The Business Model of Good Taste

We’re experiencing a content overload. There are an average of 550 new social media users each minute, and over 40,000 search queries on Google every second. The Facebook like button has been pressed 13 trillion times, and each new day welcomes another 682 million tweets. It seems that every time we blink there’s a new podcast published, or blog post to read, or book recommendation to order on Amazon. To make a long story short, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to disaggregate signal from noise.

Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, wrote last year:

“We’re living in a pivotal time in the history of mass communication — what we believe is the golden age of new media.”

With more creators, more content, and more choice than ever before, consumers are now being consumed by a state of analysis paralysis. The real scarcity isn’t content anymore. It’s attention. When it’s impossible to absorb everything from the flood of information, the best we can do is pick and choose what matters to us most — or, better yet, find the people who can do the curating for us. Mario Gabriele from The Generalist said it best:

“We’re all consuming more media, and there’s an increasing willingness to pay for high-quality content. The last year has also seen an explosion of great writers and analysts in the space — I believe we’re at the start of a creator breakout.”

As the amount of content grows, so does the market for credible curators.

A great case study is Nathan Baschez and Dan Shipper’s Everything Bundle. In April, they decided to offer a bundled version of their newsletters, expecting a few extra subscribers from the experiment. Instead, they grew together from 600 to 1,000 paying subscribers within the first month. With all this talk of unbundling (some examples are the unbundlings of college, G Suite, Reddit, and venture capital), Nathan and Dan’s intentional bundling proved to be a striking success.

The Everything Bundle case study is one of my favorites, but it’s not the only one, by any means. Channels Stack is a curated site for educational content on YouTube, organizing hundreds of channels into defined categories. The Browser is a daily newsletter from someone who reads 1,000 articles a day, choosing his five favorites and sending them out with a short summary. Oftentimes, these linked articles don’t have a paywall of their own at all — but subscribers of The Browser pay to have them sent in a curated list.

The demand is certainly there: Channels Stack launched on Product Hunt with a 5.0/5 average rating and nearly 400 upvotes, and The Browser has successfully figured out how to monetize free existing content (with over 40,000 followers on Twitter to boot).

We can go even further back — classic examples of successful curation businesses are record shops and bookstores, and examples in tech include Spotify (for music), Netflix (for TV and movies), and Uber (which bundled its UberEats offering into one app, thus increasing Uber’s TAM, or total addressable market).

Image: courtesy of Uber

In my view, however, the business of influencer bundling has only just begun. Curators are the new creators, and as consumers, we’re going to be willing to pay someone with good taste to help us sort through the ever-growing mass of information at our fingertips.

The Psychology Behind the Need for Curation

As it turns out, there’s some psychological ground to all of this. Think of it as a carefully mixed cocktail of the following:

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