A great post borrowed from Steve Rubel who writes Micropersuasion
The democratization of publishing is without a doubt a revolution. When we’re all dead and gone, the 21st Century will be remembered as a Digital Renaissance – one that rivals the original that preceded it by 700 years.
The Internet has empowered billions of people and is distributing their creativity across millions of niches and dozens of formats. Quality and accuracy, of course, can vary. However, virtually every subject either is or will be addressed with excellence – by someone, somewhere.
However, the glut of content as we all know also has a major downside. Our information and entertainment options greatly outweigh the time we have to consume it. Even if one were to only focus on micro-niche interests and snack on bite-sized content, demand could never ever scale to match the supply. Content is a commodity. The Attention Crash is real and – make no mistake – it will deepen.
Enter the Digital Curator.
A curator, in a cultural institution context, is a guardian or an overseer. According to Wikipedia, he/she “is a content specialist responsible for an institution’s collections and their associated collections catalogs. The object of a curator’s concern necessarily involves tangible objects of some sort, whether it be inter alia artwork, collectibles, historic items or scientific collections.”
Museum curators, like web users, are faced with choices. They can’t put every work of art in a museum. They acquire pieces that fit within the tone, direction and – above all – the purpose of the institution. They travel the corners of the world looking for “finds.” Then, once located, clean them up and make sure they are presentable and offer the patron a high quality experience.
Much the same, the digital realm too needs curators. Information overload makes it difficult to separate junk from art. It requires a certain finesse and expertise – a fine tuned, perhaps trained eye. Google, memetrackers such as Techmeme and social news sites like digg are not curators. They’re aggregators – and there’s a big difference.
The call of the curator requires people who are selfless and willing to act as sherpas and guides. They’re identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts. Digital Curators are the future of online content. Brands, media companies and dedicated individuals can all become curators. Further, they don’t even need to create their own content, just as a museum curator rarely hangs his/her own work next to a Da Vinci. They do, however, need to be subject matter experts.
Curators are not editors either. The notion of an editor inherently implies that space is finite. Online it’s not. Curators don’t need to necessarily be trained in cutting, but in knowing where and how to unearth those special high-quality “finds” and to make them presentable. It’s just as much about the experience and the way the information is presented, as it is the content.
If you look for them, curators are everywhere. Mahalo is a thriving community of curators on virtually dozens of subjects. The tech section of the New York Times web site and the My Times site, both of which highlight blogs, is another. Last but not least is the IAB Smartbrief. If you’re interested in online marketing and have time to read only one source, this is the one to turn to because they curate.
As content universe expands and floods niches, there will always be a market for Digital Curators. The key for brands, individuals and media companies will be to identify those niches where they have deep expertise and to become the best in the world at serving them. I guarantee if you do this well and consistently, your long-term success is essentially guaranteed. And even if you do not have the energy to become a curator, you will certainly be influenced them.