The Rise of The Curator Economy

Photo by Matthew Guay on Unsplash

The day has only 24 hours. In that time, you’ll have to navigate an unprecedented amount of messages. Americans receive on average 126 emails per day. There are 1.7 billion websites, of which 600 million are blogs. Over 350 million photos are shared on Facebook every day. Each minute, 500 hours of video are uploaded on YouTube. And let’s not even get started with all the audiobooks, movies, podcasts, and playlists available on-demand.

The result? Overwhelm. The more content you have to sort through, the more frustrating it becomes to find relevant information. The content you’re looking for is out there. It’s just under piles and piles of articles, photos, and videos that get pushed to the top of your feed not because of quality or relevancy, but because of its novelty or its engagement rates.

Algorithm vs Human Curation

It’s been over 20 years since Amazon engineers came up with a system to automate product recommendations to customers, making their human editors’ positions redundant. Since then, algorithms have become increasingly sophisticated at managing some types of content and selecting what may be most relevant to you. For example, YouTube’s algorithm drives over 70% of all the content watched on the platform.

However, the current algorithm technology has its limitations.

First, AI still doesn’t understand the content and its context fully, so it may share harmful content or make inappropriate recommendations. Often, algorithms are designed with one goal in mind — to keep eyes on the platform for as long as possible. This shifts the priority on content that’s performing well over other criteria, such as quality or relevance to the user.

Here’s where the human touch is more needed than ever.

Writing for the Content Marketing Institute, Kim Moustos defined content in the following terms: “Information is data in context, and content is contextual data created for people.”

The difference between AI and a human is the intent. A human curator can analyze the meaning of each piece of content, thread common themes, explain to their audience why a piece is relevant, and emphasize quality and relevance over novelty.

So, when it looked like AI was going to replace human curation, it has led to its resurgence. And so, human curation is gaining terrain once again.

The Curation Economy Is Born

Curation is one of the three Cs of information commerce: Creation, Curation, and Consumption. Most of us create content, in some capacity. Your IG photos, Tumblr posts, tweets, and Tiktok videos are content, too.

And in a way, curating content is also creating content. A curator puts each piece in context, provides additional insights, and connects it with other content. This can be a full-time job. After all, it requires time and attention to read hundreds of articles to recommend to users each time. So, it’s no wonder curators are monetizing their curation work.

Content curation, while time-consuming, has proven to be not just an artistic or journalistic exercise, but also a sustainable business. Newsletters like Brain Pickings, The Generalist, Morning Brew, and Everything Bundle, to name a few, have become popular sources of information for thousands of readers. Platforms like Substack and Glasp have become the home of curators and writers keen to grow an audience and communicate directly with readers.

While AI is here to stay, it still can’t replace human curation. A curator’s taste, storytelling skills, and knowledge of their topics and their audience are unique.


Founder of Glasp / a member of #ODF9 & Berkeley SkyDeck alum / Leaving a utilitarian legacy for future generations with AI