By Steve Rosenbaum
After years of promising to replace people with smarter algorithms — it appears that the battle is over. And, at least for the next chapter of the web, humans have won.
There’s been a flood of new product announcements from the biggest players YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, AOL, Flipboard, Snapchat and LinkedIn — each of them promising to solve content discovery with a human curated product offering.
This is good news, even great news. Who hasn’t felt the fatigue of content overload as the firehose stream of raw unfiltered information overwhelms consumers? The endless scrolling and channel changing has at it’s core the endless ‘needle in a haystack’ search for relevance.
Curation solves that.
But not all curators are created equal it turns out. And some of the products that have emerged in the rush to curation turn out to be more window dressing than truly human-centric solutions.
The question is simple. What is a curation solution, and what is a hastily conceived product enhancement falsely paraded as “curation”?
NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA:
In the complicated area of News, the number of emerging “curation” products is growing dramatically.
The two most interesting takes on Curation are Twitter’s Project Lightning and Snapchat’s Live Stories.
Twitter is finally acknowledging that the average visitor is overwhelmed with the shear volume and lack of clarity in the twitter stream. Their answer is Project Lightning. Project Lightning is a hub that will curate Tweets on the platform centered around events, news and trends. Lightning collections will include Vine video and Periscope live video content as well. This time around however, it’s not an algorithm doing the heavy lifting. Twitter’s put together a team of editors to “select what it thinks are the best and most relevant tweets and package them into a collection.” I’m skeptical here, as curators need to be more than ‘info-workers’ or they won’t rise above algorithms.
On the other hand — Snapchat’s Live Stories are already working. And Snapchat now has more than 40 human curators working on the Live Story team (up from 10) and features “multiple events per day.” Live Stories feature users shares photos and videos of a live event or happening. Live Stories is ‘live’ for just a day. Now Live Stories is attracing about 20 million people in a 24-hour period, that totals ad space on a 20 million view story that can be worth $400,000 according to a report in Recode. For example the music festival Coachella’s “LiveStory” drew more than 40 million unique viewers.
While Snapchat curators are unknown, the powerful voice and POV of the content that they curate makes Livestories a great example of using human editorial to drive relevance and quality.
There are also a number of other “human curated” news products launching. YouTube’s Newswire, a a joint project with News Corp-owned Storyful, gathers and verifies eyewitness current events videos.
LinkedIn Pulse has added human editors to cull a “human voice” to the product.
Flipboard, an early leader in human curation, has doubled down — in advance of Apple’s announcement of a “Curated” news product. Flipboard’s new “compose” tool allows magazine creators to take it one step further. Marci McCue, the head of Marketing at Flipboard told 9 To 5 Mac: “you’ll see us continue to invest in people curating on Flipboard — not just our own editorial staff. That’s why the product is so diverse and the quality of stories can be so rich.”According to Flipboard’s blog, the tool makes it easier for people to collaborate more effectively with other users on the platform and even offers them the option to create private group magazines.
Meanwhile — at first look, Apple News seems to get it all wrong. The company is running ads for human editors to curate news, but here there appears to be no brand name curators, no public facing editorial voice, simply a fast moving feed of RSS news, with some editors filtering and sorting the news page. That’s not curation, and it won’t bring a new POV or news offering to the market. Fail.
There’s no doubt that curation is replacing algorithmic aggregation, and that video is driving the trend from aggregation to curation. Video needs to be valuable on a number of related axis. Quality, relevance, timelines and voice all play a part. And as more and more video creation opportunities come on line, the need to curate quality to the top of the stack becomes more critical.
Yes, consumers want human filters. But they don’t want nameless human filters. They don’t want information workers, ‘curating’ for them, they want real people, with voices and passions, and faces, and personalities. They want Curators who drive a clear curation gameplan and sign their work because they’re proud of it.
Curation is — to borrow a phrase from Soylent Green — People!
Steven Rosenbaum is an entrepreneur, author, and curator. He is the founder and CEO of the web’s largest Video Curation Platform, Waywire.com. His first book Curation Nation, explores the changing worlds of publishing, consumer content, and brand-centric curation. It was published by McGraw Hill in the spring of 2011.