Contentions: On curation, nostalgia, and people

I recently came across an issue of Wired Magazine in 1997, the issue where James Daly edited a long listicle entitled “101 Ways to Save Apple.” Looking back, there are some truly outlandish ideas in there (the first point is to get out of the hardware game, the second is licensing the user interface out to other companies, some other points include relocating the company to Bangalore, organizing a large bake sale, and merging with Saga). I also learned that Apple had considered making cybercafes!

Even though I was just browsing through the internet, what I really missed—at a visceral level—is the aesthetic of the whole magazine. It brings me back to my childhood, in a sense; this issue is full of vibrant colors, photography, typesetting, background graphics, and even exciting advertising. (See this post on integrating advertising into magazines.) By contrast, the content itself clearly wasn’t actually much better than the average stream of tweets (arguably worse!). 

Whether it’s Tyler, the Creator, delighting in a G-Unot shirt, or an homage of some other sort, print magazines still hold a resonance and weight that typical writing just doesn’t. In an age where content creation could (and probably will!) soon be outsourced to algorithms, while people trust algorithmic recommendations less, there’s a new opportunity for people to make the selections. 

In 2016, I wrote, “However, moving forward, the value will be in figuring out what content is worth spending time and energy on. If you can help people do this, you can influence the flow of attention on the internet. You can, quite literally, lead people’s thoughts. Not many people are curating at the moment and many people are starting to need it.” 

Not that a curator’s job is easy. It’s more than just sharing other people’s work; it means adding significance to it, choosing work that represents what you want to say, and the change you want to see happen in the world. 

More importantly, it also means adding value in other ways:

  • To the content itself, curators could package content in a delightful way that could make for deeper engagement (“I printed this out so you should read it!”), or emotional resonance
  • Building relationships with readers and gathering up an audience or community
  • Promoting your curation, so that creators will see the opportunity in bringing you exclusive work

If you’re looking for your content marketing initiatives to make something that actually matters and to generate business results, look no further.

In other words, let other people set up the conferences and panels. You can throw the afterparty.

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