on curation

Published on May 10, 2020

I have recently seen a significant rise in curated content on the internet.

Part of the reason I have seen more of this content may be because I have been seeking it out, in areas where I am looking for higher quality content.

I also believe that coronavirus plays a role here: so many people actively created content related to the crisis in such a short space of time. Many people saw value in certain pieces of content, and so they decided to curate it for other people to consume.

Whatever the reason, it is clear that curation is a growing trend.

Historically, we have been dependent on certain gatekeepers to serve us with content. For instance, the New York Times curates their top content on their website, and features that content on the front page of their physical newspaper, too.

But now that it is easy for any individual to produce their own content -- music, movies, books, and so on -- the tables have turned. We can no longer rely on organizations like the NYT to curate content, for they are only one part of the broader content creation landscape.

Enter curators. Curators are the people who navigate the internet and find the best possible pieces of content for you to consume on a specific topic. They have one job: read as much as possible about a topic, and surface the best content that helps them learn.

One way to think about curators is as librarians, except curators are also often consumers of content as well as aggregators.

The great thing about curation is that anyone can do it. That’s why I think that, instead of seeing one big company emerge as an “expert curator,” much of the activity in this space will be down to the efforts of individuals who are real experts on a given space.

On Substack, for instance, you see people aggregating content about various different topics on a frequent cadence. (I personally enjoy the Wellness Wisdom Stack newsletter, which aggregates content related to mental health and wellness.)

These people are, for the most part, unpaid. They curate not to make a profit, but to help other people navigate the weeds of a space in which they are interested.

Curation is happening everywhere on the internet. People are creating lists on Twitter to track their favorite creators. People are using bookmarks to keep track of all the best reads they have discovered on a particular topic. Now, though, I think we’re going to see more of an industry emerge around curation.

For people who do not know enough about a topic to write their own original content, curation presents an alternative: you can just aggregate what has helped you learn. Indeed, curation can be done as you just start learning about something, as there is no particular barrier for entry. As long as you curate good resources, you’re on the right track.

This is one factor that could really accelerate the trend toward curation:the activity itself -- making lists of top resources -- comes naturally when you’re navigating a new field. If you’re suffering from information overload, curation is a good way to keep track of your thoughts. And, as you find new resources, you can update your curated lists.

Curators will be responsible for developing the handbooks that we use to learn about new topics.

I can imagine a curated list of resources on how to build your own community, or on how to grow your start. This list of resources is not just a list -- it’s not one-hundred “top blog posts on X” -- rather a hand-crafted index of resources related to a particular topic.

What is really appealing about curation is that it is personal. Curators are not doing it for the money -- at least, in many cases -- rather to share knowledge. They want to be the librarians of the internet, and help us navigate through new topics.

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