Gather Ye Content Wisely

If you’ve been reading this column, you know I think that there’s nothing quite like the bite of tasty original web content. Is anything, may I ask, as sweet as copy that’s specially prepared for a site’s target audience? Ah, there are few things so pleasable as artfully rendered writings, filled with all the style and flair of an author who has lovingly prepared them.

Alas, I realize that we cannot all prepare pipin’ fresh content for our sites. Occasionally, one must rely on content from another source. But be careful, my sweets, for in the world of available Internet content lies a lot of hackneyed fare, irrelevant and unwanted by the audience you target.

Is there an art to selecting content for your site? Definitely. I’ve found only a few folks who can be considered modern-day virtuosos at the task. Most people don’t rely on the trusted standards to pick and choose for them (ScreamingMedia and iSyndicate, to name a couple). Instead, they spend their time doing the selecting themselves — or as in my first example, they hire a stable of eager writers to make their selections.

Consider Hylton Jolliffe, who’s just launched Corante, which bills itself as an independent news source on the technology sector. The name (and apparent inspiration) comes from British printer Nathaniel Butter. His Corante was the first English-language newsletter, launched in 1621. “Corante 2.0,” writes Jolliffe, “launched some 379 years later.”

Jolliffe’s enterprise works like this: Every day Corante editors scan hundreds of Internet sources for news stories, magazine articles, resources, and related items that offer perspective on and analysis of e-commerce, biotechnology, law and policy, venture capital, and telecom wireless. The writers are charged with finding the best, most timely news and writing a brief introductory paragraph for each story.

“Only human beings can determine quality content,” says Jolliffe. “I’m a fan of Google, but even the best search engine doesnt have its ear to the ground for what’s timely and worthwhile.”

Jolliffe prefers his method to that of, a content gatherer automated to scan over 1,800 news sources and dump its findings into buckets for selected keywords. As he points out, the information is timely, but there’s no guarantee that you won’t end up with six copies of the same AP story as published by six different news sites.

The Corante team of editors is an eclectic team of freelancers (including an attorney and a physician) selected for their “resonant expertise” in selected technology fields. Jolliffe looks for freethinkers, newshounds, and early risers to join his ranks (the deadline for filing is 8:30 a.m. EST).

“We’re very independent, with the sole purpose of delivering value to the information-overwhelmed,” says Jolliffe, adding that eventually he hopes to add original content to the site. Additionally, the intent is to offer his “digester” to webmasters for placement on their own sites.

Another “digester” many of you already know and love is the fabulous Davenetics, a daily email newsletter for updates on the new economy. It is, in the words of author Dave Pell, “the official newsletter of the next five minutes.”

Davenetics is a lot sassier than Corante, offering up memorable headlines and synopses before linking readers to the more sedate actual story. Among my favorites is a comparison of eBay’s purchase of auctioneers Butterfield and Butterfield to “George and Weezie (moving) to a deluxe apartment in the sky.” According to the Davester, the move was wise for the TV pair, “although Willis could be a tad irritating.” But he questions whether eBay’s “flea-market free-for-all” will be spoiled. Now that’s an interesting lead not often read in business news!

I do find it intriguing that the best of “content outsourcing” requires a critical eye and human forethought. Those of you who opt against the home-cooked approach are advised to check out these two news “digesters” and see how content gathering is done right. Granted, it’s not as flavorful as content made from scratch, but it can be tasty.

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