THE BLOG
09/02/2014 06:12 pm ET | Updated Nov 02, 2014

We're Drowning in Branded and Social Content -- Can We Have Curators Back, Please?

It's become a relentless bombardment of the banal, the trite and the trivial. While there's nothing wrong, per se, with the likes of Buzzfeed, Upworthy and all their competitors and imitators, the growth of social and data-led content sites and their link-bait headlines ('you'll never guess what happened next') means that we're swamped in content designed to manipulate emotions while driving us to the last picture in the gallery ('the last picture will amaze you') or to the end of the video ('watch to the end for an incredible twist').

It's all very entertaining, of course, or else it wouldn't be so successful, and we should note the attempts of some of these to drive a more news-led agenda. We should also not the fact that it has a clear effect on the productivity of those of us who wade through the internet for a living, which demonstrates an impressive digital moreishness. But it doesn't get us anywhere, does it?

We're surrounded by branded content -- the emotionally-charged videos that lead us to believe that musicians spontaneously come together in picturesque town squares to improve the lives of decoratively ill children. Turns out they don't and it's no coincidence that they seemed to have done so in front of a bank with it's brand name visible.

We're up to our necks in 'listicles' that point out the twelves things that irritate those of us who occasionally come into contact with other human being and which use a dwindling number of gifs to explain the point.

At every click and turn we find another quiz or questionnaires which will reveal which character in a TV program that we've never seen that we most resemble. And we will share it on social media to show just how little we resemble someone fictional we've never heard of.

And we haven't even got to the ice buckets.

Are we enlightened by any of this?

It's nice that we're centering around content, that's a Good Thing, in theory. Yet when the content is so cynically mass-produced to promote clicks and brands, then Content isn't King, it's a mere pawn. And while the content/monarchy cliche is revived by the titans of trite, it may be that the only way through this bland melange would be to revive another cliche of past digital days.

It's time to bring back the role of the curator.

Remember curators? Curating content was, for a while, quite the thing. The sheer scale of content was thought to be so daunting that we needed people to guide us through it. Then the social media behemoths of Twitter and Facebook decreed that those curators were ourselves and our friends -- our peers would guide us through to the good stuff, they would recommend content that would enlighten and inspire.

They haven't, they've let us down. A trawl through your timelines will give you more ice buckets, witless memes and celebrity tat than anyone could ever one. It's a digital diet lacking in protein or fiber. Our friends are not what we thought they would be.

So it's time to revive the curator, the guide to the wholesome, the good, the inspiring and the enlightening. There are one or two good ones -- Daily Genius' attempts to drive you to 'content to make you smarter' is a start and the rise of quality digital-only journalistic outlets like QZ is heartening. The worry is that people are sated with nonsense (in the way that people like McDonald's) and anything which supports their intellect, their work or their curiosity can seem like too much hard work.

But while people continue to create the good stuff, we need people to point us to it. Those curators are our only hope of finding the good wood, in amongst the dead trees.