The value of new metaphors vs. old metaphors (magazine publishing vs. curation-aggregation)


A few weeks ago, I ran across this quote from Media Bistro’s FishbowlNY: “Ah, curation. Another lofty new* label. As far as we can tell, “curation” is to “aggregation” like “online magazine” is to “blog.”

The quote was in reference to an interview on with Slate editor David Plotz in which he said, “There’s a lot of stuff that Slate does that is built around aggregation and curation.”

Which led me to observe: As long as there has been a Slate, I’ve been confused about its use of the metaphor magazine to describe itself.**

Which then led me to conjecture: If Slate had skipped the magazine metaphor when it first started in 1996*** and focused more on the “we’re a new kind of medium that serves as a curation and aggregation platform for what’s important to smart people” they would probably own the Washington Post today, rather than the other way around.****

*New? Not sure what that means, as I registered the URL “” in 2007.

**I got over that when I decided the word magazine means anything you want it to mean. And, for that matter, so does the word curation.

***As you may recall, Slate first lost lots of Microsoft’s money. For a time (a year), Slate believed in the magazine metaphor so much, it charged readers a subscription fee of $20 per year. After readers decided such a paywall was a brickwall, Slate continued to lose lots of Microsoft’s money until it was ultimately acquired by the Washington Post where it is very profitable because it is aggregated by interns who “work” for Demand Media. Actually, I made up that last part about it being very profitable.)

****If you need help connecting the dots on that statement: Google News aggregates news. is an online magazine.

[Art: Cover from the book, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!, by the poet and philosopher, Yogi Berra.]