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How to Use Content Curation to Create a Recurring Revenue Business
20th November 2014 • The Digital Entrepreneur • Rainmaker Digital LLC

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It’s no secret that I’m a tireless advocate for the creation of original content to fuel business growth. My next online project, however, is based on … curation.

You read that right. I’m starting a new site, and the centerpiece of my content strategy will be locating and making sense of the smartest articles, audio, and video I can find in that topical market that are created by others.

Sound strange?

Listen in and check out the three-part process I’m following, so you can start building your own profitable content curation strategy:

In this 49-minute episode Robert and I discuss:

  • Why my new project is based on simple content curation
  • The critical centerpiece of your content curation strategy
  • Three ways to get traffic to your curation-based website
  • The counterintuitive power of guest posting
  • What you can learn from the initial failure of the TED Conference
  • The impresario approach to building an online business
  • A simple way to generate word-of-mouth growth
  • How I plan to monetize my curation-focused platform

Listen to Rainmaker.FM Episode No. 17 below …

The Show Notes

*Rainmaker.FM is brought to you by the Rainmaker Platform, the complete website solution for content marketers and internet entrepreneurs.

The Transcript

How to Use Content Curation to Create a Recurring Revenue Business

Robert Bruce: Welcome to Rainmaker.FM. Today, we’re not going to answer any questions. We’re going to dive deep into a very specific topic this content curation thing and how to build revenue from it.

Brian Clark: On one hand it is not an abstraction because this is my blueprint for a site that I am just giddily working on that I’ve hinted about in past episodes.

This is the real plan that I’m actually following to create “Brian’s new site.” It is not Copyblogger Media. It’s just me and it’s something I’ve wanted to do and it’s something that interests me. I’m not really worried about it making money right away.

But you know me, I haven’t done something that doesn’t generate revenue. That is generally something that I don’t do so I’m going to map out what I’m going to do including the monetization and the revenue aspects. You could follow the first two parts of this blueprint with any business model and I think that’s what’s so cool.

Let’s talk about what I am actually trying to accomplish myself and that will make it real. Then, as we go forward and I get this thing going, I guess we could turn it into an ongoing case study. That’s because as we’ve discussed Robert, you throw it out there into the void and then you start figuring it out.

Robert Bruce: Right.

Brian Clark: I’ve got a plan and I think it’s solid, but there are certainly going to be nuances. The cool thing is because of this podcast, I’ll be able to share them with you. Thank goodness for our meta-teaching nature.

Robert Bruce: Alright, so here’s what we’re going to do. The title of this episode is How to Use Content Curation to Create a Recurring Revenue Business, and it’s got three parts. We’re going to go over content, number one. That will include how to find it, where to look for it and the basic ideas around that. Number two, we’ll talk about traffic. That will include several ways of how to get it. And number three, we’ll talk about your product, or what it is that you can sell.

This is really interesting in the context of the Copyblogger universe. I’m looking forward to going through this with you. I do want folks out there to know that this episode is sponsored by the Rainmaker Platform. You can find more about that at Rainmaker Platform.

Understanding the Basics of Content Curation

Alright Brian, let’s get into the first part of this which is content. What kind of content are we talking about when we’re looking to make content curation the centerpiece of a business model online?

Brian Clark: Well, of course you know that we are huge advocates for original compelling audience driven content. I’m not going to say that I’ve changed my mind.

Copyblogger is not switching to a curation model. But for my next project, it is something that I am more interested in than just starting a blog or starting a podcast or whatever the case may be. You talk about content shock and that’s irrelevant because the great volume of content out there is invisible and it’s not worth seeing. That’s not the issue.

What I’m seeing though is there is a lot of good content in just about any topical area you could think of. And even taking an intersection, which is one of our favorite positioning strategies where you match up copywriting and blogging and you get a site called Copyblogger. That’s just a cheap example for you, but it’s finding an editorial angle like we talked about last time in a profitable and competitive niche. That means that people are selling stuff there already.

When you look around and you look at the amount of really good articles that are lost in the mass of mediocrity and all the really good podcast episodes that no one is going to find because that’s like a full-time job. This is the job of the curator.

There really is an opportunity here because you can still build an audience as long as you are creating the value. Here you are creating the value by finding the best, eliminating the dreck and sending that to people.

Find Your Value Proposition

That’s your value proposition. You’re basically saying to your audience that if they’re interested in whatever the topic may be, or whatever the intersection of topics may be, but you can’t subscribe to everything and you don’t want to. So let my inbox get filled up with everything and I’ll pick the stuff for you and that’s the value. I think where we’re at online right now, that value proposition properly stated and executed on, you can build an audience with that.

That’s if you’re the one who is getting to send the email to a thousand people, or even ten thousand people. In some of these areas, the audience size is great as long as you establish that, “Let me, a real human being do the hard work of ferreting this stuff out for you and I will give it to you in my own unique way.”

In essence, you’re creating a unique piece of content out of other people’s content. It’s your explanation of each of these. At the center of it, you’re building an audience. And how are you building that audience and in what form? Is it permission based email? This goes all the way back to Seth Godin in ’99 and it is still true today. If you can command that attention by providing that value and being invited into the inbox, that gives you the opportunity to make a relevant offer that is more likely to be accepted. We’ll get to that part as we progress through here.

Robert Bruce: Two things come to mind with this. Number one, there are a couple of examples that we’ve talked about in our last episode, we talked about how to find a great topic to work with. So you can go back, listen to that, and find a starting point as we talk about topic and market in this episode.

Number two, here are a couple of examples of what we’re talking about here that don’t necessarily match up with the revenue side of things, but they’re just a great example of people finding and publishing great curated content. They are Dave Pell at and we’ve talked about him before. There is Maria Popova at and then Jason Hirschhorn at

Brian Clark: Yes.

The Critical Importance of Your Email List

Robert Bruce: You can check those folks out to kind of see what this can look like from a content gathering and distribution sense. And Brian, like you just said, we’ll talk about the revenue later, but those will give you a good idea of what this looks like.

Brian makes a distinction here in terms of distribution. Right now at this point in time, email is key in terms of distribution. And it’s not that you don’t use other tools, but the centerpiece of how you want to build this audience is around the email list. Why is that?

Brian Clark: Email is still the primary transaction medium for selling stuff and you have to earn the permission in the first place to get them on the list through your value proposition, which is the curation. Then you have to earn the right to make an offer. In the early days that could be relevant affiliate offers. That’s a great way to start generating revenue.

It’s not the best way long-term because you’re not getting the customer and obviously that’s not a recurring model. That’s a transactional model unless you tap into a program that is subscription based. The point is that that’s where transactions continue to happen, forty times greater than social media. That’s also if you have the trust and the value proposition, that’s where you’re going to get the most attention. People do pay attention to their inbox, which is why they’re so jealous about who they let in there.

Three Steps to Finding Your Topic Market

Robert Bruce: Let’s move on to what you’re talking about specifically for this project that you mentioned?

Brian Clark: Well, I’m not going to talk specifically about my project until I launch it and it’s not quite there yet. I’d rather give an example of a topical market and how a site that is creating original content is executing on that market. Then I’ll let you see that with the mass volume of content just from one site. Then you’ve got an entire market segment, an entire universe of people creating content aimed at this market, and how by you paying attention to all of that and picking out the very best from the filler, how you can create a publication that has this value.

In the last episode, I mentioned in passing this market segment called LOHAS. That stands for Lifestyles Of Health And Sustainability (horrible acronym of course).

Robert Bruce: LOHAS!!

Brian Clark: (Laughing) Ok, it goes back to around 2000/2003 where this huge market segment was identified of people who are interested in personal development, health and wellness. But it’s all tied together with this sustainable green focus, and these are well educated affluent people.

Increasingly what you’re seeing as the millennial generation comes into its own, is they’re kind of this way by default. I’m not saying every millennial is like this, but it’s not strange to them to think that way. Of course, they’re definitely educated hopefully accruing revenue.

Anyway, LOHAS, it’s billions and billions of dollars of people who are interested in this self-improvement, both physical and mental. It’s all wrapped up in “I’m going to spend money, I’m going to invest in companies that are green, I’m going to support organic and sustainable and green building and all this kind of stuff.” It’s a very well defined group.

There’s a site called and it cranks out content like you wouldn’t believe. Can you see how transparently that’s matched to the LOHAS market segment? That’s just straight up positioning and it works because those things, mind body green, are the primary aspects of that market segment. That’s a good example.

So you go to that site and they’re like Huffington Post in the level of content they’re creating. They’ve got a thousand contributors. I think most of the people write for free. It’s that kind of classic model where the publisher is getting the benefit of providing access to an audience and then the contributors are creating the content. That’s one site in this area.

You can find many, many, many, many more and there’s so much good stuff. Some of the stuff on Mind Body Green is good and some of it is just dreck. It’s filler and it’s not inspired. You can see with this example that you’ve already identified a huge profitable market segment where people have money and they spend money, which is step number one.

Number two, you found a site that is going directly after that market. And then three, from there you start looking around and finding the other content producers that you can begin to curate from. Then your value proposition is, “Hey, there is all this great stuff out here, some of it is not so great, some of it is spectacular. I’ll do the job for you of sending only the great stuff.” Say it is a health or wellness topic and the article makes an assertion about a new research study, then you go and do a little bit of research and provide your own perspective. That’s how you create original content out of someone else’s base content.

That’s a very concrete example of where there’s a market, and here’s how one site is going directly after it. Then that’s my starting point for finding all of these other sites and all these other podcasts and all these videos. Right? Think multimedia and not just articles because eventually all you’re doing is linking and embedding and you’re curating. It’s actually a very powerful thing.

The Additional Benefits of Curating Content

Robert Bruce: Another side of this in terms of the finding of good stuff, is to look at Jim Coudal at He’s said they have a very, very simple link blog running down what he calls it the spine of their website.

They’re talking about design and film and things related to their business and what they do, but that link blog was started in Halloween of 1999. He said not long after, that became the centerpiece of what has allowed them to launch other products. He went into this great description of what it has done for them. One thing that came of that as well is that people send them great stuff all the time in order to post on that blog.

Brian Clark: Oh yeah, that is an excellent point because as you start developing what we like to call the minimum viable audience where they start growing themselves, which we’ll talk about in a second, but they’ll start sending you material.

Robert Bruce: Right.

Brian Clark: It’s amazing. All of the sites like Huffington Post, Gawker, and even BuzzFeed, at the beginning were really aggregation sites. For example, Gawker would find an interesting story. They’d put a better headline on it, they’d summarize it effectively. There was no reporting or research other than restating the content. So that’s an aggregation strategy. But you notice as a form of curation, all these mega-sites started that way.

Robert Bruce: Everybody comes after me with pitchforks whenever I bring up Matt Drudge, but in a 1996/98 interview I caught, he was talking about getting up to ten thousand emails a day with news tips. Of course that’s the news business. It’s an entirely other thing that we don’t necessarily recommend you get into. But that’s another example of becoming known in your market, in your topic market, people will send stuff to you over and over.

Brian Clark: You have to figure out how to manage that. There’s a happy medium between doing your own exploration and having things come at you. I can see the benefit of both. The next thing you may be thinking is “Okay, so all I do is curate?”

The way I’m thinking about this now is once I have that email audience that is topically relevant, I’m probably going to add original content. I could see launching a podcast. Instead of launching a podcast and struggling to try to get an audience, how about you get a relevant audience first, launch your podcast and then it makes a splash. Right?

Then of course you could start writing your own articles and you could hire freelancers to work with you. I think that the curation aspect of this alone mixed with something perhaps like affiliate marketing could get...