Curation is already becoming an overused word but it's an increasingly important one. Not least because the way in which we discover content that we like or find useful, and how it gets in front of us or gets our attention, is changing radically.
With an explosion of choice and noise, and attention becoming the new scarcity, how we choose to curate what gets that attention (or, as below, how it is curated for us) is hugely important to anyone in the business of creating content. And let's face it, that's now everybody. So here's my take on the three pillars of content curation that will increasingly (and already actively) shape the future of content consumption and distribution:
1. Algorithmic curation:- We see stuff because a technological process interprets, anticipates, or predicts our needs. Obvious examples include Google personalising search results through what else it knows about us, or serving ads based on the context of the content that surrounds them, or Facebook Edgerank interpreting which content out of all that which is posted by our connections is important to us, and Amazon recommending products to us based on what it knows about our purchase history and that of thousands of others. New tools like Percolate offer a potentially great utility for brands to easily curate content "at social scale" by hooking up to and filtering relevant streams of content (check out the short film below of Noah Brier talking about it). New media apps like Zite (the "personalised iPad magazine that gets smarter as you use it") that use a form of scrobbling to accumulate data, learn your tastes, and power content recommendation.
2. Professional curation:- we see stuff because a skilled editor or commisioner uses their insight into a particular audience to determine what might interest us. It's the granddaddy of curation and there remains huge value in this.
3. Social curation:- we see stuff because we, our friends, or a wider audience think it's good/relevant. Social curation has been around for years of-course (tagging and voting on social bookmarking services, ranking by ratings, Twitter lists, Google+ circles). But the applications are becoming more sophisticated all the time. Like The Guardian Zeitgiest prototype that combines social analytics (how many people shared specific pieces of content across the site, or commented) with web analytics (referrals, how many people have looked at it/read it) to create "a visual record of what people are currently finding interesting on guardian.co.uk at the moment". This is when it becomes more exciting - when these mechanics are combined with other forms of curation including algorithms that can identify the most popular content shared by the people you follow (like Flipboard does). Right now, so called 'Frictionless sharing' seems to be the antithesis to this, dramatically changing the emphasis between declarative and implicit sharing.
My view is that the most engaging content, and the smartest content producers, will incorporate more than one of these (if not, all three) techniques in some form. What do you think?