5 essential (and free!) content curation tools

These tools will create embed codes for anything on the Web, develop lists, organize seemingly endless piles of data, and more.

I tend to have problems with brevity when I write. Because of this, people often mistakenly believe I don’t deal with writer’s block.

That is not the case.

Sure, I always have 2,000 words in my pocket, but those words are not often about the topic I need to write about.

When the blank page stares relentlessly back at me, one of my favorite fall backs is to curate and comment on other people’s content. However, everyone is a curator these days. Some people are better than others; the edge comes from being different and adding a fresh perspective.

Here are five of the best free content curation tools you can use to stand out:

1. List.ly

This is my favorite tool right now. Why make a list when you can make a List.ly? List.ly, as the name suggests, allows you to:

  • Create lists as you browse the Web. There’s a bookmarklet that allows you to add a website to your list, complete with an image, title, description and tags. Fill in the sections yourself, or use the data List.ly pulls from the site.
  • Embed your list anywhere you can create a post.
  • Get people’s opinions of your list through voting.
  • Use the list as a resource to bring people together for a project or cause, or to gather data. (Advanced feedback labels include “I can help” or “I can participate.”)
  • Re-sort the list alphabetically, by crowd rank or in the order curated.
  • Share and embed other people’s lists or just one item from their lists.

List.ly also lets you present lists with style. Embed options range from a gallery of images to a more minimal presentation. There’s a WordPress plugin, as well.

2. Storify

When I attend conferences, I like to summarize what I’ve learned and take pictures with people I’ve met. I do this to jog my memory later, as well as share as much of my experience as possible.

Whether I want to promote the event or simply share the high points with my subscribers, clients and customers, Storify lets me take bits of information from a variety of sources on the Web and curate them into a story.

With Storify you can use keywords or hashtags to collect images, social media updates or Web pages (any media item on the Web, really). You can then add your thoughts and publish them in a blog post.

I’ve used Storify to:

  • Summarize a collection of links related to a news story.
  • Collect resources around a conference hashtag.
  • Show the highlights of a Twitter chat.
  • Include links from several types of media in a blog post.
  • Collect details of links I’m referencing in a story.
  • Get ideas for a blog post from someone else’s Storify, which I can also embed.
  • Cite my inspiration or sources for a story.

Storify gives you the tools to expand upon what you’ve curated with some free-form areas to include text. You can also write your post and just add the embed at the end. Storify lets you notify any person included in your story, though I suggest personalizing the notice it sends out. Embed options are similar to List.ly’s.

Storify is now owned by Livefyer (another of my favorite services), and has a WordPress plugin and an iPad app.

3. Spundge

It took me a while to warm to Spundge. At first it seemed like a buttoned-down version of Storify. Though some of its features and functions are similar to Storify, there is more to Spundge.

Like Storify, you can use Spundge to collect and curate information from around the Web and present it in an aesthetically pleasing way that’s infinitely less boring than a standard blog post.

Spundge also adds the ability to collaborate on private or public topic collections called Notebooks. Notebooks allow you to condense the fire hose of data into a coherent feed of curated information. Journalists have taken to this feature, and I suspect anyone who has to do ongoing research would, as well.

4. Thinglink

The overused cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words becomes meaningful with Thinglink. It allows you to embed information hotspots into an image that provide more information in text when you hover over them.

Hotspots can be anything on the Web with a URL. YouTube videos have pop-ups that can play without the user ever leaving your blog post. This can come in handy in places where you can embed pictures but not video.

You can embed Thinglink images in your blog posts. Right-clicking on a non-hotspot in a gives you the option to share, embed or touch an image (Thinglink’s version of liking).

Thinglink is much easier to understand when you can see it in action.Here’s a Thinglink about Spundge’s Notebook feature, and another about using Thinglink with Storify.

Thinglink also has a free app for iOS.

5. Embed.ly

Do you have something that’s difficult to embed? Do you want to include a PDF but don’t want to use Docstoc or Slideshare? Embed.ly can embed anything with a Web address.

Embed.ly is a good way to create your own embed code when you need to share something but don’t have the resources or know-how, or don’t want to use third-party tools.

Bonus: Find embeddable content to create a story around.

Every social media site with an embed tool, from Slideshare to YouTube, has a way for you to embed any public conversation into a blog post. If you are only pulling data from one source, don’t forget this as a quick way to include the original source of ideas into your discussion.

Tinu Abayomi-Paul is chief visibility officer of Leveraged Promotion, which performs corporate reputation management for mid-sized companies, and builds demand generation systems. A version of this article originally appeared on Vocus.

(Image via, via & via)


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