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Duplicate content is the web’s dirty little secret, robbing us of precious time and energy. It is also creating pools of misinformation that fuel conspiracy theories and skew what we think is true. We all duplicate content, and we all repeat worthless information because it is so easy to do.
Writers like to think they create original content. But while the way we express is unique to us, we often just serve up duplicate content.
Just look at news stories and articles created largely as mashups of content gathered from various sources. Find a morsel of information here, talk to a source over there, dig through statistics, compile research snippets, and then write it up. It’s really nothing more than collecting pieces of information and stringing them together into a well-told story. The problem is, the ‘story’ is often already told, infinite times.
Technology fuels duplicate content
Computer technology and the worldwide web allow us to duplicate content easily. How often do you get page after page of the same information when you do a search? You see it all the time. A company puts out a press release or a news outlet releases a story and the content gets automatically reposted over and over on thousands of websites. When you add the multiple links pointing to the story on social media, you’ve got a perfect worldwide web of duplicate content.
It’s fashionable to say we are curating when we use existing content or we duplicate content. But there are two peculiar styles of curation. The most common and easiest one is to repost and maybe add a few words of our own. The other way to curate is more like good journalism. The two curation methods are as different as night and day.
Taste the flavors of curation
Common curation is a quick, simple way to develop content. Take something that’s already published, add a comment and put it out there. Easier still just copy and paste. But what if the information is untrue or is someone’s mistake? Not only have you created duplicate content that does little for the reader, but you have also added to the misinformation that has become so commonplace on the web. If you don’t even bother to assess the source or corroborate the information with the original source, you are likely duplicating others’ mistakes.
Social media however is one place where copying or repeating information is different. You post snippets which everyone knows are not about publishing, but about ‘pointing.’ So, people expect brief comments and a link to the item you found interesting. Does that mean you are free from responsibility in what you post? No, still confirm for yourself that the information isn’t just a repeat of misinformation or a mistake someone else made.
Are You a Victim of Misinformation?
You might feel comfort in reading information that reinforces what you think, but it’s a dangerous game. How long can you delude yourself in return for that bit of comfort?
When you curate, you add to, or embellish existing content.
But on a website or in a blog you add value by digging deeper into the story, finding other sources, exploring different angles and providing balance. Curation done right yields digital content that is unique and tailored to the interests of a particular audience. That’s why most of us who are serious about creating unique content avoid doing it the quick, easy way. Here is one example of curating the right way:
Imagine a press release that’s about one company buying another. The careful curator starts from the beginning and rewrites. But they also do some digging to find facts that link the acquisition deal to the consolidation happening in that industry. The careful curator also tailors the piece to the audience. This curation method does differs little from writing a news story from scratch. You start with a piece of information and develop it into a story. As you do this, you introduce novel information that adds depth and specifics. In short, you make the piece more valuable to its readers.
We are all natural aggregators and curators. Our brains constantly collect, weigh, and store information from our senses. When we create we use that stored information.
Thoughtful curation beats duplicate content
When we create unique content, we draw on our understanding of the topic, the words we’ve read, pictures we’ve seen, the thoughts of others, the experiences of others, and what we’ve watched on screens and heard on sound devices.
We add in supporting graphics, photos, or videos that match the story to improve readability. Then we might add our take on it. That’s a much richer way to develop content. It takes more time to do it that way, but it produces a unique view, done uniquely. It’s how you add originality to the never-ending story of humanity, and also how you avoid duplicate content.