Dec 212010

…in bullshitty publishing industry insiders’ insights.

When I saw this term for the second time today, on page 6 of the flashy “ebook” at zmags (a warm greeting to the surprisingly numerous iPad users who read this blog), I thought it might be worth analyzing whether I was missing something in past years or whether this is a new fad in publishing industry analyst lingo. The latter is true, obviously:

until Q1/2001 Q2/2001–2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
0 33 63 102 206 968
the table above as a hockey stick diagram, having its inflection point in 2009

A hockey stick, that’s what every vertical’s analyst strives for

I looked up these frequencies using a plain google search on “curating content” for the different quarters. There were 471 hits in Q4/2010 alone, so this concept is really taking off. And this blog post isn’t included in that figure. Let’s see if we can tip the 1,000 results in 2010.

In practice, content curation has happened for hundreds of years already. This is what publishers are for, and I think they are really relieved that someone coined such a euphonic term now for what they do. Until recently they thought they were doing print products which doesn’t sound as smart as curating content.

I don’t want to further elaborate on the activity of curation or its pros and cons; others have done so already. Joseph Bachana seems to have had a nose for this trend very early: he blogged about it before the hockey stick reached its inflection point in 2009. Maybe he caused this frenzy by writing about it? Hey, that’s the quantum mechanics of blogging: a measurement may influence the system.

Another interesting trivia: if you search Google Ngrams for “curate,curating”, you see a dramatic decline for curate before it gains some momentum after 2002. But I think the 19th century books are about “curate” in the sense of “vicar”. And it’s hard to differentiate between the different meanings in a plain text search. They didn’t annotate book content semantically then. Do they now?

No, they don’t. They are busy curating.

Update 2011-07-10:

There are more than 20,000 results when searching for “curating content” in the first half of 2011. I’d have to use a logarithmic scale if I wanted to put this figure into the chart above.

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