What is a "book-plus" and who are tomorrow's readers?
How content containers can dramatically affect user experience

Are content curators becoming more important than content creators?

Man-814697_640I’m sure most of you bristle at the thought of curators being more valuable than creators. After all, the former have no job without the latter. I agree, but it’s not as if the content creation population is declining. In fact, that number only increases every month, and that’s what’s driving up the value of curation.

Regardless of your preferences and interests there’s simply too much content to read. Whether it’s books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, websites, newsletters, etc., every year it becomes more difficult to keep up. Faced with this steady firehose stream of content, we can all use some help determining which elements are worth reading and which are a waste of time.

Separating the good from the bad is, of course, where curation comes into the mix. My favorite magazine, The Week, shows just how powerful and useful curation can be: Every week their editors sift through the latest news, presenting both sides of every story and saving readers countless hours with their summary coverage. Flipboard is another example of a platform that leverages curation. At first Flipboard curated the content and then they expanded their platform so now anyone can create a Flipboard magazine. Here’s mine, for example.

Despite its success, Flipboard illustrates the fact that curation still has a long way to go in its evolution. I say that because the signal-to-noise ratio of Flipboard and Flipboard magazines is getting worse. Every week I find fewer new, interesting Flipboard stories to read and reflip for others to discover.

So where will this valuable curation and consumption take place in the future? Today it’s spread across the web but I’d rather have it all united in one convenient stream.

The Evernote platform has the potential to move from simple note taking to becoming a more powerful content curation, sharing and consumption service. I’ve stopped using Instapaper because it’s so easy to clip, annotate and save web pages into Evernote. I’m also clipping magazine pages from my Next Issue subscription and pouring those into Evernote. In short, Evernote makes it easy and convenient to curate content from a variety of sources and splice them all together. 

Here’s the thorny question that will probably need to be answered soon: At some point, does a service like Evernote offer an option to buy access to the curation of others? In other words, can I charge you for access to my curated Evernote collections, including all that content I have no right to redistribute?

It’s yet another example of The Innovator’s Dilemma: Traditional publishers will aggressively fight to prevent it while forward-thinking ones find a way to participate in the revenue stream it represents. And this revenue stream, by the way, will be one where the curators are highly valued and, in some cases, become the key brand.

Comments

Daisy Downes

Interesting question! We're seeing a move away from content for clicks' sake in favour of quality and trust is regaining importance. So, yes, trusted curators may have a future and, as you say, so may traditional publishers (once they get their head around the fact that really readers are readers irrespective of the platform). Does the selection process introduce an element of creativity that's worth paying for? Do we want commentary and analysis with our curated content or context or serendipity? I think we're becoming more willing to pay but it is the trusted brands -- among them some traditional publishers -- who are most likely to benefit.

Deborah Emin

Hi Joe, Here is my take on your post:

I agree with you that there needs to be a lot more curation of content but I see it in a very different light.

I see it, for the moment, as an issue writers have to deal with. No matter what it is they are writing about, their books are full of content that no one will know about until it is curated and given out as content about things that the books deal with.

This is obviously an issue for those of us who run small, independent presses and need to be using whatever inexpensive bandwidth we can find to reach out to readers and get them to be interested in the books, what the books have to offer and hopefully, with the right balance between sales and gifting, the books will find their audience, the audience will become ambassadors for the small press and the author and the sales will begin to mature as the books take hold of their intended readers.

We live in a self-help age. More writers, I am learning, believe they have much to offer their readers beyond sometimes the actual content of their books. Lots of readers too are looking for that match up between self-help and story. By combining those two worlds (one made popular by Oprah and the other the belief that anyone can write a bestselling book), we have created a different type of reader as well as writer.

Getting them to cross-fertilize is a challenge but I do believe it will pay off for those who know how to utilize the tropes of those two ideas which are not as mutually exclusive as they seem.

Ken Dunn

Joe, you definitely have given me lots to think about. My team, and I, have been talking all week about what options to add to our new platform. We have already exceeded out expectations but now we've been asking, "where do we take it?". Every one of our ideas has involved curating content. Your article is so timely. Keep it coming!'

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