing his wisdom. I had hard time editing it down to 15 minutes. Here's the Twitter transcript from the talk.

Here's a transcript of the interview

Who is Robin Good?

Robin Good is a small independent publisher who has been publishing on the Internet for over a decade. Since 2005, he has been a full-time publisher. He is the founder of Robin Good University where he helps individuals transform their passions into a business. He was worked in the development sector for NGOs like FAO and World Bank and he has spent many years as a trainer. His interest in newsmastering started after he read something by Robert Scoble in 2004 that suggested it was better to send people off your site and point to high quality content from others. Scoble was talking about the value of content curation. Also at that time, Stephen Downes was hinting at a coming social layer to organize and making sense of the web. Also, the rise of RSS ignited his interest in how you could select, aggregate, filter and spit out a news radar that would deliver thematic, specific content of interest to a specific tribe or audience. (In 2006, Marshall Kirkpatrick published an interview with Robin Good on Newsmastering while working for Netsquared that introduced many nonprofit people to the concept)

What is your daily curation practice? You mentioned that you "live on the web?" Do you really spend your entire day curating information?

I could easily spend the entire doing this if I didn't have mental discipline or have to worry about making a living. Curating can be addictive. It can be an experience that makes us so much less able to focus extended period of time. We are continuously discovering new information, going from one piece of content to another. You could never stop because the information never stops. It is fun, too. So, you could do curation - looking for content all day. My typical day is to do the tasks that require focus and concentration in the morning. I try to avoid the trap of mindless consumption of content. If you start and don't set limits, you won't move from the computer. You'll loose track of time. You need to establish a schedule of a specific amount of time to do the curation task of looking for content.

Why the hell would a nonprofit want to spend their limited time doing content curation?

Content curation is a huge opportunity. The amount of information and content on the Internet is a huge Tsunami or ocean of chaotic information. You must be feeling this yourself with all the emails, tweets, distractions, news and content flying around. The amount of information from the Internet isn't being tamed, it's increasing. Whenever you find someone who is a "light house" someone or organization who can save you time . That organization or person is spending their time going through the junk and finding the good stuff. That person is a curator and more and more that person becomes very appreciated, a thought leader. This can have tremendous benefits.

Can Anyone Be A Curator?

The answer is yes. There is a spectrum of curation skills. On one end, there is someone is who is just pass along information to their network of friends - it is an echo chamber and maybe they are just littering or passing along links. Anyone can do that and there are some great free tools to do it. However, if you want to be a great curator that requires some skills. It is like a DJ or Juke Box. Anyone can put on records or tunes, but selecting a sequence of music that blends together properly - it is the art of the DJ. What does the curator do? Like an artist, he shows what might not be visible to the audience. The content curator highlights, uncovers, explains, and gives context. A curator makes sense of the information - even content that isn't officially from his field. (This skill is called “Transdisciplinarity or ability to understand and translate concepts across multiple disciplines)

What is your best advice to nonprofits who want to get started easily and don't have a full-time staff person to dedicate to the task?

The number one suggestion is narrow focus. Pick a specific topic and curate on that. If your organization has multiple topic areas, don't jumble them together, do them separately. Everyone who starts curating is afraid they will leave something out if they are too focused. To be a valuable curator to your audience, you need to be very specific. Think about your objective -it is to uncover, unearth the best of the best content that is out there for the audience interested in that topic.

Once you find content, make it evident why it is valuable to your audience. You have to serve it like you're in the best Parisian restaurant. Juxtapose, order, make sense, in the items that you pull together.

You want to highlight for your readers what is relevant to them. If you are just sharing links, then the audience has to go visit all the links themselves. You make them work twice. Don't do that. Predigest the content for your audience by summarizing what the content is about and why it is important. You are not stealing the original creator's content, but you are summarizing what is most important for your tribe or audience. You are giving the original source attribution - and if you found the article in another curator's collection, giving them credit too.

It is very important to tell people ahead of time what is of value about the link. If you have read it, then you should know what is valuable, right? You can summarize what is valuable.

You also need to contextualize it. If you curate the news or content, be sure to provide context to the audience, the tribe. Why is this important at this time? Save the reader the time and vetting for them very carefully. Don't make the reader have to read the original stuff.

A good curator becomes a trusted filter for their tribe.

What are the best free tools?

It is very important to have a channel, a presence where you share your curated content and many content curation tools provide that. But you can also do content curation on Twitter, Facebook, or even a Google Brand Page. But you need to share specific content of interest to your audience. It can't be all over the map.

If you want to experiment with some of the curation tools, some of the hot ones are:


These are good to get your hands dirty - they are free. They give you a page, a place on the web, to share your curated content. You need two types of tools - curation tools. The map below are the best ones to experiment with. These tools are free, easy to use, and good for news curation.


Not all the curation tools are great to find you good content. News and content discovery tools are essential for a good curator to find the stuff they are interested. It helps you find rele


Some news discovery tools suggested by Robin from his Scoop.It Collection

Final Words

There is so much information that someone in your field or area is going to start curating. Are you going to be a copy cat or a thought leader? And, by being a content curator, you will help people have less noise in their life and more relevant content.


The Guide to News and Content Curation by Robin Good: This is the definitive guide to content curation that takes you through why it is important, how to do it, and tools. The guide was published in 2010, but the concepts are still relevant although some of the tools may be out of date. This is the classic.

What Makes a Content Curator Great? This article was published in November 11 and defines what content curation as it has gained more popularity.

eXtension Conference on Curation in October, 2011