Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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September 22, 2009

Failure to curate is at the heart of current problems in newspaper and book publishing, Mike Shatzkin seems to be saying, in his thought-provoking blog on Aggregation and curation: two concepts that explain a lot about digital change. Aggregation is pulling together things that are not necessarily connected. Curation is the careful selection and pruning of aggregates.


"Newspapers are obviously aggregators and curators. The differences in their curation create their brand. The New York Times leaves out the comics. The New York Post leaves out the multi-syllable words. The Daily News beefs up its sports section and, for years, was known for having the best pictures. But one thing has been common to all of them and to all other newspapers: they cover the waterfront. (I have called that being 'horizontal.') They aggregate news of the world, the nation, and the city with sports, weather, stock quotes, advice to the lovelorn, and many other things. They sell almost all their advertising against the aggregate and against the brand, not against any specific item or interest being aggregated. And the competition for each paper is against other curated aggregates....


"Horizontal aggregation was more efficient in a world of physical delivery. Vertical aggregation makes more sense in a world of digital delivery. And enabling the customer or user to have some control over the curation is possible in the digital world but hardly is in the physical....for each unit of appreciation each ball score, stock price, report from Washington, or political cartoon there is a whole host of new competition.


As always, Shatzkin's observations about the digital world being created before us are thought-provoking and persuasive--and in this case they apply to newspapers, booksellers, publshers, and online book retailers. Curating means honing niches. The question is how to make yourself visible to your market and how to get them to make a purchase. Read the whole story at The Shatzkin Files, 9-21-09.