Commemorating the end of World War II with the Smithsonian

Is a picture truly worth 1000 words? History answers yes, as posters of political imagery help shape worldviews and educate the public on the past and present. On this day commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we are proud to launch the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on Google Arts & Culture, making more than 15,000 posters available online to everyone for the first time.

Now, viewers around the world have access to newly digitized posters in high resolution that offer a unique look at American history, ranging from the recruitment for Red Cross nurses in World War I and iconic World War II posters of Rosie the Riveter in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History Archives Center’s Princeton University Posters collection, to Get Out the Vote posters in the Museum’s Political History collections from the 1990s. As one of the largest collections of U.S. political and war posters spanning more than 100 years, these will support a fuller understanding of politics, propaganda, and protest, as well as the history of graphic and artistic technique.

This collaborative project took 18 months to complete, from the beginning of the digitization to today, and included alongside these newly available posters are more than 20 incredible stories crafted by the museum’s staff. From explorations into the use of motifs like the American Flag in 20th century posters or the figures of Liberty and Victory in French propaganda, to examinations of the ways posters helped construct gender roles and configure masculinity, they provide expert insight and context into the essential roles posters have played throughout history.

The poster collections are launching alongside a new collaborative project by four Smithsonian museums, World War II: The Flying Frontier, that presents a deep dive into the key role aviation played in World War II. Bringing together more than 40 curated stories from the Smithsonian collections covering historical moments, planes, pilots, and posters—including 3D panoramas of historic plane cockpits from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a commemoration of the life of the Tuskegee Airman Lt. James L. McCullin Jr. from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and an in-depth exploration of the essential role played by Native American Code Talkers from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian—the project brings a new perspective on the events of the war that continue to shape the world we live in today, 75 years after a return to peace.

The Rijksmuseum’s Operation Night Watch recently released the most detailed ever photograph of The Night Watch.

The Amsterdam-based Rijksmuseum has released a giant, hyper-resolution image of what is arguably Rembrandt van Rijn’s most famous painting: The Night Watch. Now available to view online, the 44.8-gigapixel rendering enables researchers and art fans alike to pore over the 1642 masterpiece’s details, from its brushstrokes its cracks and stray paint splatters.

Per a statement, the image combines 528 individual photographs taken over the course of Operation Night Watch, an ambitious research and conservation project first announced in 2018. The high-quality rendering holds 25 times more data than the version of the painting available through Google Arts & Culture, reports Taylor Lyles for the Verge. This level of detail will allow museum experts to continue their research from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as provide future restorers with a point of comparison when measuring how the painting is aging.


Restoration takes place in a glass chamber at the Rijksmuseum. Starting this week, only two researchers will be allowed in at a time. (Courtesy of the Rijksmuseum)

The museum’s team uses “the very latest technologies and continually push[es] the boundaries of what was thought possible,” says Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, in the statement. “The photograph is a crucial source of information for the researchers, and online visitors can use it to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece in minute detail.”

Experts started restoring The Night Watch in July of last year. Rather than conducting this work behind-the-scenes, the Rijksmuseum opted to place the painting in a glass chamber in the museum’s Gallery of Honor and invite museum visitors to watch the process firsthand. The restoration was also livestreamed online.

The Rijksmuseum paused its research phase for two months in response to COVID-19, but work was able to resume last May with new social distancing guidelines in place. Normally, the glass chamber houses a team of 12 restorers, but under the new parameters, just two people will be able to work simultaneously, reports Daniel Boffey for the Guardian.

The museum intended to start the second phase of restoration after summer 2020; per the statement, this work has now been delayed until early 2021.

The Night Watch is notable not only for its size, but for its creator’s use of light to highlight specific figures in an action-packed scene. In the painting—officially titled Night Watch, Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq—a captain clad in black instructs his lieutenant to begin marching with a cadre of men.

Thanks to the hyper-resolution image, viewers can now explore details ranging from characters’ facial expressions to the faded outline of a dog and Rembrandt’s use of light in highlighting the captain’s hand, which casts a shadow across his lieutenant’s torso. A close look at the company’s “mascot,” a young girl who appears on the captain’s left, shows the intricacy of her jewelry, her ruffled clothing and a chicken hanging from her belt.

If clicking through the new online offering sparks a desire to learn more about the Dutch artist’s masterpiece, consider checking out the Rijksmuseum’s guided online experience, which walks viewers through The Night Watch’s characters, composition, history and secrets—including a glimpse of a beret-wearing Rembrandt lurking behind two men in the painting’s background.

Grant aids project by IU, other institutions to digitize medieval manuscripts

Indiana University Bloomington and a consortium of higher-learning institutions have received a three-year grant for The Peripheral Manuscripts Project: Digitizing Medieval Manuscript Collections in the Midwest, which will create a digital repository and catalog of medieval manuscripts across Midwestern collections.

An example of a medieval manuscript in the Lilly Library collection, Ricketts B:16 verso. A leaf from a missal. Germany, 12th century. This leaf was repurposed as a wrapper for another volume. Photo courtesy Lilly Library

The Council on Library and Information Resources awarded $281,936.10 for the project. IU Bloomington will serve as host for the grant, which was one of 18 projects receiving more than $4.1 million that the Council on Library and Information Resources announced Jan. 9 for its 2019 Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives awards.

The project involves digitizing and cataloging 78 codices, or books, and 406 medieval manuscript fragments from a consortium of 22 Midwestern institutions, including IU Libraries’ Lilly Library. The project focuses on distinct collections that the holding institutions have not found it economically feasible to digitize and catalog on their own. A full list of partners is available at on the project’s website.

“Every surviving medieval book and fragment has the potential to tell us more about medieval book arts, textual traditions, individuals’ lives and libraries — and even, through their physical qualities and materials, things like animal husbandry and commerce,” said Elizabeth Hebbard, the project’s primary principal investigator and assistant professor of French and Italian in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. “This is why it is so important to continue to locate and describe unstudied and understudied manuscripts.

“Because they have traveled so far from where they were produced, medieval manuscripts in the United States have particularly interesting stories that span the centuries between their production and their entry into a library or museum collection. We are grateful to CLIR for the opportunity to learn more about medieval material culture as it survives in the Midwest, and to celebrate the role that Midwestern institutions have played in the conservation of this important cultural heritage.”

IU Libraries will scan or photograph the manuscripts, and researchers at IU Bloomington, Loyola University Chicago and Saint Mary’s College, with assistance from partner librarians and subject specialists, will catalog these objects, including many manuscripts unrecorded in previous bibliographical surveys.



The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today that it will award $29 million in grants to 215 humanities projects across the country. This round of funding, NEH’s third and last for the 2019 fiscal year, will support collaborative research, the digitization of archives, educational initiatives, preservation efforts, and public programming at large institutions such as George Washington University and small organizations such as the Wyoming Historical and Geological Society in forty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

The Detroit Institute of Arts.

“NEH grants help strengthen and sustain American cultural life, in communities, at museums, libraries, and historic sites, and in classrooms,” said NEH Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “As the nation prepares to commemorate its two-hundred and fiftieth anniversary in 2026, NEH is proud to help lay the foundations for public engagement with America’s past by funding projects that safeguard cultural heritage and advance our understanding of the events, ideas, and people that have shaped our nation.” The NEH has survived numerous attempts by President Trump to defund the agency. The Trump administration has also repeatedly threatened to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The grants include funding for the publication of papers from presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln, as well as the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt; upgrades to the storage areas at Taliesin West—the winter home and architectural laboratory of Frank Lloyd Wright, in Scottsdale, Arizona—and the Detroit Institute of the Arts; an overhaul of the conservation facilities at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester; and Rhizome Communications, Inc.’s reconstruction of “The Thing”—which originated in 1991 as a Bulletin Board System (BBS), an early type of online forum that focused on contemporary art and cultural theory.

‘Badass Librarians’ Foil al Qaeda, Save Ancient Manuscripts

In 2012, jihadists—armed to the teeth with weapons seized in Libya after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi—overran northern Mali and established a brutal, sharia regime in Timbuktu. Once a center of learning and culture, the city housed a priceless collection of manuscripts: volumes of poetry, encyclopedias, and even sexual manuals that invoked the name of Allah. Threatened with destruction, the manuscripts were spirited out of the city to safety in a thrilling, cloak-and-dagger operation.

Abdel Kader Haidara, shown here at his home with storage cases full of ancient manuscripts, saved Timbuktu’s priceless literary heritage from jihadists.


Speaking from his home in Berlin, Joshua Hammer, a former Newsweek bureau chief in Africa, recounts the tale of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts—and explains how the Timbuktu manuscripts disprove the myth that Africa had no literary or historical culture, why Henry Louis Gates had an epiphany when he saw them, and why the jihadists found them so threatening.

Timbuktu has become a byword for the farthest corner of the earth. But it was once an important cultural and artistic center. Put us on the ground during its golden age.

Several of the great travelers of the Renaissance, in the 15th-16th centuries, passed through Timbuktu and described it as a thriving commercial center with camel caravans and traders on boats on the Niger River bearing everything from linens and teapots from England to slaves and gold out of the rain forests of Central Africa. At the same time, you had this academic tradition. So you had a thriving commercial center side by side with a Cambridge/Oxford-like atmosphere of fervent scholastic activity.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb swept to power in Mali. Talk about its rise—and its fanatical leader, Abou Zeid.

Abou Zeid was one of a triumvirate of jihadists, probably the most brutal of them, who took over northern Mali between January and April in 2012. Another leader was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian jihadist who had been hardened fighting in Afghanistan and fallen in with some of the most notorious international jihadists. He was also a cigarette smuggler, who made millions by dominating the cigarette trade across the Sahara up into North Africa. This earned him the nickname “Mister Marlboro.”

In the chaos of the uprising against Qaddafi, the jihadists raided the armories of Libya, took the weapons into Mali, and quickly swept across the northern part of the country, occupying all of the major towns in the north, including Timbuktu. They imposed sharia law and began to destroy every symbol of moderate Sufi Islam that almost all residents of modern Timbuktu subscribe to. Shrines to Sufi saints were destroyed; whippings and amputations were carried out in the public squares of the city; and, of course, the manuscripts were threatened.

The manuscripts were not kept in an archive, but by individual families. Explain this unusual provenance—and how it helped preserve them.

Timbuktu was a university town during its golden age. Many of the universities were operated out of mosques, so you had a lot of books and manuscripts being created for the scholars. At the same time, you had these wealthy families that valued learning. Because it had this long scholastic tradition, Timbuktu also had a great literary tradition: powerful Timbuktu families measuring their importance by the books they accumulated on Greek philosophy, poetry, love stories, guides to better sex, astronomy, traditional medicine, as well as the religious books. They would be copied by scribes and accumulated both in the universities and in private homes. So huge libraries were created, numbering in the thousands of volumes. Nobody knows how many manuscripts were in the city at its peak but it was almost certainly in the hundreds of thousands.

The hero of your book is a man named Abdel Kader Haidara. Give us a character sketch and describe his extraordinary efforts to collect the manuscripts together.

Abdel Kader Haidara is the son of a scholar from Timbuktu. His father ran an Islamic school in the oldest quarter of Timbuktu. So Abdel Kader grew up around these manuscripts. When he was 17, his father died. He had a dozen brothers and sisters but in the will his father made him the heir to the family book collection, which numbered in the thousands at that time. His father appreciated Abdel Kader’s scholarship and studiousness. He was also fluent in Arabic, which was essential if you were going to be in charge of these manuscripts as they were almost all written in Arabic.

A few years later, the curator for the national library in Timbuktu called on Abdel Kader and asked him if he would take on a job, traveling around the countryside visiting villages and nomadic encampments, trying to track down some of the ancient manuscripts that had been disbursed into the desert. Timbuktu was conquered by the Moroccans in the 1590s and a lot of the books were spirited out of the city. Abdel Kader reluctantly took on the job—he wanted to be a businessman rather than a scholar working in a library—and began trudging around the countryside in camel caravans or taking boats along the Niger, trying to persuade these villagers to give up their precious family heirlooms and turn them all over to this national library in Timbuktu.

He proved to be incredibly successful at this and also found that he loved the job. He built the national library into a great institution and turned his own family’s collection into a library in Timbuktu, raised money, and got other librarians involved. By the year 2000, Timbuktu had become a cultural boomtown that had recaptured some of the glory of its heyday in the 16th century, when it was the scholastic center of North Africa. He found manuscripts stashed away in dark storage rooms or caves in the desert. By the time of the jihadi invasion of 2012, he had assembled a collection of 377,000 manuscripts.

Almost 400,000 ancient manuscripts—some dating back to the 11th century and on subjects as diverse as medicine, poetry, astronomy, and sex—were saved from destruction.

You call the manuscripts “monumentally subversive.” Explain.

Because they posited a worldview that was anathema to the jihadists. There were celebrations of music, which the Salafist fundamentalists do not tolerate, and books about sex in which the reader was asked to invoke the name of Allah as a way of heightening his sexual prowess. Abdel Kader especially valued these things because they showed a more tolerant side of Islam.

Henry Louis Gates came to Timbuktu to see the manuscripts in 1996. Why was the experience such an epiphany for him?

Henry Louis Gates came to Timbuktu when he was a professor at Harvard and also making documentaries about African civilization. He’d grown up with the idea that Africans were savages. He recalled a Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon he’d seen as a small boy, which said that there had been libraries and universities in Timbuktu. When he finally got to Harvard and began making documentaries, one of the first things he wanted to do was go up to Timbuktu and tell the story of these universities to try to refute the cliché that Africans had no history or intellectual traditions. The argument was that blacks were inferior to Europeans because they had no written language. In Timbuktu, Gates went to see Abdel Kader Haidara, fell in love with the manuscripts, and ended up going back to the U.S. and raising almost $100,000 for Haidara to open the first private library in the city.

The final rescue of the manuscripts by river to the capital, Bamako, was an amazing cloak-and-dagger operation. Set the scene for us.

There were three stages of the operation. The first was after Abdel Kader became concerned that the jihadists might target the manuscripts. So they moved them out of the big libraries of Timbuktu into safe houses around the city. They did it at night, putting the manuscripts in boxes and moving them by donkey cart to people’s basements and storage rooms. In the second phase, a couple of months later, they moved them out of the city by vehicle: one vehicle after another, in constant motion, often escorted by teenage couriers, over 600 miles of desert, passing through checkpoints and bluffing their way all the way to Bamako, the capital in the south.

The third phase, after the French Army invaded and it became too dangerous to move the books by road, involved taking them by boat up the Niger River toward Bamako, then offloading them from the boats and putting them into taxis. It was an elaborate and dangerous process that went on for months, right under the noses of the jihadists.

The French were called “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” by proponents of the Iraq War. But their prompt and decisive military action in Mali rather disproved that moniker, didn’t it?

There was no way the U.S. was going to go to war in Mali. There was no oil [laughs], and it was Francophone territory. So Obama was delighted when President Hollande announced he was going to send troops in, after the jihadists overreached and tried to take over the rest of the country.

The showdown came at a place called Ametettai. A Foreign Legion officer, Captain Oudot de Danville, led a group of hardened paratroopers into battle. They traveled over many miles in the high desert of Mali to Ametettai, where they fought a fight to the finish against the jihadists, who were hunkered down inside caves in this very rocky, arid, brutally hot valley. There were also regular French and Chadian forces, who are really hardened badasses, as well. And they were able to pretty much wipe out the jihadists in one week of fighting.

You end the story in 2014, with the manuscripts still stored in Bamako. What’s the current situation? And will they ever go back to Timbuktu?

Who knows? The manuscripts have all been collected in one large storage facility in Bamako, so they have been brought together under one roof. They are being digitized and those that were damaged in the course of the smuggling operation are being carefully restored. Meanwhile, Abdel Kader is keeping an eye on the situation in Timbuktu. He would love to take them back but he doesn’t think the time is right. I’m not really sure when that time will be. It’s already been three years, and I don’t think there’s any end in sight to this purgatory. Last November, there was an attack on the Radisson Hotel in Bamako, so the jihadists are infiltrating the southern part of the country, which they were never able to do at the height of their occupation in the north. I don’t think they will ever again be able to mount a major operation to seize territory. But they’re still out there.

This article was curated from National Geographic Website.

Venezuelan Botany Specimen is Half-Millionth Item Digitized!

The Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office team, working alongside staff from 9 museums across the Smithsonian, has reached a monumental digitization milestone!  On Friday, November 6th, a Venezuelan Botany specimen sheet from the National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Botany made its way down the conveyor belt, making it the 1/2-millionth item that a DPO-managed project has digitized since our Mass Digitization program began in earnest in late 2013.


Picturae Conveyer Belt

This is the second conveyor-based digitization project at the Smithsonian (our inaugural conveyor project was with the National Museum of American History’s National Numismatics Collection), and this method of mass digitization is the first of its kind for a museum in the United States.  By employing Mass Digitization innovations like this, the Smithsonian is achieving goals that were all but unimaginable just a few years ago.

Why publishers should ‘bite the bullet’ and digitise archives

Archives have great potential for news organisations, as they can enrich reporting and provide better context to stories. However, the process of digitising older content has been a challenge for many publishers because it requires considerable financial and human resources.

Earlier this year, Reuters announced it was partnering with ITN Source to make historical archive footage available online. The project, to be completed in 2016, includes Reuters News clips dating back to 1957 and cinema newsreels from 1910 to 1959.

“We are bringing our archive to the centre,” said Tim Redman, head of archive at Thomson Reuters, “and this is a great opportunity to complete our end to end news service, making text, pictures and video available on the same platform.”
Over 115,000 clips from the vaults have been digitised, bringing the Reuters archive to almost half a million video clips when added to those recorded after digital storage became the standard in 2006.

This includes footage from a 1964 beer drinking championship in London; ‘Snow White’, the only albino gorilla in captivity performing tricks; and a man being set alight to demonstrate a new fire extinguisher, among others.

The digitisation has also revealed previously unknown content, such as a 1963 documentary about newsgathering filmed by cameramen around the world, as well as war footage that film makers can use to give context to events.

“The complexity of the process has more to do with logistics than anything, as you need to be able to retrieve, handle and select the material”, Redman told

Even if an archive is very well referenced, with tags and metadata all in place, “compiling the right version to digitise is only one of the challenges”, he said.

Another challenge was discovering the way in which the material had been stored and used over decades, but once a methodology was developed last year, it became easier to replicate the approach.

It’s very satisfying to have material that is not literally locked away in a cabinet
Tim Redman, Reuters
Reuters is mainly processing two types of material. Videotapes are “more straightforward to digitise” and only require establishing which category and year the footage belongs to before uploading to the website. Film rolls are more sensitive and harder to compile, however, as they need to be “opened, processed and electronically digitised”.

According to Redman, Reuters prioritises content by working backwards from the oldest material, but also by looking at anniversary years and catering to public demand. He believes that “in the archive business, it’s hard to know what will be needed” and rather than following a particular trend, such as a certain event, publishers should digitise all their content.

“It’s very satisfying to have material that is not literally locked away in a cabinet”, Redman said. However, he advised not to underestimate the effort this process involves, as “technical costs might be reduced, but the human costs still need to be invested in”.

His advice to publishers who have yet to digitise their archives?

“Bite the bullet,” he said, “plan hard and take the plunge sooner rather than later.”

Misreading the Facts on EBooks

The reported decline in e-reader sales is being misread as an indication that consumption of the ebook itself is in decline. This false conjecture has given authors and publishers hope that the printed book will return to the economic dominance it enjoyed before the technological innovation of the e-reader device.

No way. The ebook revolution continues apace and the print book business will continue to decline, despite the optimistic media huckstering.

Media pundits and professional trend forecasters often do not look beyond the obvious to validate their prognostications. They have pointed to the proliferation of multipurpose tablets as cutting into the sale of e-readers, which is correct as far as it goes, but the fact is that the tablet is an all-purpose device in which book reading is a mere fraction of its uses.

Distractions, for the voracious book reader, in the form of countless apps, notifications, videos, email, music, advertisements, etc. that come with tablets are infinite. One is subjected to temptations and annoyances that break concentration and intrude in the one-on-one communication system that defines reading. People for whom reading is a private passion crave total concentration to absorb the content and profit by it. Remember, library reading rooms require total silence to ensure uninterrupted concentration.

The fact is that the pool of dedicated readers of literature, as a rule of thumb, is a comparatively small fraction of the general public. In commercial terms, it was once estimated at about ten percent of the so-called “entertainment” dollar, which might not take into account book lending. The dedicated e-reader is the obvious device of choice for those who treat reading as their essential pastime. For those authors, like myself, weeding out the occasional reader that opts for the multipurpose tablet is actually good news since it helps identify dedicated consumers of literature, fiction and non-fiction. Still, some serious readers do opt for the tablet.

The printed book has served its various reading constituencies well. Book lovers were happy to immerse themselves in a book with no other thought in mind than what the book had to impart. Print book enthusiasts will continue to indulge in the false optimism of a return to its glory days, but as the latest reports from Barnes and Noble indicate, that business model faces severe economic hurdles.

More optimistic are sales reports from independent bookstores indicating that while the marketplace for printed books does have a future, it will evolve into smaller circles of dedicated readers, smaller outlets, smaller print runs, and as a consequence, smaller author advances and available promotion dollars. In other words, the future of books will be a hands-on business with smaller, specialized bookstores.

It seems logical to conclude that the first responders to the beta e-readers had chosen this medium for reasons of convenience, novelty and mobility. In the fiction area, most were genre readers, particularly in the Romance Fiction category, a genre that continues to dominate the digital reading community.

But now that e-reader devices are ubiquitous and more user-friendly for dedicated fiction readers, many older and for whom the reading experience is an ingrained and a dominant part of their lives, the likelihood is that users will adapt their reading habits to the device that is closer to the print product.

As a practitioner of the novelist’s craft and one who pioneered the e-reader technology since 2007, my hunch is that serious readers will prefer the exclusive e-reader to the multipurpose tablet. Younger readers who have cut their teeth on technology, however, and whose expectations of the cyber experience have been literally honed since birth will opt for the device with the most possibilities, even if they develop into dedicated readers.

Traditionalists and others who have seen the recent media stories of the decline in ebook sales are misreading the facts. The ebook market share will continue to escalate, and it will soon completely dominate the textbook industry. E-readers will yield ground to the tablet, but the truly passionate reader will stick with the exclusivity of the new round of advanced exclusive e-readers.

Still, despite the joyful optimism of print book lovers, there can be no denying the impact of the digital reader, whether in the form of a feature or app on a tablet, cell phone, desktop or whatever device the future will bring. Like it or not, the printed book as an economic model is in the process of unraveling.

It will survive as long as the generation that grew up with the printed book remains an economic factor in its survival. When that generation passes into history the digital bookshelf will be the dominant technology for the reading public. Unfortunately, its decline is as inevitable as the rising and setting of the sun.

Creation vs. Curation: Do you need to Make or Moderate?

The Content Marketing Institute reported that 90 percent of organisations are marketing with content. And now, Forrester predicts that enterprise content volume is growing at a rate of 200 percent annually. It’s safe to say that most companies are embarking on or are deep into a content marketing initiative.

If your company is just leaping into the mix or is experienced in content marketing, there’s a good chance that you are still grappling with the challenge of figuring out how much content is needed and finding the balance between content creation and curation. Do you need to make or moderate your content?

The solution is not a one size fits all, but it is almost always a hybrid solution with a varying percentage of original versus third-party content, and the formula is based on the type of company, goals of the content initiative, and how much content is already out there.

Right now, companies are generally practicing a ratio of 65 percent created and about 35 percent curated. While that may be the average, that may not be the right balance for every company. We’ve found that 40 percent original, 30 percent licensed curated content, and 30 percent UGC or employee created content. But the needs for every brand is different.

Here are some pros and cons for each:

Original content will directly align with your campaigns. Although curated content can be relevant and timely, original content allows you to share your brand voice and unique point of view.

Original content can be powerful for opt-ins. A recent MarketingSherpa report found that 75 to 80 percent of the B2B marketers surveyed stated that generating high-quality leads is their biggest concern, which is how they are using their content initiative. Creating original content – whitepapers, reports, webcasts, etc. – and hiding it behind opt-in forms can absolutely generate those leads.

Licensed content frees up your team. Creating that high value content takes a lot of work! This is where licensed content comes in – allowing you to keep up your content cadence while focusing your energy and bandwidth on bigger projects.

With both licensed and original content, the content belongs to you! All the original content that is created for or by your company is yours, but by using licensed content instead of curated links, you can use and distribute that content freely as well.

So let’s take a step back and first, understand the difference between content creation and content curation.

Content creation vs. content curation

Content creation is pretty straightforward – it’s the original content that an organisation creates and organizes into a slew of different formats – from eBooks to infographics and everything in between. According to the Custom Content Council, two-thirds of consumers say that the information provided through custom media helps them make better purchase decisions and more than half say they are more willing to buy a product from a company that provides custom media.

Content curation comes in two forms: simply curating links to third party content, or licensing curated content to host on your media property. Curation involves finding, organizing, annotating, and sharing high quality digital content that must be relevant to the organisation’s audience and come from credible sites. NewsCred encourages brands to license their curated content, as simply curating links drives traffic away from your site, while licensing content allows you to curate and distribute content from highly respected publishers while keeping your audience on your digital properties.

Since most companies don’t have the infrastructure to be 24 hour newsrooms, curating licensed content can be an easy way to scale, save time and resources, and align your brand with credible third-party publishers. Also, by promoting content from respected, outside licensed sources your brand can get involved in bigger conversations and shy away from being to self-promotional (and as any marketer will tell you, being overly promotional will definitely not get you anywhere today). It also allows you to share breaking news in your industry in a legal, easy way that doesn’t sap your team’s manpower.

So back to the question: Does it make the most sense to make or moderate your content?

A foundation in content creation is vital to the success of your content initiative. But without a round the clock content team in place, this becomes an unattainable goal.

So, consider creating content as your foundation and making it a priority. Then, once you know the volume of content needed to maintain your content initiative and reach your goals, fill in the gaps with licensed content. This percentage could vary from the average of 65/35, but that’s okay – it’s your company’s individual strategy. For guaranteed success, measure your results, note your achievements, and adjust your content mix accordingly. Content marketing is not a cake walk but with the one-two punch of original and licensed content – your strategy can really take flight.

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5 Common Misconceptions About Licensing Content

As more brands and businesses look to ramp up their content offerings to help drive new customers to their sites, and build relationships with existing ones, sometimes they hit a roadblock. They might run out of budget to create content in-house or hire freelancers, or they simply can’t scale their content production fast enough.

At that point, either the content becomes stagnant and traffic declines, or you must find other ways to keep your readers interested. That’s when bringing in licensed content can help. Before you assume that content licensing isn’t for you, you should learn what it actually is (and isn’t!).

Take a look at some common misconceptions about content licensing to help determine if it’s the right move for your business…

Buying content is super expensive. Buying and licensing content are two different things. When you pay for an outside party to create content for you, it is highly customized, and you’re paying for someone’s time and skills. With content licensing, although there is a cost associated, it is far less than the expense of creating or commissioning original content. On average, a basic reported story might cost $350 to produce in house or via a freelance contractor, but a similarly reported piece that’s already been produced from another source can be licensed for about $30, about 10 times less expensive. What’s more is that licensing is versatile, and allows you to repackage content into a variety of forms across desktop and mobile platforms.

It will diminish our authority if we go to other sources for content. Ideally, you’ll want to have a mix of your own content, with licensed content and other material filling in the gaps. That being said, if anything, readers will be more impressed to see you align your brand with reputable, trusted sources of information from journalistic organizations or top industry publications. What’s great about licensing agreements is that the content lives on your site, meaning you reap all of the traffic and social sharing rewards (instead of linking to content and sending readers away from your site).

Case in point: When Blue Cross Blue Shield Alabama relaunched its site with licensed content, monthly page views increased by 287% and unique visitors increased by 1776%. Continue reading