I have had content go viral twice in the past month. Parenting posts I have written have been picked up by a blog on MSN, leading to a conversation across blogs and news sites around the world. I was very ecstatic to go viral and immediately expected a surge of traffic to flood my blog entries. But the opposite happened. No huge traffic spike, no volume of eyeballs, no increase in ad banner clicks. My original content had been hijacked and the curators were getting the traffic.

While my name was mentioned a lot and there were dozens of link backs to my original article, the curators did a thorough job explaining what I had written in my posts so there was no reason for people to read the original article. Content curation had trumped my content creation. Witness the stats on the latest viral story: It’s Time To Retire, Charlie Brown. My original post on Babble.com has 75 comments and 1 500 Facebook shares. The curated piece from The Today Show Moms has 700+ comments and more than 72 000 Facebook shares.

Curated content 1. Created content 0.

It’s obvious why curated content is winning over created content. A news aggregator can pull content from a variety of voices and sources becoming a one stop shop for information. Think of it as the WalMart of the web. You can get sports, hollywood, local, and international news just in the way you can get groceries, lawn supplies, and greeting cards at the superstore.

So, just as singular, local stores are buckling under the aggregating power of WalMart, news sites are cracking under the pressure of aggregators. Instead of increasing variety of voices on the local level to compete with the international aggregator, the news sites are putting up paywalls. That’s the equivalent of being charged admission to enter your local store, while WalMart is free just down the street.

I have argued before that news wants to be free. The notion that locking up one source does not make people pay for that source, it forces them underground to find a free source. There is no scarcity of quality journalism online. If the Toronto Star, New York Times, or The Globe and Mail wants to charge readers for their news, people will shift to HuffPo, CBC, or the BBC where news is free.

As the Toronto Star joins the list of news sites to announce the arrival of a paywall, you’re going to see the power of the content curators grow even stronger. One digital subscription for a reporter at The Huffington Post can now feed that news to the entire audience, for free.

While Hurricane Sandy batters the east coast today, organizations with paywalls have torn them down. They know the news they are producing is valuable and a paywall is hazardous to increasing the reach of their audience. You have to know, that deep down, the editors of these papers also understand that news wants to be free.

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