Curators sift through a lot of what’s written or shared about a particular topic or topics and put them together in one place. Synthesizers, on the other hand, attempt to make sense of what happened.
Curators, thus, focus on breadth while synthesizers focus on depth. Excellent news outlets mix both curation and synthesis. They send you a “daily brief” that brings together the news you need to know. In addition, they also share links to deeper insights and analysis.
It helps to have a nice balance between curators and synthesizers. For example, if you love reading about technology, Benedict Evans’ or Azeem Azhar’s weekly newsletters are examples of curation. They put together a collection of links they think you should read. Ben Thompson’s Stratechery or Ben Evans’ blog posts (or The Notes by Ada project :-)), on the other hand, are examples of synthesis.
On average, more folks default to curation over synthesis. This is partly why Facebook is the media superpower that it is. It is easier to skim through a few links and a one line description than it is to commit oneself to reading analysis.
But, the more synthesis we read and understand, the better we learn and retain.
So, that then brings us to some interesting questions. For starters, is it worth revisiting what the goal of your information diet is? For example, if you only read the news to stay informed, can you reduce the amount of news you read by half and still be okay? And, if you read about your industry to learn, can you invest in reading more synthesis and, maybe, over time do some synthesis yourself by writing and sharing?
We all have fairly heavy information diets in this day and age and, on average, take in far more information than we need.
Time to cut those carbs, then.