TLDR: Curation has its own roles in social media and curators represent a large and powerful demographic. Web3 protocols provide curators with new opportunities to monetize and creators with opportunities to form their communities around curation. Platforms also benefit from leveraging web3 curation and moderation protocols for their content feeds.
Are you a content consumer or creator? Most of us are somewhere between creation and consumption. Not quite creator and far from solely consuming content, social curators are a vital part of the content ecosystem. Together, they form the 3C’s of social content — creation, curation, and consumption.
The creator economy has exploded over the last few years, but curators are still left empty-handed. There are >300m curators who've never made a dime off their influence. How can Web3 disrupt this and catalyze the emergence of the creator economy's middle class? What roles constitute curation? How can it be monetized by influencers and their communities? How can communities build quality curation habits internally to help them grow? Let's dive in.
From Social Graphs to Interest Graphs
Curation, in a sense, is its own form of intertextuality, or the shaping of a text’s meaning by a new participant. While a social graph is defined by the connections one maintains in online networks, curators create focused interest graphs that represent the network of individuals bound by expressed recurring public interests.
In social media, a curator is the maintainer of interest graphs. By discovering, liking, organizing, and sharing content from around the Web, curators invest in their interest graphs and the relationships that define them. Information becomes currency and as a result, the social capital of curators is earned through qualifying, filtering, and refining relevant content.
As we like and rate interesting content, we basically share a bit of ourselves, serving as an expression of what interests us. The new connections we earn as a result change the nature of our social graph. (Solis)
The evolution of social graphs into interest graphs lays the groundwork for a more efficient and connected series of networks that combine context and attention. Interest graphs link individuals to the people and information they most align with across focused themes.
Platform Curation and Moderation
When moderating content, social networks face a trilemma Albert Wagner refers to as the Social Media Triangle:
- Freedom: there isn’t a central authority that can exert power/censorship or appropriate rents generated.
- Openness: anyone can join a globally connected network and express themselves.
- Criticism: there is a mechanism by which people get exposed to opposing viewpoints and relevant facts and while curtailing information cascades.
The incumbent networks fail on the first goal, as they are controlled by for-profit corporations. These companies are slowly learning what Wikipedia showed privately-owned encyclopedias: that the only way to scale curation is by decentralizing it. They're looking at options for Section 230 like protection in return for opening up their feeds and APIs. Jack Dorsey explained that Bluesky would allow Twitter to build "open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation". Doing so would rid Twitter of much of the liability on the content on its platform. By reducing the network effect lock-in of the incumbents, new interfaces can be created that let us interact with multiple systems transparently, no matter which one our friends are on. In this reality, content moderation/curation would be incentivized by some protocol, allowing users to monetize their likes, ratings, and reporting.
Curator Rewards via Crypto Incentives
There are currently specific ways that users can earn from curation through participating in Web3 protocols. On open protocols, any purchase or sale is a form of curation. For example, the most expensive NFTs are at the top of OpenSea and Rarible marketplaces. Prediction markets can also be viewed as curation mechanisms where money curates what's popular. The Graph Protocol has successfully launched a robust curator program (with 1600+ participants) for maintaining their subgraphs. Curators deposit GRT to subgraph bonding curves and earn a portion of query fees + curation rewards. The more tokens deposited to a subgraph, the more valuable that data is perceived to be and the more query fees it is thought to earn.
Curation exists in DeFi in the form of token-curated registries, or systems of coming to consensus on which assets or pieces of information should exist in a certain list. A great example of this is Kleros' Tokens Curated List which pays users to curate a list of tokens to be used on exchanges and platforms like Uniswap. Vote with your token stake on which tokens you think should be added to the list and get paid if they do.
YUP curator rewards
Yup is a curation protocol that rewards curators in $YUP for their likes and ratings across the web. A Twitter 'like', for example, is weighted based on the liker's influence, given a token value, and distributed to the tweet's author and all the curators that came before. This incentivizes users to like and rate accurately while distributing rewards to the most socially valuable content, giving every user and URL an influence score out of 100. So far the protocol collected over 480k likes/ratings and given out over $170k in YUP rewards.
This mechanism expands to NFT art, where artists and owners can get YUP rewards for their pieces. In its full form, NFT YUP Rewards means that the Yup Protocol will track on-chain ownership data associated with each NFT and link URLs to them. Curators will be rewarded from future likes given to the NFT from any site or platform. Social tokens and their creators can link their YUP earnings from social media engagement to a specific token, allowing social token holders to claim YUP rewards earned by those social accounts during their time of holding. The best content is then aggregated in feeds and Yup recognizes curators for being early on great creators and content.
How communities can curate
In addition to protocols, creators (and/or their communities) have a natural advantage in curating content and can use curation as a self-reinforcing mechanism for community building. Here are a few categories they can curate under (Ana Andjelic):
- Values - Filtering brands within a category based on their values (decentralization, tokens, privacy, censorship-resistance).
- Expertise - Share content that creators know a lot about (art, gaming, music, trading, solidity dev).
- Cultural moment/atmosphere - Tap into a current trend, such as NFTs or DeFi.
- Location - Make language-specific Discord channels and separate branches based on geography (ETH Denver or BTC Africa).
- Hobby and interest - Curate content that your community is passionate about.
- Price - Price can capture attention with titles such as “NFTs under 1 ETH” or "$1-5m market cap tokens to check out".
- Community - Users love buying products products selected by other users within a community. Leverage your online community to curate around existing consumption.
Curation is the gateway drug to creation; it is the best first step in transitioning from consumer to producer. It doesn't have to be done alone; in fact, communities and protocols of all shapes and sizes are thirsty for them. Platforms should think of new ways to incentivize user-generated curation and content moderation. Creators should leverage curators to grow their communities.