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Will “Curation” Save Radio? Nope.

One of the ways radio's competitive advantage over competitors is often described is by invoking the term "curator" to define radio's role in guiding listeners to what's good in new music (for example). 

iPods may be able to play your perfect mix, the thinking goes, but it can't introduce you to interesting stuff you don't know yet. 

Well, there are several flaws in this thinking. 

First, while iPods do not provide a curatorial guide-like role, services like Slacker and Pandora certainly do, even though they are effectively automated (the "curator," in other words, is a robot, but an effective one). While this is a fairly shallow definition of curation, it's not far off the mark. 

Second, the vast majority of radio listeners do not seek out curation from their favorite stations. While they may listen for what's new, they don't necessarily expect to be "guided" by "experts." Nor would most say they need this level of guidance, which is more characteristic of a AAA format (commercial or especially non-commercial) than of every other format combined. 

Third, curation over the air requires people – human beings – who can curate. To guide people to cool new music, you need a recognized music expert who is as interesting and entertaining as she is knowledgeable. Just being the station for what's "new" does not make you a curator. It only makes you a place where curation might be welcome. 

Consider the bookstore example. 

The employees who recommend the books are the curators. And they lend their names to their recommendations along with a blurb justifying their picks. This is curation. On-site experts exhibiting their expertise for your benefit. 

Curation will not be radio's savior as long as that expert element is lacking or downsized or de-cluttered or trimmed.

Curation doesn't simply happen. It is earned. 

In case listeners want it at all.

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