No Curation Sans Creation

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graphThis nation is hungry, hungry for sensation. This was most evident in September, when the Sheena Bora murder case kept young and old agog with every gory revelation. At a time when the front pages of newspapers and primetime shows of TV channels overflowed with the minutest details of Indrani Mukerjea for her alleged role in the murder of her daughter, online curating site Storypick came up with a tongue-in-cheek graphic chart on the murder mystery. Under the title ‘Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Twisted Case of Sheena Bora’s Murder’, Storypick also crafted a dummy’s guide to the proceedings of the murder by listing the solved and unsolved parts of the mystery and by presenting a mock-serious, compact genealogy chart of Mukerjea — her husbands, her children and the driver.

With skyrocketing content all around today, the news-hungry nation seeks a window to the unlimited information flowing from various media (print, radio, television, online et al). And this window is online curation.

The concept of online curation might sound new but it’s what museums and art galleries have been doing for centuries. In the early 1990s, one had to know how to run a web server if one wanted to publish online. As blogging became an important part of the online landscape in the last 10 years, with the growth of simple drag-and-drop blogging tools, all one needed was the ability to type on a keyboard.

Thereon, the cyber space witnessed an explosion of news articles, tweets and status updates. The need to cut through this noise arose and one only needed a bunch of people to find, organise, contextualise and share the best and most relevant content on a given topic. Anubhuti Yadav, who teaches New Media at Delhi’s Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), puts this idea appropriately, “The idea of one comprehensive platform providing information from different sources on a particular subject coupled with people’s desire to contribute and get featured led to the birth of sites such as ScoopWhoop, Reddit and Buzzfeed.”

“You don’t need great writers or experienced journalists to kickstart this. A few decent writers with a pulse of the worldwide web can do curation well,” Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, chief operating officer at ScoopWhoop, tells Tehelka. With no prior experience in the news media business, Mukherjee and four others were merely graduates of iimc and huge fans of Buzzfeed when they created ScoopWhoop.

However, he thinks curation is a ‘misunderstood’ term. “It is true, that at ScoopWhoop, we bring the best of the Indian web to our readers and some of it involves curation from different platforms. But at the same time, we create a lot of original content across categories like News, Travel, Food, Culture and Humour. Every publication does a bit of curation, whether it is a young publication like ours or an established newspaper.”

It is interesting to see that while curation is finding scope in top media destinations like Huffington Post and social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, websites which began with online curation are trying to venture into original reporting and feature writing as well. “Eventually, every website will have to evolve from just curating to creating, and that’s the real challenge,” says Mukherjee.

Brave words, but easier said than done. Scrolling through these sites, a surfer would find the ‘news’ section rather thin. The reports on ScoopWhoop are hardly original and essentially reused content with images sourced from other sites. Very few, like the report on the ‘beefy picnic’ organised in Delhi as a mark of protest against beef ban related violence, had some inputs from the field.

“People, anyway, won’t go to these sites for traditional news,” argues Siddhartha Chandra, a research scholar at JNU. “They have to create their own usp if they want to sustain in the future.” He regularly follows The Wire and takes avid interest in the changing structures of the Indian news media. Chandra adds, “Facebook has now become the de facto newspaper for most people. The social media giant has given a huge boost to these online curating sites. I have always found myself clicking a link to these sites through Facebook. Social media is actually helping to mainstream them. And, to survive in the mainstream, these sites will have to come up with something interesting that will catch the eyes of its readers.”

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