Curation Station: a slick, though pricey, solution to online’s flood of information

Ah, the web‚ a veritable treasure trove of knowledge, an endless stream of news and information. Actually, it’s more of a flood of facts and opinions that would make even Noah a mite uncomfortable. How are average web surfers to keep up if they want to‚ let alone media marketers who must keep up because they have to?

Fear not, oh noble marketer. The folks at Uptown (Minneapolis) marketing firm Hello Viking have spawned Curation Station to provide you with a bucket to help you bail the endless deluge of web content into smaller pools. (Minnov8 colleague Tim Elliot gave me a peek at the private beta.)

As you might know, collecting the flood of online information isn’t the problem. News readers, RSS feeds, email newsletters, blog subscriptions, and bookmarking services all help you see every drop of data coming from your favorite online tributaries. The issue has always been separating the clean water from the black or gray water. (Those who have ever spent anytime emptying the water tanks of an RV know what I mean.)

According to its creators, “Social media have forever changed the way that brands connect with customers. In a non-stop trail of Tweets, blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube videos and Flickr sites, customers discuss products and services.” They say, “Curation Station was created by marketers for marketers to harness these conversations and share participants’ best insights and experiences.”

Through a very simple dashboard, any number of feeds can be added. “Users can start by adding RSS and OPML feeds or alerts from external websites such as Google News. They also use integrated Twitter, Flickr and YouTube search tools. But inputs to Curation Station can be from any online source, web pages, news articles, blog posts, videos, photos,” via their bookmarklet tool.

Once inside the Curation Station dashboard a simple click of an item can channel it to a “playlist” or back to the online ocean from whence it came. Once you’ve vetted the content it can be distributed through a custom widget that’s designed by you in a live WYSIWYG tool. This widget can be plunked down in a website or blog. You can display one curated playlist or many; it’s up to you. This makes you the tamer of floods and sharer of all that is relevant‚ at least as you see it.

This isn’t the first time a Minnesota company has attacked this aggregation with curation. Garrick Van Buren continues to address it with his Cullect application, now on hiatus. The big dogs are no stranger to trying to tame this beast either. Google has, through its popular reader, and Yahoo has through its Pipes offering. I myself continue to bang my head against a wall trying to get Pipes to produce a virtual curated stream that really delivers what I need.

What I like so much about Curation Station is its ability to let me apply a trusted human opinion, my own, to all of my feeds. The simple one-click curation of a bunch of feeds might take a few minutes, a few times each day, but the result really is more of a reflection of the curator. The handy custom widget output is also very appealing and a slick way to deliver your curated masterpiece.

What I don’t like is the cost of this really slick system of flood control. After a walk-through of Curation Station I was all, “This kicks butt, sign me up!” When I found out that the cost started at $500 per month, I was all, “Maybe I need to take another crack at that Pipes feed.”

It’s apparent that the price structure for Curation Station is more tailored to the large marketing firms and businesses, certainly ones larger than mine. These firms are perhaps more financially able to dedicate resources — as well as being in more of a position to monetize the result of this curation.

Perhaps in the not too distant future Curation Station can deliver a more cost-effective solution for the more thrifty class of web whisperers. Also, one has to give these folks credit for rising above the business of “free” that has so crippled the “business” social media.

One last thing: Though I’ve opted for the water analogy here, the Curation Station folks are positioning the application by comparing it to a radio station. “Just like DJ’s curate music, Curation Station allows marketers and brands to easily organize social content into different playlists.” As a longtime “radio guy” I’ll give them playlists‚ but as I see it, that’s about as far as the radio analogy goes.

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