Curation has been at the core of our plan since we relaunched Myspace in November. We saw empowering users with the tools to share information about the content they love as the next step in the social web.
There are other sites that agree. YouTube and Tumblr recently launched new features that embrace curation as way of restoring editorial control to users and allowing people to follow content and topics they're interested in.
Admittedly, curation is not a new activity: it's a practice we've seen across industries, from retail to film, for years. But its application on the web is growing. As Steve Rosenbaum says in his book Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, the explosion of information across the web has created a need to group data in meaningful ways. "Without a coherent human filter to create contextual and digestible information, the noise is rapidly approaching a place where it drowns out the signal," he says. "Unchecked, the data will make our collective heads explode."
That's where curators come in. Users need a way to weed through the masses of information available online and identify the most important and relevant content. Curation encourages users to form niche communities around their passions by finding and sharing content from across the web that centers on their core specialty. "The world of curation will have lots of brand-name, well-known curators you know and trust," Rosenbaum says. "The new media moguls won't be makers; they'll be finders, endorsers and presenters."
At Myspace, we're recognizing users who are particularly passionate about specific topics and cultural trends and cultivating communities of like-minded users. The result is people connecting around shared enthusiasm for topics that can be as far ranging as the genre of electronic music known as "dubstep" or the ever-popular Twilight. There's an opportunity for everyone to find, or start, the community that fits.
Initial internal measurement is validating our move towards incorporating curation into our platform. Myspace users who are friends with our Curators visit twice as often and spend three times as much time on Myspace as users who aren't friends with Myspace Curators. It's data like this that confirms we're moving in the right direction. We're already seeing studies on how information seekers engage with curated pages, and how those pages can be optimized for research. Ultimately, the job of a curator is very much like that of a news producer or editor: identify important information, analyze it, and disseminate it. As Andy Carvin, senior strategist for NPR, told Mashable, "It means being in the middle -- in this case, between sources and the public. So curating... really isn't that different than what reporters have always done; it's just in real time and a hell of a lot more transparent."
Beyond the analysis that Carvin notes, curators target their news and opinions to specific interests and niches. It's the resulting ability to connect with and influence a specific audience that makes curators valuable to the way information is disseminated and consumed.
I recently attended SXSW where a few of the Myspace Music Curators spent the week interviewing the best up-and-coming indie bands and sharing that content with their 5 million followers on Myspace. Their content and reviews rival many professional publications -- and their audience in many cases is greater. I spent time with Myspace Curator Mark Schoneveld -- he publishes content on all the typical platforms, but has the largest audience now on Myspace. The comments and conversations around his posts are engaging, and the song plays he generates through sharing new music on Myspace is introducing new artists to the industry.
We're confident curation is a movement in the right direction for the ones who matter most -- our users. Rather than leaving decisions on relevance and importance up to computers seeking SEO-optimized content, curation emphasizes the importance of individual tastes, passions and preferences. Curation puts users back in charge, and that's exactly where we think they should be.