Is that content created, curated or copied?
| Vaidehi Mehta | - @mehta_vaidehi
Many, many, moons ago, before the Worldwide Web became par for the course in India, a young girl in the fifth grade won the second prize in a poetry-writing competition conducted by a leading newspaper. Friends and family, and her school, were thrilled to bits. She was feted and everyone believed she had great potential. Two weeks later, the newspaper wrote rescinding the prize, saying the poem had been plagiarised. They sent the original text too. The girl and the people who feted her were left with egg on the face.
Clearly a case of copying.
More recently, I was witness to a situation where a stink was raised in an organisation about what was perceived as plagiarised content in an article that was written on the company blog. It was about a Reserve Bank regulation that would impact several sectors of the Indian economy. In truth, the topic was breaking news, trending that week, and whatever information that could be had about it was already there on the net. The person who wrote the blog had never claimed to be an expert in economics or finance. He had supplied the source links which, unfortunately, were not posted on the blog with the article. That was remedied and with some explanation the management was mollified and the situation, thankfully, contained.
A case of inadvertent copying due to not citing/linking to the sources of information.
Created, Curated or Aggregated?
With content being king, and content marketing the current hot thing in the digital space, writers are hard-pressed for fresh ideas and, quite naturally, turn to search engines for help. Writers and marketers search online for many things. For information (text and images) they don’t have, to verify information they do have, or simply in a desperate bid to churn out the requisite number of words for a blog that probably earns them a living.
In reality though, how much original content do you think your content writers can produce and keep on producing? It would, in fact, be time-consuming and counterproductive if writers were expected to create original content all the time. High-quality content can be created with a judicious blend of curated and created content.
Essentially, content is either created, or curated or aggregated from different sources.
Original content that you or your design and marketing teams have generated is Created Content. It is your point of view, or your organisation’s stand, on something.
Content that is collected as-is from various digital sources and other articles, using tools such as Google Alerts and presented without any value-addition but with proper referencing is Aggregated Content. Please note that aggregated content is not copied content.
Content developed through “… consistently finding, organizing, annotating and sharing the most relevant and highest quality digital content on a specific topic for a target market.” is Curated Content.
Content curation plays an important part.
It is a marketing tool that cannot be ignored today. It is an education and a training; practise makes you improve your skills as a curator. You find a wealth of information and become adept at sifting the vital from the vapid information. What is curated often becomes the basis for further valuable content.
Two things are possible with curated content:
The writer is scrupulous about referencing the source of his information and annotating it with his own (or the team’s) point of view,
He may produce a piece of writing with no or little or incorrect reference to source(s).
When the first of the above happens, all is well and no feathers are ruffled; that is content curation done correctly.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Sometimes, entire articles are reproduced and passed off as original pieces of writing. Sometimes, phrases, sentences and, indeed, paragraphs from one or more articles are lifted (copy-pasted) and used in a piece of writing and that too with hardly any reference to the source or the author of the original work. The less lazy will cite the original article(s) somewhere in an obscure corner of the page, where, more often than not, it escapes the average eye.
Here lies the problem. When you use someone else’s work without permission and falsely pass it off as your own, it is not curation. It’s cheating, and it is unfair. Even if it is not illegal, it definitely is unethical.
In fairness, though…
Sometimes, in the course of reading up on a subject, the writer may register some words, phrases and even sentences which are near-identical to something someone else has written and use them in the content he is writing. When this happens, the result looks like content that was flicked off the net without credit to the original creator. This is what I think happened in the second of the incidents at the beginning of this article.
Give credit where credit is due
Regardless of the recall of the writer, there is no excuse for putting up any article or piece of writing without proper attribution to the source(s). You cannot take someone else’s effort and knowledge and claim it is your own. If you are using such content, basic courtesy demands that you also cite/credit the source. Take as little as you can from the original and comment on the thought or idea. If using the exact words from another article, do place them between double quotes. Provide links that will take the reader to the original article.
You probably think there’s such a ton of material out there on the Net, who is going to really care if you have spliced together parts of different articles and come up with one great piece that you think is yours?
Even if you do not land in legal trouble, please know that you will be found out sooner or later. If you want to make a name for yourself as a blogger/content writer, play by the rules or you will lose credibility in the field.
So what must you do?
I’ve been doing some research about content creation and content curation and will write about these in my next post. I will also give you all the links and checks you can put in place so you can read up on them for detailed information.
Until then, please feel free to write me with your questions. I’d love to hear from you.
Vaidehi Mehta is our very “propah” Content Strategist. She is a teacher and trainer with degrees in Economics, English and Education. Vaidehi spends her time at Influx curating and writing content, and correcting everyone’s English.