A few months ago, my dear friend and filmmaker Anthony Ladesich of Mile Deep Films posted a question to Facebook asking just what the heck was Pinterest and really what’s its point.
While some of the responses sought to explain the practical uses of Pinterest’s content curation format, namely the ability to pin images from throughout the web on custom ‘boards’ for easy reference, most of the responses validated Ignite Social Media’s calculations that if you are on Pinterest you are most likely a 24-34 year old, college educated women living in the mid-west. (Interestingly, of Mashable’s list of 21 users to follow there was a fairly even split in gender.)
What the generalist observations didn’t take into account was the way in which the format of sites like Pinterest are primed to alter the established conventions we currently utilize to interact with content.
Elad Gil, a San Franscisco based entrepreneur whose start-up was absorbed by Twitter, offers an informative timeline explaining the way trends in social media have shifted from Long Form to Push Button publishing.
Gil identifies that in the origins of social media creation – the long form blog – there was an expectation of high caliber content. After all, only one percent were producers while the rest of us just consumed. Facebook and Twitter’s short form format “decreased the friction to both producing as well as consuming content,” lowering expectations and making it universally accessible. Retweeting and Facebook’s share feature, as well as the Tumblr repost platform, began the process of shifting consumers into curators. Users could share others content within their own networks but were still limited by the timeline format of these services.
Pinterest is important because it was the first service to enable users to collect content via bookmarklets and showcase it in curated collections, making consumption less passive though still highly efficient and increasingly ubiquitous.
Some of my favorite bookmarklets
Curation has become a key component to the social media experience, allowing users to showcase their interests, preferences and opinions with ease and polish. What Instagram did for photography—making it suddenly easy for anyone with an iphone to create great looking content—sites like Pinterest have done for curation.
Pinterest is not alone.
Paper.li offers social news curation, allowing users to create customized digital news papers based on topics, drawing from their own services such as Twitter or Facebook or from subscriptions to news services.
Scoop.it is a news aggregator that displays content in a digital magazine format allowing any user to become a publisher of sorts, drawing on content from Scoop.it’s own recommendation engine or the browser bookmarklet feature. Scoop.it’s focus is the curation (or aggregation) of news content rather than the creation of content.
(News aggregation as a whole is dicey business which I won’t get into now other than to offer an ironic example of one of the Huffington Post’s most recent missteps which was fantastically satorized by The Onion in ‘Huffington Post’ Employee Sucked Into Aggregation Turbine, which I discovered via my current Twitter news aggregator of choice The Tweeted Times.)
Short Form is a social media network aimed at video jockeys. The site let users curate customized channels that draw from video all over the web including Youtube, Vimeo, Hulu and the content being shared by friends on Facebook and Twitter. The site also capitalizes on the social by creating live viewing parties where vjs can broadcast back-to-back content from their channels or content from other vjs on the site, and can also “pass the remote,” as it were, to any of viewers in the room, letting them take a turn in control.
The challenge with Turntable.fm, a site that allows users to experience and discover music together live, is a case of empty room syndrome. Turntable.fm is awesome because the playlist is chosen by the djs in each room (or channel if you need to think more literally) but only becomes social if your friends are there to play and more friends keep joining. The challenge then becomes the limited number of dj spots. Still the interface looks fantastic with and feels more social than Spotify or Pandora.
As social curation becomes the norm and we see our current go-to’s absorbing the format (see Twitter’s acquisition of Summify) it is interesting to consider how the idea will bridge the gap between the online and offline, perhaps drawing on the commercialized format of sites like Fab.com and my personal favorite Quarterly, a site that connects subscribers with “cultural icons” who curate themed packages to be mailed out quarterly.
Quarterly is like a magazine, but instead of receiving words on a page, our subscribers receive actual items that tell a compelling story crafted and narrated by the contributor… A blend of original, exclusive, and consumer items that are timeless, practical, exciting, and fly under the radar… So maybe you’ll get the same kind of notebook that your favorite author used to plot their recent bestseller. Or maybe it’s the tea a musician was drinking while they penned a famous track. Or a secret family cold remedy an artist used while working on a masterpiece. The point is, every object—while uniquely brilliant in its function—will also have a story, and through that story take on new meaning.
Dare I say, like a Pinterest inspiration board come to life.