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Curators Are the New Creators

The Business Model of Good Taste

We’re experiencing a content overload. There are an average of 550 new social media users each minute, and over 40,000 search queries on Google every second. The Facebook like button has been pressed 13 trillion times, and each new day welcomes another 682 million tweets. It seems that every time we blink there’s a new podcast published, or blog post to read, or book recommendation to order on Amazon. To make a long story short, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disaggregate signal from noise.

“We’re living in a pivotal time in the history of mass communication — what we believe is the golden age of new media.”

With more creators, more content, and more choice than ever before, consumers are now being consumed by a state of analysis paralysis. The real scarcity isn’t content anymore. It’s attention. When it’s impossible to absorb everything from the flood of information, the best we can do is pick and choose what matters to us most — or, better yet, find the people who can do the curating for us. Mario Gabriele from The Generalist said it best:

As the amount of content grows, so does the market for credible curators.

A great case study is Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper’s Everything Bundle. In April, they decided to offer a bundled version of their newsletters, expecting a few extra subscribers from the experiment. Instead, they grew together from 600 to 1,000 paying subscribers within the first month. With all this talk of unbundling (some examples are the unbundlings of college, G Suite, Reddit, and venture capital), Nathan and Dan’s intentional bundling proved to be a striking success.

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Image: courtesy of Uber

The Psychology Behind the Need for Curation

As it turns out, there’s some psychological ground to all of this. Think of it as a carefully mixed cocktail of the following:

  • Dunbar’s number, or the average number of stable social relationships one can maintain at a given time (it’s around 150)
  • Zipf’s Law, which describes how in any system of resources there are a small number of items of high value, and a “long tail” of many more of low value (slightly tangential but related reading: Metcalfe’s Law, which has now largely been refuted as a method of evaluating social networks, but in 2012 helped to rationalize Facebook’s insane over-valuation in its IPO)

How Do You Curate — and Why?

There isn’t one sole motivation behind why creators, influencers, and brands may want to curate. In fact, curation can:

  • Fulfill a need in a particular market. For example, Femstreet is a weekly digest of timely posts from female investors and operators. It’s racked up thousands of subscribers and has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, and Crunchbase.
  • Create an extra category within an existing business.
  • Become an additional revenue source. As we saw with The Browser example, it’s possible to monetize free content if it’s curated well — consumers are willing to pay someone who has good taste, and it’s an easy way to add a revenue stream to your business.

Making Curation Profitable

  1. Shift the emphasis from the individual to the greater media brand
  2. Scale and continue to add value

Written by

Investing @BessemerVP & studying Symbolic Systems @Stanford. Previously @ChapterOne. Follow me @gaby_goldberg.

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