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curation

Drowning out internet noise through human filters

You may have a friend or two who you can always trust to tell you, with impeccable taste, which new films, albums, gadgets or restaurants are worth your time and money. This information is priceless if you don’t have the time or patience to sample everything available to find the good stuff among the many options flooding the market for yourself.

This principle is gaining traction in the online space, largely as the result of the rise of social media. Increasingly, internet users are depending on trusted members of their online social networks and media environments to help them find content of quality and relevance in an increasingly noisy and fragmented media landscape.

This trend, highlighted by trends analyst Dion Chang as something to watch during 2011, is described as content curatorship. The reason for this emerging trend is that few people have time to even scratch the surface of the information available on the web today through sources such as news sites, blogs, and social media platforms such as YouTube and Twitter.

Of the billions of pages of content on the internet and the millions of new pages added to it every day, only a very small portion is of interest to any user. The rest is spam, inane user-generated content, or simply not of any relevance to the user concerned.

Rather than depending only on RSS feeds or news aggregators to find the content that is of interest to them, internet users look to people that they trust to guide their content consumption, whether its videos, news stories or even the best online shopping deals they’re after. Essentially, fellow internet users become human filters that filter out all the junk on the internet so that you can access only the best content and the content that you see as relevant.

As Chang puts it: “Deciding who edits this information for you, becomes a critical means of formulating your perspective on the world.”

Facebook friends and the people you follow on Twitter are among the people that you may look to as your content curators. Some specialist sites – such as the Huffington Post – have also built formidable business models out of content curatorship.

Curators will be people with a knack for uncovering the genuinely brilliant video on YouTube among the billions of awful ones, ones who will spot a genuinely insightful forum or blog post among the reams of poor user generated content, or those who somehow seem able to unearth gems from the most obscure news sources. Most importantly, they love to share their finds with others.

The work of content curators has become easier in recent years, thanks to the advent of content curatorship tools such as paper.li that enable curators to draw together content from a range of sources and present it to others in an easily digested format. Longevity isn’t as much of a concern as it once was since we can be sure that many of these tools will be around for a while.

The big question is, of course, what this will mean for media companies and marketers alike in the long-term. The old distribution models – one to many – have given way to a more complex, fragmentary environment. Content, more than ever, is king, but the challenge is understanding how to work it to the advantage of your brand or publication.