Curation, the word of 2008-2009 within the eCommerce world, popularized first by the entertaining shopping site Woot, has now officially expanded to the social media space (see examples). It used to be the long tail that made the internet so full of potential, but it seems information reached its peak and we can no longer search, find and make sense of it ourselves. We only need one result–maybe even just one result per day–if we’re expected to take any action. And action is the key word here. Even Google has tried to make search easier. Instant search gives you exponentially more results but more importantly, allows you to self-curate as you type each little letter of your inquisition.
Not only do museums subscribe to a curated model, but so do retail merchandisers and just about every brick and mortar personal, local, or service business I can think of. Why? Because there is too much for us to discover and access on our own. We need these agents, and we evolved as consumers to learn not how to discern quality products but rather how to discern quality curators. I’m typically a believer in what’s old is new again and cyclical reinvention, but this whole curation trend has me wondering: are we really back to the dawn of time–as offline as a curated museum–in reinventing the way we should discover new information online, too?
There are two problems I foresee as curation is applied to social media: one functional and one economic.
- Functional: We consumers are in a decade long limbo between searched and curated social media. The informational world—linked, tweeted, and blogged–has not been adequately curated and because social media grows exponentially daily, search will never work to solve this problem. I believe social media is not a search experience it is a lean-back style, served medium. Curation is required for serving media. However, given the breadth of information, the best curators are hard to surface and we gravitate instead to whomever has the loudest voice vs. the best researched content or perspective. It’s a traditional problem typically caused by marketing dollars and media machines, but they have been equalized by social media mechanisms like Twitter’s trending topics (which currently include #myhomelesssignwouldsay) and Facebook campaigns as simple as getting Betty White on SNL.
- Economic: Curated businesses command a larger premium over long tail, search driven businesses. Example: Apple vs. Google. I buy that curation creates value. However, curation also requires greater expense. Think of the margins of your local specialty retail shop vs. those of Google. Curation requires procurement, procurement requires personnel and expense. Higher price points + Lower margins = Lower price points + Higher margins. I don’t know how it will play out with social media but the framework remains which typically equalizes value.
The social-media-o-sphere has been buzzing about Malcolm Gladwell’s article in the New Yorker on social media last week. What he touched on is the lacking ability of social media to spark action online. Passive and pensive agreement with social media exists online today, but action is hard to create through the same medium. Curation, in my mind, could bring this call to action. This is what the activists described by Gladwell in the Greensboro, NC Woolworth’s essentially did—they focused on a simple message, distributed via social connections to similar spirits in Virginia and South Carolina. I think we’ll be stuck in the social media chasm until the curation problem is solved in this sphere. The question is when it happens, will we have solved the ultimate problem or will scale be encumbered by the economic downside that typically accompanies curated businesses? Depends on how we solve it I suppose . . .
I think we’ll be stuck in the #social #media chasm until the #curation problem is solved in this sphere. The question is when it happens, will we have solved the ultimate #problem or will scale be encumbered by the #economic downside that typically accompanies #curated #businesses?