The End Of The Age Of Content, Part 2

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The last time we talked about the end of the age of content was in April this year, for me best summarised by one of my favourite quotes of the year from Jeff Jarvis:

The great stuff is already out there. Why remake it, except for ego?

Content is becoming has become a commodity. As I’ve been saying for over a year now, there’s too much of it. We’re over saturated. Trying to compete with content is a hard, hard game to win.

And the trouble about content is that all the digitalls have in front of their faces on Twitter all day. But for a second consider you are a digicool. How do you even find blogs like mine and yours? I would say relationship, or a very thin long tail.

Our Options

If it’s the end of age of content, then what is next, and what are our options?

1. Fight it. Keep saying that ‘Content Is King’ and tune up your personal brand and affiliate program, while you compete against the thousands upon thousands of others doing the same to promote your blog and product over theirs. If you’re trying to build a big blog or launch a community group, you also can’t start by fighting on this front, because others are doing it better than you already.

Ok, so perhaps that is a bit harsh – but my point is that you can’t fight on this level alone.

2. Relationally push. Every business starts out with friends as customers. If for the digicool it is through referral that blogs, etc, are discovered, then we lean on those relationships. The issue here through is that it doesn’t scale.

3. Go niche. Find focussed interest topics to specialise in. People are more prepared to go with specialist content as opposed to generalist. But writing about a niche subject doesn’t mean people will flock to you, nor trust you. Again, we are back to social authority.

Curation

Where we are going towards is curation. By having a good bit of fight, building relationship, finding niches, and then being a curator of the content and co-creation that is already happening, we find new meaning. The great stuff is already out there. Why remake it, except for ego?

Seth Godin posted an exceptional audio peice on “The New Dynamics Of Book Publishing” last month. I seriously recommend you listen to it.

From all the consulting that I have done with publishers of late, Seth’s insights are right on and encapsulate much of what I’ve been going through with these publishers.

If we take this into the Music Industry, for example, should’ve been curating experiences and communites rather than trying to create and sell music. The creation part is a comodity, the community curation part isn’t.

Your Leading Thoughts

  1. Are you a curator? Where are you curating and how are you doing it?
  2. Curation is a new buzz idea that’s going around at the moment – do you see it as the future?
  3. Content creation has it’s own challenges. What are the challenges of content curation?

Photo courtesy of irisb447

Archived Comments

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    Hey Scott, I’m keen to participate but just need to get the context. What do *you* mean by curation?

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    It is certainly not “the end of the age of content”. Although I agree with what seems to be your fundamental point, that content is useless without relevancy, context, use. That’s where curation comes in.

    Publishing in the past was based on one fundamental paradigm – “scarcity”. Words had to fit on pages. Pages cost money to print. Distribution of a physical product is expensive. Publishers could throttle supply of content to meet demand at a good price.

    Now the fundamental paradigm is “ubiquity”. The marginal cost of an additional word, page, article or book, is almost zero. So everything changes. Filtering becomes vital. Human curation is one of the best filtering methods.

    But that does not mean content is commoditised. Great content will never be a commodity. The communication of new ideas (or old ideas in new ways) is a vital part of our existence.

    The new tools and ecosystem makes content creation and distribution easy. So everyone will do it. We’ve just got to live with that. Creating platforms to filter signal from noise is what matters. Likeminds does that. You do that.

    But it is worth noting that if you were not also creating original, useful, interesting ideas (and ways of communicating ideas), many would go elsewhere to the thousands of other ‘curators’.

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    Agreed – would be good to set this context. Especially when curation is mentioned alongside content, experience and community.

  • / Scott Gould

    Drew this is very good – the explanation of the old scarcity mindset and the new ubiquity mindset.

    We’ve gone from limiting to now having limitless content.

    Sure, “great content will never be a commodity” – but then there is something about the customisation of the delivery of that content that separates it from just words being read on a screen.

    Joe Pine has the “theory for everything” in which he explains commodities, goods, services and experiences. I think we need this type of thinking when it comes to creation.

    For me, curation is saying that I don’t need to make the best bits – I pull on the best bits that already exist, and represent them in a meaningful way to the audience.

  • / Scott Gould

    Robin, as I said above, I consider curation to be arranging things in a meaningful way, rather than remaking what already exists.

    It’s the idea of a platform built on other platforms in many ways.

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    Interesting. So I guess we need to tease out what you mean by “content”.

    You intimate that content is only valuable because of its “delivery”, but surely you would agree that a Hemingway novel or a [insert favourite blogger here]’s best article is highly valuable regardless of whether it is a book, audiobook, or scribbled on a toilet toll…

    I’m interested to see how Pine’s “theory for everything” maps to content. I can certainly see how content can be every one of his categories – commodities (wouldn’t risk my head pointing out some of this…!), goods (data and reporting), services (insight and intelligent thought created from data), and experiences (a well written novel).

  • samueljsmith

    I get frustrated seeing the same content re-posted over and over. One guy calls it “the secret to _________” and the next guy calls it “10 ways to ________”. Yet the ideas are remarkably similar – with little or no added value. While it can be interesting to curate this content, I have a hard time tweeting authentically – “Awesome Post – ” to something that I have seen many times before. So, it becomes boring.

    Thinking outloud – I guess that is the challenge for curators. They are not there to seek out and find thought leadership. Or create all of it. Curators are really the custodians of the tribe’s mission. As new people join the tribe – these old posts and old ideas become new again.

  • / Scott Gould

    I agree Samuel. I call those posts Cyberwaste – I can’t stand them. There is no originality or community about them.

    I like what you say – they are Curators of a tribe’s mission. There’s a purpose attached to this isn’t there… Very good addition!

    Scott

  • http://twitter.com/_deface_ Phil Rees

    Reading this blog, I immediately thought of this famous quote attributed to American poet Audre Lorde.

    “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”

    I think this quote outlines your thoughts within this discussion, though your post only focusses on written content. Everything you’ve written could be applied to all creative content making forms (art, film, music, photography, design… right down to someone creating youtube clips or someone working out a new skateboard trick.

    However I find the idea that “the great stuff is already out there” or “there are no new ideas” to be at odds with how I view creativity. Whether an author is aware of this or not, new ideas are formed by the sum, development, remixing and process of conscious and subconsciously collected information. Fresh ideas are a gradual evolution.

    True, content is saturated, but I’ve no idea what “over saturated” means. The world is more connected now than at any other time, with thousands more voices shouting from the wilderness each day. Trying to win this “game” of creating content seems foolish, but you can insure that your own voice is a valued and respected one.

    Constantly scrutinising the quality of your content. Pushing that little bit further within any creative thinking. Making better unique choices on the next direction to take. The people or organisations that get this right will always become the one’s that shine brightest above the crowded masses.

  • / Scott Gould

    Good points Drew.

    I guess I’m talking mostly about content in the commodity format.

    I woud say that curation is content as an experience – highly customised. The point of each level is that it becomes more customised. In all honesty, a novel will only sit at the ‘Goods’ level.

    It’s a question of how much you’ll pay for the level of customisation. I won’t pay more than £7 for a paperback novel. But I’ll pay a lot more for very curated, customised content, right?

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Phil.

    That quote does ring true. I agree – it is the perception that we are changing. Cue Rory Sutherland’s TED Talk when he talks about “why change the product when you can change the perception?”

    I find the best way to stand out is to become a curator. I’ll talk more about it this week

    :-)

  • annholman

    Phil, fabulous response and addition to the discussion. I’ve been wondering how to respond to Scott’s thought provoking post and you have just summed it up better than I obviously could!

    I think that we are saturated with mediocre content and, of course, remixes of content and thinking. That does mean pushing yourself further and further each day to create even better stuff and pushing the boundaries even more! As you mention Phil, that means having your own voice, creative ability and a way of articulating that demonstrably!

  • http://twitter.com/_deface_ Phil Rees

    Hi Scott, I’ll check out that TED talk, thanks

    I think what I’m trying to get at is this. Simply becoming a curator who changes perceptions alone is not enough.

    To put it another way. Dance music DJ’s take music created by others. The very best knowing how to select and order precisely what a crowd wants before that crowd even knows it themselves.

    But, the Superstar DJ’s are the ones who go that step further. Not only do they curate perfect all inspiring DJ sets, but create their own music, remixing and evolving their own unique sound. (All the other DJ’s end up playing the Superstar DJ’s music too).

  • / Scott Gould

    The difference between the two, then, is a level of commentary and explanation

    For instance, around the election, I really wanted to read a paper that didn’t just say what was happening, but actually explained the whole process to me – in the process of which, the paper would not only curate but create.

    This sounds good to me

  • / Scott Gould

    You’ve got to go far further, no doubt aobout it.

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    Interesting….

    Can you name some content that you pay more than £7 for because of its “curation” or “customisation”?

    Content price is based on access and format. Not necessarily on its “curatedness”. Eg: I would spend £10 on a movie at the cinema, but would expect the same movie for free if I stream it on my laptop. I pay for news apps on my iPhone, but refuse to pay for the same news when browsing. I would pay to hear you talk at a conference, but would expect the same info for free if we were chatting over coffee. The context in which I receive that content is the defining factor.

    I don’t pay for any site at the moment which uses a very experienced editorial team to strongly curate a stream of news and analysis of current events. Interestingly, that’s exactly what a newspaper is. And they are having a *hard* time charging for their well-curated content.

  • http://rubken.net rubken

    What about compilation albums of music? These continue to be popular from the Now145 pop music ones to Rough Guide branded albums of music from specific countries or regions.

    Also coffee-table art books sell well. There are certainly lots of them published. They are based on curation and presentation.

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    Hmmm – I’d love to see the stats on those “NOW” compilations. I’d bet you a coffee that they are trending down to the floor. The same content is easily available as separate tracks (content atomisation) so everyone can curate their own playlist.

  • http://rubken.net rubken

    I can’t find enough data to build a trend but The Sound Loft, a US music industry blog, lists weekly album sales figures. In the data they quote the current US version of the NOW! albums is shifting ca. 30k units/week and is pretty consistently in the top 10.

    http://www.thesoundloft.com/?tag=album-sales

    This does seem to show that curated content holds its own in this arena.

    Perhaps this shows how much people value curation. They could put together an album of downloads that was better tailored to their own taste but perhaps it’s easier to just buy the latest NOW CD.

  • http://platform.idiomag.com Andrew Davies

    Totally agreed that people do value curation. The paradox of choice means we often opt for something pre-selected, rather than make our own choice from thousands of options.

    Thanks for the link. It’s the trend I’m interested in – I’ll have a dig.

  • http://blog.ecairn.com Laurent Pfertzel

    Interestingly, the same issue exists in the music industry. Too much of it and we’re lost in an ocean of choices. The mass market is breaking down into communities and creation, curation, co-creation, recommandations will be driven by them for them.

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Laurent

    Very much agreed!

    Scott

  • Amerrypotter

    In a sense, content curation is an offshoot of the minimalism trend. We are trying to get the clutter out of minds, closets, lives and of course, our browser. The web makes us feel like travelers sojourning strange lands, most of which we can’t identify with. Historically, humans have gravitated to each other and formed tribes based on language, beliefs and culture. Is it any wonder that we exhibit the same behaviour online? A content curator allows us to stop searching. That is a good enough reason for me. A good analysis here – http://www.brandpilgrim.com/2010/08/why-content...

  • / Scott Gould

    Interesting thoughts – I’ll check out this article.

    Scott

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