NYC Northside Festival Panel Pushes Content Curation to Gain Customers

The fourth annual Northside Festival last week in New York featured a series of entrepreneurship panels about digital technology, startups, entrepreneurship, content, and the changing media landscape.

Thursday’s panel “How to Build a Business Your Customers Rely On” discussed how content curation can serve as a business model with speakers from Fab, SheFinds, and Songza. Douglas Warsaw of Fortune Magazine and First-Person Communication was the moderator.

The panel began by focusing on how people react to content curation on e-commerce sites, which can be seen as the virtual equivalent of them walking into a boutique shop or gallery and looking at the array of products.

Fab’s Director of Product Acquisition Chad Philips said content providers can use a boutique tactic called “rigging,” which is when something outlandish and unexpected is placed in the front display window to attract attention. Consumers will hopefully be pulled in and most likely won’t buy the crazy window piece, but will get a shirt or something else instead.

This tactic has worked for Fab’s blog by grabbing the viewer’s initial attention and then hooking the potential buyer. Curating content can thus be leveraged to attract initial attention, and then allow the user to discover other things for themselves so they feel they have made an informed decision.

Phillips says’s goal is to curate the best designed products and make them more accessible to online audiences. Crowdsourcing, whether through social media or customer service, helps, SheFinds, and Songza decide what content to curate on their sites.

Social media and tracking analytics within a site can help a business understand which content is trending and what they should include.

Warsaw asked the panelists about which analytics best measure success of curation for all three businesses. For sites like Fab and SheFinds, the number of sales and conversion of readership to purchase is proof enough, while Songza focuses more on algorithms and tracking who is clicking what and when.

Songza co-founder Elias Roman explained that since the company provides a curated and crowdsourced array of playlists customized for listeners based on the time of day, the activity users are engaging in, and which genre the listener prefers, tracking engagement is a necessary part of their model. Listeners “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” songs, which adds a crowdsourced curation element.

Founder Michele Madok said SheFinds attracts shoppers who have a certain taste level and are looking to buy, not just to browse, so showing conversion is very important to their business. Part of that process is curating the right content on the site’s SheKnows blog.

Madhok said she thought social media curation would seem more like a stunt than a useful service for the audience. People look to their peers and influencers with similar tastes to get recommendations. Roman said that Songza users understand that songs are curated by experts, which brings authenticity and quality to the platform, crucial  for any business and consumer relationship.

A brand such as Hertz could offer playlists for their audience with Songza as facilitator, but overall what’s key for a brand to understand is knowing what the audience wants. Songza has worked with a cleaning brand that wanted to created “housecleaning playlists.” The brand was able to gain customers and more Facebook followers by providing relevant content to their audience.

The consensus was that having a human, rather than a robot relying on a pure algorithm, to do the actual curation was the most effective way for a brand to offer content.

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