Curation: A Misunderstood Superpower
People don’t appreciate the value of curation.
It’s a fact.
But then, why would they?
For centuries, we associated curation with art foundations and museums. Only they would have a curator on payroll to select expensive paintings and objects to include in a collection.
A bit esoteric, if you ask me. I often wondered what you need to have to qualify for a job like that.
How do we make curation relevant to business in 2021?
To understand its value, we first need to understand what it is.
It’s the act of narrowing down a consumer’s choice to things you believe the consumer will want or should want.
You limit choice for the sake of speed and focus.
Why is curation even a thing?
If you save people time and give them value, that’s hyper-relevant to them, they will pay for that service, either with money or with their time and attention.
If someone doesn’t do it for them, people will need to spend time figuring out what they should care about.
They’ll need to go and open a dozen Chrome tabs and spend hours researching for the best indoor bike or online course for PPC ads. And we all know where that leads…
Unnecessary purchases, returns, and regrets.
The value of curation as a service is only going up, thanks to the internet.
The internet has unlocked unimaginable (and unmanageable) abundance — an abundance of information and choice, specifically in the world of media.
We’ve been creating tools and platforms to enable the creation of content because all the gurus worth naming told us businesses are built on content marketing.
Twitter, Instagram, Medium, YouTube, and Vimeo. Subscription platforms like Substack and Supercast.
With everyone creating more of it than ever before, consumers have more content to choose from than ever before.
Problem is, you can’t squeeze more time into your days — there are only so many blog posts you can read in a day before they all end up being saved somewhere “to come back to later.”
Now, you have to look for the content that’s most worth consuming. Ironically, as you spend more time searching, you have less time to consume the very content that you’re searching for.
What if you could outsource that search to someone else, like a curator? The value of the curator continues to grow as content increases — and so does search cost.
That’s why you need to understand the value of curation and how it applies to your business.
Curation is not just for content and media
True, media seems the easiest application of curation for us to understand and wrap our heads around. It’s all around us — The Financial Times, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal… as well as purely online publications.
Who else is doing curation?
Whole Foods curate food products that best cater to a specific type of shopper that comes to their store.
Universities curate course catalogs that best cater to the interests of specific types of students.
State Street and other financial institutions create ETFs or exchange-traded funds — they are simply a curation of financial securities that best suit a specific investor.
Curation businesses last centuries…
Curation is nothing new
It’s been around us for a long time.
Walmart has been a master curator since its founding in 1962. They began curating not because of an abundance of choice, but scarcity of retail space.
The company wanted to guarantee customer satisfaction, but it had to do so within the confines of a physical store. Walmart became a world-class curator — carefully stocking the shelves of its 30,000 to 200,000 square foot stores.
But it’s not just curation at the company level. It’s also smart curation at the store level — stocking shelves based on the local preferences of the retailer’s customers.
A Mabelvale, Arkansas shopper has very different interests than a Seattle, Washington shopper. Or can you even imagine the herbal tea selection at a California store?
That’s where really smart curation comes into play.
Curation and the internet
Amazon has entered the market, and yet, curation hasn’t become less valuable. It’s taken on a new form where curation is not a response to limited shelf space — Amazon.com and the internet have infinite space.
The limiting resource became time and attention as customers scroll through a never-ending catalog with infinite product options.
That’s why Amazon is another master curator, just like its retail predecessor, pulling levers like search functionality, product recommendations based on what you purchased in the past, and filters like high price to low price.
It’s all about helping customers find what they need, fast.
Curation, at its core, is simplifying choice and optimizing satisfaction for the specific customer you’re serving.
All businesses should think of it as a way to serve customers and add value. And if nothing else comes to mind, you can start curating content for your business today. That will give you plenty of ideas on how you can use the principles in your product or service selection or how your business model operates.