Much has been written in the past few years about the Future of Media, dozens (perhaps hundreds) of conferences and discussions have occurred and there has been a lot of mashing of teeth, a lot of posturing, volleys of lawsuits on the behalf of some parts of the media landscape (RIAA I’m looking at you!), at least one major strike (Writer’s Union), numerous failing and flailing businesses and much confusion about what the future holds.
Starting with a shifting and varied definition of just what “media” is anyway.
Without picking a particular definition, though I’ll try, here are a few of the many sources of what I include as “media” – books, magazines, journals, weekly newspapers, daily newspapers, radio, TV, blogs, online video, podcasts, Internet radio and other streaming audio, electronic books, online magazines, games (console, computer, online/web, even mobile), art (a broad category indeed).
And almost certainly there is someone, somewhere, creating a new form of content and experience which should be included in my list above.
So with so many variations what isn’t media?
Short answer – increasingly many things not previously part of the “media” have some aspects of the media – Gap’s recent Vote for t-shirt campaign for example, the ads are fairly traditional “media” – albeit delivered online, but the shirts themselves were also a form of media and self expression.
Building on this expansive and highly inclusive definition of media – which includes media whose purpose is to entertain, media whose purpose is to inform, media which is intended to persuade, and media which is entirely personal and esoteric, what does the future hold for media?
I claim that the way forward for Media, at least the media which will have a sustainable and lasting future, media which will remain important as well as viable, is curation.
What is Curation?
In a way I am using an old word in a new way. I’m not, however, the first or the only person to use this broader usage. Originally curation referred entirely to what a curator did which, in turn, was to maintain a collection of art or artifacts, usually for a museum or art gallery. A curator would manage a museum’s collection, would put together a particular show or exhibition. That process might, occasionally, be referred to as curation. Virginia Postel made a similar point, though she used the term Age of the Editor back in 1994 in Reason Magazine.
My meaning of curation is broader:
Curation – To select and highlight specific media usually ground in a particular point of view
Simple perhaps, but I think also something new – something different than Editing, though not unrelated to what a good editor does at a magazine. Indeed I would say that some editors are also acting in a curator role, though many are not. The key point, I think, is that curation is a process that filters, that selects a set of things to be highlighted, that is about less not more.
So why do i claim this is the Future of Media?
Because as we entered a world where everyone can (and most people will to at least some degree) create media the volume of media available to all of us is increasing at a rapid rate. The technology which only years ago was only available at great expense to a small set of highly trained people is now available for free or for very low cost – digital cameras often with video capabilities are most new cellphones to note just one key example.
Thus “professional” and “amateur” content will continue to proliferate and expand – likely with the “amateur” content vastly exceeding in quantity the “professional”. But value will be created by curators, such as the founders of I Can Has Cheezburger, Pete Cashmore of Mashable and Robert Scoble of FastCompany who each filter through a huge amount of media and select a small set of content to present to their respective audiences. In some cases they create the content themselves, hire others to create content, or select and promote works created by a large pool of people.
Some curators will be highly selective, highlighting only one work a day if that, others will create a large pool of content every day. Many will work in many different mediums each an avenue for different forms of interactions and media.
A few other great examples of modern curation at work
- Monocle magazine – a traditional print publication with a solid web presence, they look very much like a traditional if highly polished magazine, but they are also functioning as curators in many ways. They select a small set of physical goods which they sell customized versions of to their readers. In the content of the magazine itself they adopt a rich multimedia sensability – lots of photos and video on the web. See http://monocle.com
- Jason Kottke – For many years Jason has blogged as a curator of as he calls it “fine hypertext products” in short he links to the best stuff he finds across the web, often design related, but wide ranging, across many topics, and for his passionate audiance almost always of great interest. His audiance is passionate enough that he supports himself from his blog and he selects his advertisers with much the same care as the sites to which he links. See http://kottke.org/
- WallBlank – A site that sells one print a day, five days a week, either a photograph or a print, always a limited edition and selected with care. One of a number of similar businesses which sell a small set of limited editions, usually only one or two works a day (or a week). See http://wallblank.com/ other similar businesses with some differences are Threadless, PleaseDress.me and 20×200.com