Dismiss ye olde newspapers if you will, but curation is one of the world's most undervalued commodities

It's not just the tactile pleasure of reading that makes newspapers important


I have rehearsed this scenario before, but try to imagine we live in a world where printed media had not been invented, and our only source of information and entertainment was the Internet. And then someone came up with a really smart idea, and gathered together a group of really clever people, got them to sift through the mass of information that's freely available in digital form, decide what's important and what's not, what you can trust and what you can't, and put it all together in a thing called a newspaper, which can be delivered to your very home.

It's portable, it's not dependent on a wireless connection and, for many, there is also an intrinsic pleasure in turning over the pages. I posit this idea not to promote the virtue of newspapers, but to illustrate my growing feeling that one of the most prized - and undervalued - commodities in the modern world is curation.

We live in an era of almost infinite options. We are bamboozled by the possibilities on offer. We are often defeated by the Internet simply because of its limitless horizons. While we appreciate that it is a more evolved state affairs to have countless TV stations rather than the three we started with, and that, from restaurants to energy providers, we have the ability to pay our money and take our choice, we consumers are eager to be led through this maze of alternatives by a trusted guide. Hence the popularity of price comparison websites.

I recognise there is a generational issue to consider here, and that young people believe that a world of multiple choice to be their entitlement, but those of us who remember that a sandwich meant cheese and chutney rather than rocket and crayfish can feel discomfited by the range of goods and services on offer. Which broadband supplier? Which electricity tarrif? Which mobile phone or computer? Which bank? And that's before you decide whether you fancy an Armenian takeaway or a Mongolian barbecue.

Opposite my office is one of Britain's most celebrated cheese shops. Once through its doors, you are greeted by the cheeses of the world. The varieties of sheep's cheese are in double figures, and there's Cheddars of all sizes and provenance. It is completely over-facing, to the extent that a colleague of mine has been to the shop three or four times and has walked out without buying anything, so baffled was he by the complexity and range of the offering. And that's how I feel about life. I want to have choice, and I like having the power to select services that were once handed down to us by rote. But enough already. I need curation.

I'd like the sense that someone of taste and discretion and experience has already whittled down the choices. (That's the problem with search engines, by the way - no taste!) The world needs editing - and yes, I use that word advisedly. Give me the cheeses that matter, offer me a wine list that's manageable. And put all the information that's raining down on us from cyberspace in a convenient, easy-to-handle form. Sorry, I never intended to be a defence of newspapers!

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