My Kingdom for a Curator!

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Ah, the good old days. Postage stamp-sized videos that took so long to load that you had time to fix yourself a cup of tea, maybe make a sandwich, and get a little work done before you were able to watch. There were only a few players to choose from—fewer still if you were on a Mac. And none of them, save for the stray Star Wars trailer, were good enough to keep you away from the television.

And at least there, in the living room, there were only a few dozen channels to choose from and only one remote to get lost in the sofa.

It’s not like today, not even a little bit. More video, better video, and better quality video than ever before, delivered to our PCs, laptops, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and even our televisions via the internet. Bruce Springsteen once sang about “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”; these days, it’s thousands of channels and everything’s on. Every time I check my Roku, there are channels I didn’t even know existed but that I absolutely must watch, in addition to channels I never knew existed and still don’t much care about.

It’s enough to send the average consumer to despair, but even Elvis didn’t have enough guns to blow holes in all these screens. More and more, consumers are not going to be looking so much for content but for curated content, as Steve Rosenbaum so cogently writes about in his new book, Curation Nation.

Rosenbaum is a former video producer for MTV; he is currently the CEO of Magnify, an online video curation platform. But his interest in curation and entrepreneurship goes back to when he was a kid in New York, trying to make a bit of cash by reselling day-old newspapers—the same model, some would argue, that is driving so many aggregation websites today.

But where curation used to be the realm of academia, museums, and galleries, it’s now squarely in the purview of the netizen. “In an era of data abundance,” Rosenbaum writes, “the thing that is scarce is taste.” And as the very meaning of the phrase “online video” changes from “video that’s delivered via a computer” to “video that’s delivered via internet protocol or mobile carrier to all manner of devices,” there’s more need for curation—the sifting and winnowing of the wheat from the chaff—than ever before.

In many ways, the role of a magazine editor or conference chair has always been that of curator. We attempt to discern what topics are of most interest to our readers and attendees, to ferret out the most suitable writers and speakers to deliver those topics and to make sure that the end result is something that makes sense as a coherent whole, as more than just the sum of its parts.

We don’t always succeed, of course. But when we do, the results transcend even our intentions, and a magazine issue or conference becomes a work of art in itself, just as a well-curated gallery show or exhibit is itself a unique creation, with a unique story to tell that wouldn’t be apparent if all the individual pieces were simply laid out willy-nilly.

Dom Robinson achieved such a thing in the first annual Content Delivery Summit at Streaming Media Europe last year, with a programme in which each session built upon the previous one and attendees left feeling like they’d seen the content delivery ecosystem in a new light. I’m betting the same will be true of a new event we’re introducing at this year’s show: Connected Home 2011, a 1-day deep dive into intersecting worlds of online video, over-the-top delivery, and IPTV.

Our first step, of course, was finding the right curator, and I’m pleased to announce that William Cooper, Ph.D., of informitv will be leading the charge. Cooper is familiar to many of you—he presented a keynote at the 2009 Streaming Media Europe, and he’s a sought-after analyst and speaker on all things online video. Be sure to check www.streamingmedia for updates on speakers and topics—no EPG required.

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