Saturday, February 06, 2016

The curation challenge

This is an excellent article that underlines the importance of what we are presently doing with Castalia House and REDACTED. It's not about production or distribution anymore, but curation. And while the SJWs in possession of the cultural high ground understand this, they fortunately do not understand how to properly utilize it in a manner that will permit them to hold onto it.
For thousands of years, media was a privilege of the elite, concentrated in cities and confined to a single moment in time. With Edison’s phonograph, music had become non-rivalrous, infinitely replicable and indefinite. Yes, it took decades until the average family could afford a record player or radio, but the dawn of democratized consumption had arrived.

Unfortunately, however, this same trend led to an ossification in content creation and distribution. Records, after all, cost money. Production was expensive – as was distribution, marketing and promotion. So expensive, in fact, that almost every artist lacked the capital required to actually release their music – a need that paved the way for record labels (or TV studios, film studios, publishers etc.) that would finance said efforts in exchange for hefty royalty fees and content rights. These money men though wouldn’t and couldn’t afford to invest in every artist with a dream. Given the upfront cost of talent development and distribution, labels invested in “Arts & Repertoire” men, whose job it was to sift through countless musicians in order to identify the select few with “commercial viability”. Potential artists were then further cut down in number when it came time to actually distributing their content – and then again via marketing/promotional support. Underlying this fact was an unavoidable truth: content publishers had scale-related disincentives to support more than a handful of artists. Why record, distribute, market and promote 15 albums if you can achieve the same unit sales with 10?

Though this system was far from ideal, it was the inevitable outcome of a market in which talent was abundant, capital limited, distribution bandwidth (e.g. shelf-space, broadcast spectrum, print layouts) scarce, barriers high, and the cost of failure significant. But as a result, the content industry slowly shaped itself around a mysterious cabal of financiers and executive tastemakers that essentially programmed the national media identity. And anyone who wanted in had to move to New York, LA or Nashville, pay their dues and hope to work their way up until they could call the shots.

Of course, the music business was far from alone. The more expensive the medium, the more constrained the supply, the smaller the community and more homogenous the content. Local disc jockeys, newspapers and TV affiliates did have the opportunity to repackage and reprogram – to imprint their personality or take, if you will – but this was limited in scope, drew upon only the content that was already distributed, had to fit within an existing corporate identity and, again, depended on access to capital or infrastructure.

Over time, however, technology did what it does best: production costs fell, quality went up and distribution bandwidth increased. Economics, in turn, improved, as did the industry’s carrying capacity – the number of artists, titles, and pieces of content that could be supported. The media business was beginning to loosen up.

But it took until the late 2000s – more than a century after the phonograph – for creation and distribution to truly democratize. With the Internet, distribution became free and truly non-rival (if a bit non-excludable), while the proliferation of low-cost media equipment, mobile devices, and powerful editing software dramatically lowered the costs of production. The rise of creator-based consumption platforms and crowd-funding platforms, meanwhile, eliminated many of the remaining barriers hindering independent content creation. This meant that content could not only be created by those outside the business, but that commercializing this content became significantly less expensive and risky. This led to a massive increase in available, indexed and distributed content.

While the media business benefited from many of these changes, the consequences have been fundamentally destabilizing. The television industry has experienced such a surge in original content that annual cancellation rates have quintupled over the past 15 years (twice as many original scripted series were cancelled last year than even aired in 2000). Since 1985, the indie film industry has seen a nearly twentyfold increase in the number of theatrical releases even though ticket sales have remained flat (in 2014, the Head of SXSW’s film festival decried that “the impulse to make a film had far outrun the impulse to go out and watch one”). Plummeting music sales and unprecedented competition have made launching a new artist so expensive that catalogue sales now make up more than 200% of major label profits (in 2014, David Goldberg privately encouraged Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton to essentially halt A&R efforts, as well as investments in actually making new music). With the democratization of media creation, it’s easier than ever to make content but harder than ever to make a hit.

Ironically, the increasing difficulty in creating hits has not bolstered the “hit maker” system but rather further weakened it instead. In 2013, Macklemore became the first unsigned artist since 1994 to have a number-one single in the United States – a feat he repeated just three months later. Mega-star Taylor Swift has been with an independent label since her debut album and multi-platinum groups such as The Eagles and Radiohead have left the majors to start their own. The struggles of print publishing are well-known, but the uniqueness of some of “print’s” recent successes are worth mentioning. The 50 Shades of Grey trilogy, which has outsold The Harry Potter septet on Amazon in the United Kingdom and made author E.L. James 2012’s highest-earning author, became a viral hit on long before it was picked up in print (and it’s unlikely a publisher would have bought the rights upfront). Andy Weir’s The Martian is another self-publishing success story.

This metamorphosis is about far more than ever increasing amounts of content and a handful of stars existing outside the traditional media ecosystem. The entire media business is inverting. For decades, scarce capital and constrained distribution capacity meant that the media’s industry bottlenecks sat in the middle of the value chain. Today, however, the bottleneck has moved to the very end: consumer attention. This shifts the balance of power from determining what should be made to finding a way to convince people what to watch, listen to or read in a world of infinitely abundant content.

The preeminence of this challenge has given to the rise of a new type of aggregator-distributor, including news content sites like Gawker, the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed; video and music aggregation services like Netflix, YouTube and Pandora; and even physical products subscription offerings like Birchbox and Lootcrate. What’s more, it enabled the major social networks to use their customer data to build massive stickiness, launch their own publishing platforms and become traffic kingmakers. More broadly, this shift has swung the balance of power from programmers with the ability to greenlight content to curators with the ability to get that content heard, seen or read. Of course, the old programming and financing guard remain important, but with the democratization of production and the explosion of content creation, the power of 1st party programming is quickly being eclipsed by the ascendance of 3rd party content curation. The gatekeepers are still manning their posts, but the city outgrew the walls and the barbarians circumvented the gates entirely.
Content is still king, but distribution is no longer the gate at which the gatekeepers can control it. That doesn't mean there will be no more gates or gatekeepers, but content will now be influenced rather than controlled, and the influencers will be different people with very different skill sets.

It's easy to produce content now. It's easy to distribute now too. But how do you reach the consumers, let them know your content exists, and convince them to try it instead of the myriad other options? That's the curation challenge.

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Blogger RobertT February 06, 2016 1:42 PM  

"But how do you reach the consumers, let them know your content exists, and convince them to try it instead of the myriad other options? That's the curation challenge."

That hits the nail on the head. Getting eyeballs is very difficult.

Blogger James Dixon February 06, 2016 1:53 PM  

> That hits the nail on the head.

Yep. The new gatekeepers will be trusted reviewers and trusted sources of material.

Anonymous Anonymous February 06, 2016 1:55 PM  

We have a small business and have a Facebook business page. It literally does nothing for sales and we use it to post current pics. The social media marketing buzz is over rated. I think peer to peer recommendation is still king and we can use the internet to reach out to our peer groups personally. Do what you did with Cernovich, drive traffic to those we support.

Blogger Derek Kite February 06, 2016 2:13 PM  

So the curators of today are not much different from the old radio stations that could make or break an artist. The most valuable skill a producer would have is contacts in that medium. It ended up getting heavy, old and disconnected from the audience, and any change that removed a restriction allowed the artist/consumer to reroute around them.

A good sign that a way of doing business is about to collapse is when strategies of limitation become the norm. I remember some promotion from around the time when things were starting to fall apart. This album will be on sale for three days, a special offering, limited edition. Actually no, you are simply making it harder to get the music I want, and there is an easier way.

Anonymous No February 06, 2016 2:29 PM  

Derek, not quite. Curation is not a is an archive with customizable tools for communities and individuals to maximize markets.

A radio station was one way. Curation is multichannel.

Blogger wrf3 February 06, 2016 2:29 PM  

The new gatekeepers will be smart devices that learn your preferences and find content for you. Indeed, they will watch the movies, listen to the music, and read the books to find what you may like.

Anonymous Garrulus February 06, 2016 2:44 PM  

@bard I agree, p2p recommendations are still king. In piracy only, or mostly, content counts, and that's hard to corrupt by the central entertainment agency.

Blogger Jed Mask February 06, 2016 3:19 PM  

@VD Great insight... Thank you.

Blogger The Other Robot February 06, 2016 3:33 PM  

The new gatekeepers will be smart devices that learn your preferences and find content for you. Indeed, they will watch the movies, listen to the music, and read the books to find what you may like.

You mean like this shit

Even though it is free, I simply cannot read any more NAZIs are evil baby eaters and the Jews are the most put-upon people in the worlds shit.

Blogger Charlie Martel February 06, 2016 3:45 PM  

@4 Shrekli fell for that. He's that drug price troll.

@6 I've been running Feedly with SPOI with regex filtering of feminis(im|t) and misogyn(y|ist) for a year now. Best kook filter evarrrr.

Blogger stareatgoatsies February 06, 2016 4:02 PM  

This reminded me I've an account on How's the site doing? It was a nice idea, very competently executed. I just checked it out again but couldn't unfollow someone with 1000s of recos (sent a bug report).

Blogger Jack Ward February 06, 2016 4:52 PM  

Redacted? I must have missed the memo. Please tell, what is redacted? Beyond the obvious dictionary meaning.

Blogger Mark Butterworth February 06, 2016 5:06 PM  

The real future is the engineering (post-natural evolution) of the the Race (white, yellow, take your pick) to higher intelligence, beauty and health. Not like Huxley’s three class system either since we’ll have robots and AI to do all the repetitive grunt work.

This Curator social media system of influencers is temporary, too, since it is a tyranny of averages - average and low brow tastes - with an occasional Forest Gump or The Martian here and there with no Hamlets or Anna Kareninas.

But eliminate the less than 150 IQs from the Race and consider what that will produce. The divide then will be between the mature and immature, the experienced and inexperienced, the wise and ignorant with degrees between the extremes. Intelligence does not impart taste, sensitivity to aesthetics, judgment, and love of truth in itself. And the young can’t help their lack of wisdom. As the saying goes, good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.

The real battle currently waged within the Elite is whether to reinstitute slavery on a large scale (and destroy the bourgeoisie) in Western civilization or eliminate superfluous populations and tax (wealth) eaters with technology (AI, robots). The Slavers are winning for the moment, but anyone who has tried managing people in any enterprise would happily replace as many as they could with machines. People are a**holes, even the best working teams of them fall apart in time.

If the sociopathic Elites don’t need low and average IQ people to accomplish their goals, then they will get rid of them. The hidden irony is that very high IQ people don’t need the 120 - 135 IQ elites either and will eventually eliminate them.

The is a good premise for a SF book. I think I might write it except the problem being that there isn’t enough higher IQ people for the time being with good taste or imagination to buy it.

Blogger Mark Butterworth February 06, 2016 5:37 PM  

Asimov’s, The Naked Sun, robot novel of the planet Solaria is a bit of a taste of a truly Elite social system with robot AI infrastructure. I don’t believe that the humans were homogeneous in intelligence, though, but a mix as is now.

Whereas my recent novel, Aryndell, imagines what might happen (a bit like Poul Anderson’s, Brainstorm) if everyone on Earth were to suddenly become brilliant, healthy (immortal), and beautiful. (There is a catch, though. Everyone changes to look like their Alien benefactors in exchange for these boons.)

GATTACA is coming, no doubt, but that movie failed to indicate selection for intelligence specifically or primary among its eugenics.

I wonder if sociopathy, which has driven so much of human history in terms of aggression to dominate others and nature is a trait that will be reinforced with eugenics or eliminated. Genetics appears to play some role in empathy.

Anonymous Didactic February 06, 2016 6:14 PM  

what is redacted?

Umm, what is redacted has been redacted.

Anonymous Peter #0231 February 06, 2016 6:59 PM  


The redaction is fine.

Blogger Thucydides February 06, 2016 7:04 PM  

The eyeball problem will be the most difficult to overcome. I can see annoying waves of spammers trying to convince you through advertising, spamming rating sites, and otherwise pushing to get their content to the top of the algorithmic heap. Spam filtering will probably be a growth industry for a long time, as highly engineered data mining to help users sift through the chaff to find the kernels of wheat.

The biggest loss to me seems to be serendipity. I loved being able to browse through a book or record store (remember those?) and stumble across something, perhaps left on a table or display that I had never heard of or even considered. Reviewers might take on some of the job for consumers (consider that a form of "word of mouth"), but then we get the problem of entryism again (we have seen this in things like Wikipedia, but even old time reviewers like Roger Ebert were essentially imposing their tastes on us).

This will be a very interesting problem, and watching the solutions that come out will be fascinating. If I were to place a bet, I'd say the true answer lies in human evolutionary biology: we are programmed for family/clan/tribe and tend to naturally move and work in units of up to 10 (family), 30-50 (clan) and about 150 max (tribe). Consider we have everything from team sport to business units to military forces divided in divisions of these sizes. I'll leave this to the smarter people to find the solution.

Anonymous BGKB February 06, 2016 7:05 PM  

The new gatekeepers will be smart devices that learn your preferences and find content for you...I simply cannot read any more NAZIs are evil baby eaters and the Jews are the most put-upon people in the worlds shit

Don't feel bad David Duke probably gets the same recommendation. I am probably shorting out their servers trying to profile me. Recommended for you "12 gay jews go out to Summer Camp Bath House in The Woods, only to encounter their chainsaw wielding neo-Nazi ex- boyfriend."

Anonymous Anonymous February 06, 2016 7:12 PM  


REDACTED is a brilliant re-imagining of REDACTED, to be unveiled in the fullness of time.

Those in the know are sworn to complete secrecy under threat of gruesome and painful death at the hands of Malwyn, she who is also known as the Whore-Mistress of the Spiked Six-Whip. And... we really don't want that, what with so many tasty, but slightly cheetos, flavored SJW bones to chew on.

Blogger tz February 06, 2016 7:23 PM  

The problem with curation is the ultimate purpose or end. Discouraging candies for crisps and pretzels only changes which unhealthy food one selects. The trash to great scale - up down - is orthogonal to the left-right political scale.

The SJWs are about control, not content.

Two Towers, Treebeard says: "You know how strong trolls are, but they were created in mockery of the ents, like the orcs were created in envy and mockery of the elves".

SJWs can only mock, they can never make. And I think this correctly identifies the cardinal sin involved: Envy. Envy is the only sin that gives no joy or pleasure.

A happy wife with good husband must be made unhappy with the situation. Good literature must be mocked. Honorable people must be pulled down and honor itself derided. To a certain extent this is what Ellsworth Toohey tells Peter in The Fountainhead, but he wants to rule and must destroy the standards, and people learn to take joy and pleasure in mediocrity. He is driven by avarice, not envy.

Do you know any SJWs that are ever happy, content, or satisfied? Even when they score a victory? Even if they get an apology, it isn't enough. And they aren't even happy with the destruction. There may have been some kind of mad Kali ecstasy when Eich was ousted, but no real joy. They, like Ungoliant, only grow hungrier the more they consume.

You cannot defeat or co-opt envy, it is like trying to fight darkness with darkness. But a single candle destroys the dark. The problem is not that they laud pink literature, it is that they laud crap literature because much of the great literature is blue.

Envy requires something more akin to an exorcism or a "come to Jesus" moment. Hence going after those in its grip is often futile, except to stop their direct destruction - when they are vandalizing or destroying, reminding them their precious things can be vandalized or destroyed too might be sufficient to make them stop acting, but they won't stop seething and trying to find targets.

In the case of arts and the media, one defense is to show their shallowness, their inability to create anything, and that their intellectual educated reviews are merely taunts and mockery that most people grow out of by 4th grade so that people can then see through the attack and decide for themselves, or through more reliable sources if something is great or trash on its merits.

The puzzle is how to make the great accessible enough so that people start choosing the great instead of the crap. When you've experienced beauty, you don't go for the ugly. But often beauty is subtle or even sublime.

The Virtue opposite Envy is Kindness or Admiration. Kindness appears in Aristotle's Rhetoric as "helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped". And what people need today is a restoration of the proper aesthetic, not a way of choosing between different kinds of ugly.

Even something like OSS - people can contribute even if they aren't that great themselves in being part of something great. SJWs want to destroy, and they mock something great because they don't like those who made it and envy those who did.

Note how it isn't really about diversity, inclusiveness, or anything else - SJWs would attack Grace Jones if she said something negative about Bruce or Bradley. It is about envy and the hatred it produces against the true, the good, and the beautiful. They want to control so they can destroy. They want to make everyone as miserable as they are. Misery loves companies into bankruptcy.

Blogger tz February 06, 2016 7:27 PM  

@12 redacted is a response to blueacted.

Blogger James Dixon February 06, 2016 8:49 PM  

> The new gatekeepers will be smart devices that learn your preferences and find content for you.

That will play a significantly larger role, yes. But it won't completely replace the human element.

> Redacted?

I believe that is what is known int the literary field as foreshadowing, Jack. :)

> But eliminate the less than 150 IQs from the Race and consider what that will produce.

A whole lot of dysfunctional people. How many 150+ IQ people have you been around. A significant percentage of them have real problems relating the world.

> The is a good premise for a SF book.

The Last Master. Gordon R. Dickson. Not quite the same thing, but close enough.

Blogger Harold February 06, 2016 9:34 PM  

@6 Netflix and Amazon Prime video already recommend new shows and movies based on previously watched shows and movies. And hits my wife's preferences right on the money. Amazon recommends products based on past purchases. Not always intelligently. E.G, if I've bought snow chains for my tractor, I don't need to buy more snow chains... But, they do hit on things I consider buying, and sometimes do. Google recommends things all the time. And their algorithm is horrible.

Anonymous Mr. Rational February 06, 2016 9:39 PM  

@22 What 150+ IQs have trouble relating to are sub-100 IQs.  That would stop being a problem for them if the sub-150's were too rare to matter.

Anonymous #8601 Jean Valjean February 06, 2016 10:00 PM  

@20 Envy seems to be the most prominent sin of our time, certainly among SJWs and women.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 07, 2016 2:59 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Paul Widdecombe February 07, 2016 3:01 AM  

Is blisteringly simple, actually.

Human activity is driven by four vectors according to classical economics.

Fear v greed
Supply v demand

Supply won. Renders shockingly naked the fact that transactions are only fulfilled by fear of state violence. (I.e. by force of law - there is no natural market.)

The solution? Blisteringly simple. Push on the punters greed. When you see it, you will kick yourself & wonder why you never thought of it before. But it isn't yet time & this subtle change must not happen in isolation, or it will be subsumed into the mire of greedy corporatism. Be patient like john Galt.

Oh, the economists forgot something -love. There's a reason for that, probably...

Anonymous Anonymous February 07, 2016 4:43 AM  

Before modernity (back when most everyone sustenance farmed) the average person was also a storyteller and played musical instruments. The professional entertainer class is an invention of the modern age.

Since most everyone (on all sides of the political and religious spectrums) agrees that modernity was a mistake this means that eventually we'll return to this pre-modern state.

Sites like are the first signs of that.

Blogger Jack Mikkelson February 07, 2016 5:50 AM  

Okay. So, I have a question about publishing music.

I am an unprofessional composer. This means that I do not play an instrument well, and that I have never composed an album of music before.

However, I must make music. Now, now, now. I've been learning how to write music, and it will be just a matter of time before I have an entire album of it to go public with.

My question:

In this new marketing age, who do I turn to in order to arrange for musicians to play my work? And who will I be going to in order to distribute the album?

Please help me. You are all so very resourceful on these matters.

Jack Michaelson

Anonymous Spartacus xxxxx February 07, 2016 6:45 AM  

@29. Jack Mikkelson

In this new marketing age, who do I turn to in order to arrange for musicians to play my work? And who will I be going to in order to distribute the album?

Start with your local craigslist, musicians wanted and available. Even if they don't care about your project, and most will not, some will recommend someone else for you to ask. Sometimes you will see "song writers wanted" ads. Ask your local music store workers too. If there is a local band that is close to your genre, go see them, maybe say hi. Music is still a local affair for an obvious reason. Writers can collaborate across the world but nobody wants to "go" to a collaborative online gig.

You can distribute on sites like youtube and bandcamp. Look for bands in your genre there too. Also ask for feedback- 'would you like to hear this piece and give me your honest opinion?' Do the same with non-musicians- this can save you from going down dead ends, etc. If it's a dog, either rewrite it or drop it for something else: fail faster.

Any musician has asked the same question about distribution that you ask. Ask them what they know, especially the ones that are successful.

Anonymous joe doakes February 07, 2016 9:19 AM  

"But how do you reach the consumers, let them know your content exists, and convince them to try it instead of the myriad other options?"

You tell potential buyers that your work is The Best as shown by a Prestigious Award so they can safely buy your work rather than others, knowing their money won't be wasted on dreck.

Recapture the Hugos.

Blogger tz February 07, 2016 12:21 PM  

St. Paul, in 2 Tim 4 anticipated the iPod/iPad/iPhone
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
The curator bots will figure out what tickles your ears.
Confirmation bias in an app.

There seems to be a spectrum. Some want to have their opinions confirmed all the time and tune into talking point dispensers. I see this everywhere, liberals, conservatives, libertarians, christians, atheists. Often there is compartmentalized cognitive dissonance like what should the response be to the deaths caused by ISIS and Planned Parenthood. But the curatabots will reinforce this dissonance. That is its job.

The other side wants to know the truth and is always looking for the person that can challenge them, attempt to change their opinion with good novel arguments. They are the solid thinkers. They are equally diverse, because there are some things unknowable or untestable (An atheist anarcho(libertarian) and a christian conservative can understand each other and find the crux of the disagreement that isn't resolvable).

I don't think the latter can be curated as a bot can't tell the difference between a talking point someone states without any understanding, and an argument based on reason and reality.

Note that these bots will even kill rhetoric. It will block the best rhetoriticians with opposing views the way it is done manually on twitter.

Anonymous Quartermaster February 07, 2016 1:34 PM  

I seriously doubt the Hugos will be rescued, alas. The other option is to create you own “prestigious award.”

Blogger tz February 07, 2016 8:32 PM  

Gittough, gittuff, gituff, or gitough domains are likely available
Stick a fork in Github.

Blogger James Dixon February 07, 2016 9:01 PM  

> What 150+ IQs have trouble relating to are sub-100 IQs.

That's hardly the only problem they have.

Blogger pdwalker February 07, 2016 10:08 PM  

@20 tz

Well said.

Anonymous Spartacus xxxxx February 08, 2016 12:07 AM  

@35. pdwalker

@20 tz

Well said.

Second that. Copied, pasted, saved for further.

Blogger August February 08, 2016 11:17 AM  

I work in a library. If we could get rid of the ALA's influence, de-converge, and get a little institutional integrity back, we could do curation. Hell, most of us started working in a library because we like reading so damn much. But they keep pushing in the direction of lowest common denominator crap because they like to point to statistics (door count, circulation stats) as a metric of success. Having an owner to please, or a profit to make would be a much better metric, but we know bureaucrats love to insulate themselves from such things. Still, since public libraries are mostly funded locally, it may be possible to take back at least some of them.

Blogger Mr. B.A.D. February 12, 2016 3:41 PM  

Finish your book. Dammit!

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