A few random thoughts on 'discovery'

There was a time, not too long ago, when I was convinced discovery was the ‘next big thing’ on the web.

My thinking was that the internet was full of amazing content, and was only going to get more. That people were already drowning in content thrown at them, and it was only going to get worse. The amount of time to consume is constant (if not shrinking), and yet the volume of content to consume is growing at an exponential rate.

All of which lead me to conclude people will need a way to discover the best of all that content, or at the very least filter out all the low quality noise.

But having stepped away from the guts of 'how’ for a bit, and looking back, I’m pretty sure that was the wrong conclusion.

Why?

The short answer is that I believe I under-estimated the desire to really find the 'best’, and I think to a lesser degree I also held too lofty a definition of the word 'best’.

I now think the truth is most people are flooded with content and limited in what they can actually consume, but it’s not all bad and noisy content that they *feel* they are wasting their time on…much of it is already really great (for them) content and is basically 'good enough’ for their current use case.

Part of this is really just a frame-of-mind problem.

I was thinking people should be in a 'discover’ mode but people are really more often in a 'catch up’ or at the very least a 'keep up’ mode.

What I mean is that you probably aren’t hopping onto twitter or facebook hoping or expecting to have your mind blown…you’re more likely looking to just quickly see what people you know are thinking or talking about.

And you probably aren’t pulling up CNN, Buzzfeed, PandoDaily, or any of these other high-traffic content sites because you are looking for something new or something better…you’re there because you want to keep up with what everyone else knows or is at the very least thinking and talking about.

And I think that’s probably what gets at the core problem with 'discovery’ as a business more than anything else…people, in general (or en-masse), aren’t actually motivated or interested in finding something new…they are *way* more interested in just not being left in the dark.  

That turns out to be exactly what 'social’ solves so amazingly well and, I think, why it’s been such a success so far.

The world moves too fast for the average person to care too much about getting out on the edge…the bigger challenge for most of us is just to keep up or probably even more common, to catch up in the first place.

So, after all that, I now think discovery remains a fascinating academic realm (and still extremely important in certain use-cases) but probably not a business in-itself…at least not a massive, world-changing, one like I used to believe.

How about you? Do you still think content discovery could/should be big business? Do you care? Should you?

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

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