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The Future is Creation via Curation
There’s no doubt that the internet has revolutionized how we access data. Access to the web has brought the global community together in ways that were previously unimaginable and put all of human ingenuity and understanding at our fingertips.
However, despite how amazing it is that you can pull out your mobile device and find content that holds the answer to just about any question you might have, there is such a thing as too much data.
The internet currently holds 44 Zettabytes of data, almost meaninglessly large metric, and is growing at a rate of around 1.7Mb per second per person on earth.
To put that in a more usable context, it would take the fastest readers around 11 million years to read the current number of web pages on the internet and all of these stats become outdated in the time it took to write them out.
If that sounds overwhelming, it’s because it is.
How do you find the content that means the most to you in amongst an almost unimaginably vast sea of other data?
Well, you find someone else to do it for you. Enter the web highlighter.
We Are in an Information-Overloaded Era, and It’s a Problem
Trying to get anything useable from the vast expanse of data audible to us is like trying to get a refreshing drink from a fire hose.
Every day, we’re constantly bombarded with a never-ending stream of new content and it can be easy to get lost in that.
We miss out on innovative, relevant, and exciting work from new creators as it’s buried under the constant outpouring of new data.
Twitter produces 474,000 tweets per minute. YouTube has 400 hours of video content uploaded every minute. There are 67,305,600 Instagram posts per day. And that’s just three platforms.
There’s also clearly a desire to access all that content.
There are 3.5 billion Google searches every minute. There is an audience of billions out there trying to connect with millions of content creators, but the sheer volume of data we’re all exposed to every day is getting in the way.
As the Amount of Information Grows, So Does the Market for Content Curators
To define our terms, a content curator is someone who wades through the sea of available data for us, picking out the best of that content and highlighting it for us.
Once you find someone with content curation skills whose interests match up with your own, you can rely on them to do the leg work for you, sifting through all that new information to find what’s really relevant to you.
An excellent example of this is The Browser.
The Brower is a newsletter, which is hardly game-changing in and of itself, but instead of adding to your data burden in the way of other newsletters, the Browser team read through 1000 articles a day and curate the best five for you to read.
For those of us living in the age of information overload, that curatorial approach is vital, slimming that firehose of data back down into a drinkable cup of the best content.
The Browser team has also found a way to create revenue from free, existing content, providing a financial underpinning to the emerging curator economy.
Now you might be thinking, don’t my existing content funnels, like Twitter or Substack already do that for me?
Well, no, they don’t and, in fact, the way they highlight content is part of the problem.
How Do We Find, Store, and Share Content, and Why?
The major issues impacting how we access and share content are wrapped up in the metric and algorithms the major content and social media platforms use to promote content and the psychology of why we share it.
In the constant scramble to stay relevant, most platforms emphasize the new, rather than the good, creating a feed architecture that is obsessed with the present.
What is the point in going back and reading an older issue of anything when you’ll have two new issues in your inbox in the new few minutes?
This creates a content ephemerality issue, where we are bombarded with a consistent stream of new, but only slightly different content as creators and platforms struggle to capture the interest of their users through constant novelty.
In turn, the audience becomes numb under the weight of all this chronologically arranged data, consuming it passively rather than actively looking for what best suits our needs and goals.
It’s not the fault of the audience, there’s just too much to take in without proper curation.
How we share content also feeds into this. There’s a lot of physiological imperatives bound up in why and how we share content, but some of the most common are:
The desire to improve our status by being the person “in the know”.
The need to protect our identity and options and be vindicated for having them.
The desire for validation from our peer group.
The unfortunate human love of schadenfreude and scandal.
When these imperatives come together, they create an environment where people are more likely to share content that reinforces their worldview and gets validation from their peers.
Celebrity gossip is novel, entertaining, panders to our schadenfreude, and unites us with other people in our online community through shared judgment.
Humans are also communal creatures who use social learning. This means when a new social media user signs up, their content-sharing behavior is learned from the environment through the process of observational learning.
What this creates is a content-sharing environment that emphasizes the least useful and more ephemeral content, arranged chronologically.
Hardly the best place to find any useful answers to your questions.
Sharing the Link and Headline Doesn’t Say Anything
Of course, great content curation is much more than just sharing a link and a headline for something you found interesting.
If every content curator did that, all we’d have is a constant stream of links and headlines and we’d be back to the information overload issue.
Proper content creation is about understanding the limited amount of time other people have to consume content.
The best content creators absorb huge amounts of information for us and render the best of it down into genuinely interesting and entertaining highlights that communicate both the original content and their take on it.
While it’s a lot more work than simply clicking the share button, it’s also a far more valuable service. Content curation cuts through that overwhelming flood of content, rather than contributing to it.
Because it features the curator’s opinions, it also still hits those psychological sharing imperatives of wanting validation and social identity, making it inherently shareable.
The new content-sharing ecosystem benefits everyone involved. Content creators have a new way of reaching their audience, content curators able to build new, financially viable, communities and the members of those communities are able to access the content they need, without all the white noise.
It also allows curators to leave a more utilitarian legacy for future generations by leaving genuinely informative highlights, rather than just another hyperlink.
Future Is in the Intersection of Content Curation, Knowledge Management, and Community
In response to the overwhelming mountain of data that dominates our daily lives, more and more people are looking for a solution that hits the fine balance between giving us access to the vast fund of knowledge available on the web, without being crushed under it.
Content curators and web highlighters sit at that intersection, filtering through the ocean of data we produce every day, and picking out the parts that their community will find genuinely valuable.
This level of knowledge management also has the opportunity to create more stable, intentional communities that are focused on absorbing content that is useful, not just novel.
Since the curator economy has already proven to be viable enough to financially support content curators, and the speed at which we generate data shows no sign of slowing down, a blend of content curation and community management seems set to be the future of how we approach online media.
I’m addressing this at Glasp. If you resonate with this story, please check us out.