The Curators, Still the Curators

Here’s what happened

Before the Internet, people bought what was marketed to them. Retailers charged publishers for end-cap display. Those artists with the largest marketing bank accounts sold a lot of units.

In the early years of the Internet, shelf display merely transitioned online. There were algorithmic, “personalized” recommendation engines on Amazon but purchased items still were consumed as a result of mass marketing.

Around 2005, social networking turned paid media on its head. All of a sudden consumers shared and consumed particular interests in a mass of niches. With a simple click, Internet denizens became marketers.

Today, some of those niches and clusters get so big they become mainstream. If you had discovered Bieber on YouTube in 2008, now you’re just one of the 32 million Twitter trolls that eat up his content. You’re discovery is not special anymore.

The Internet undermined the art and appreciation of discovery. Before, you were the person digging in the crates at the record store. Then, you were the one spending hours digging within the digital dustbins online. Now, your discoveries are well known and possibly mainstream, forcing you to dig even deeper into the caves of the Internet.

Search and discovery is a unique talent that requires years of hunting and consuming the good stuff. The pleasure comes from rejecting what is known and finding what could someday be well known.  But taste testers care less about the mainstream adoption of their gems since they are already on to the next thing.

The endless search of good content makes a great curator. The thrill of being anti-collective and finding something first is everlasting.

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By Wells Baum

Wells Baum is a daily blogger who writes about Life & Arts. He's also the author of and four books.