NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Humans are back in style with technology companies these days as the likes of Apple (AAPL) - Get Report, Facebook (FB) - Get Report and Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report forgo algorithms and data for good old-fashioned curators.
But while human curators may be trendy, they also add some significant expenses for these companies.
Just today, Apple launched its new music-streaming service, which will offer curated playlists from three DJs -- Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga. The move sets Apple apart from other music-streaming services like Pandora (P) and Spotify, which use only algorithms to present music instead of human DJs. Apple's also adding a human element to its upcoming Apple News product, which will feature news stories from various publications like Quartz and Bloomberg that will be handpicked by Apple editors.
But Apple isn't the only technology company replacing technology with human beings. Facebook and Twitter have both been looking to add a human touch to their newsfeeds. Twitter is hiring an editorial team to comb through all of the site's content and organize tweets in relevant ways. These new hires will be in charge of features like Project Lightning, which will organize tweets by events and breaking news. Facebook's news app Paper has also been employing human editors to sift through the news.
Even some private companies are getting in on human curation, with Snapchathiring content analysts to comb through snaps.
Adding a human element makes it easier for these media companies to take a lot of content and turn it into something valuable for users. A consumer who eyes Twitter for the first time may be overwhelmed by the possibilities and the surplus of content, but with Project Lightning, that consumer may have an easier time navigating the site.
Human curators also solve issues that come along with algorithms, like when Facebook's automated "Year in Review" surfaced some unwanted photos of lost loved ones for certain users. Having a human review this content instead of a machine could prevent these mishaps.
Plus there's the celebrity element in certain instances. If Apple were to get Beyonce to curate a playlist, for example, that would certainly be appealing for a number of consumers.
The challenge, though, is whether human curation is sustainable and affordable for these companies.
For a company like Apple or Facebook, they can certainly afford to experiment with these kinds of projects. They can "take risks, test and learn quickly, to see what that next trend may be or the next opportunity for innovation," said Kosha Gada, a principal at global management consulting firm AT Kearney. Apple ended last quarter with $193.5 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities, while Facebook had $12.41 billion at the end of the quarter.
With so many options for where consumers can find content, be it news or music, Apple and Facebook want to stand out from the crowd and offer a unique value proposition. So it may be worth the salaries they'll have to pay human curators.
For companies like Twitter who have less cash in their pockets, these experiments may not be financially wise. Twitter ended the most recent quarter with only $3.6 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. "Twitter has to focus on bigger things," Gada said. Like the company's business model at large and monetization.
"What's unproven still is how much of a mass demand there is for curation and that will determine the answer in terms of how scalable it needs to be," Gada said. It'll definitely be expensive to scale human curation for the masses, she added. "But if they're able to charge a price premium for it in some way or it appeals to more niche segments where the economics work because they don't have to scale, then it would make sense."