I start each day with the expectation of getting around to a pretty full list of news and information. Or, to put it in more modern vernacular, I expect to consume a lot of content.
I approach this task armed with a full stockpile of devices: a smart phone, an iPad, a laptop and a desktop. I also have at my disposal the complete suite of legacy devices including printed newspapers, an assortment of magazines, a couple of televisions and car radios and a mountain of both read and unread books, the black ink on white paper kind, mostly purchased in person after browsing the shelves of a bookstore.
Bearing in mind that I don’t have a full time job and don’t go into an office or work site every day, I have more time to devote to this than most. But I don’t even come close. Here’s the list:
Newspapers — I get the New York Times delivered on weekends and the local weekly in the mail. My iPad newstand includes the Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and the Wall Street Journal, I have the AP app downloaded and nj.com bookmarked. In addition I get alerts from the Journal. Realistically the only one I get to daily is the Times and I mostly read it on my iPad with morning coffee. I’d really like to take a look at the AP app ever day, especially the “editor’s choice” photos, but it usually passes me by.
Email newsletters — I like these and get a lot of them. For the most part they are lists of headlines. I probably spend 10 seconds on each unless I find things I want to read. The two that most often draw click throughs from me are NJ News Commons “Must Reads” and CommPro.biz. I spend up to 15 minutes on each of these daily. I also get, in order of interest, Digiday Daily, PBS MediaShift Daily, Editor & Publisher, Mediabistro’s PR Newser and 10,000 Words, Network World, Ad Age Daily and Media Buzz, Today on the Hub, MLB Morning Line, Internet Week Weekly Dose, and Bulldog Reporter’s Daily Dog (increasingly worthless), I also get weekly book related newsletters from Watchung Booksellers and Goodreads. Collectively I might click on about 10 stories a day from this group.
Social media — I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest. I use all of them to try to drive traffic to Off the Leash, but Twitter and Facebook are the only ones that I monitor (almost) daily. I use Twitter for news and information and in addition to following many individuals, I follow NY Times, HuffPo, Yahoo Finance, BBC Politics, NJ News Commons, the New Yorker, CJR, Poynter, Search Engine Land, Mashable, Harvard Business Review and probably many others that I can’t think of at the moment. I don’t follow brands or publishers on Facebook because the way they’ve jerry-rigged their newsfeed doing so buries the personnel posts from friends which are really the reason I look at Facebook. The one exception is NPR. I follow NPR News, Music and Books. Most of my social media scanning is done via mobile during brief moments of idleness like waiting on line at the grocery store.
Blogs — I probably read 5-10 blog posts a day. I am a member of a blogger group on Linked In and I try to read the posts from all other members. I also follow a few dozen other WordPress bloggers. I would like to explore more and find new blogs but I can barely keep up with the ones I already follow.
Magazines — There are a handful of magazines scattered around my house including Wired, E&P, AARP, New Jersey Monthly and Mother Jones. I often set these aside to read but almost never get to them.
Radio and Television — Entertainment. Other than the occasional traffic and weather update I listen to radio for music and watch TV for live sports.
My daily content consumption expectation is thus invariably unfulfilled. There is an overwhelming flow of information at my fingertips that I can’t possibly absorb. How does this impact me?
For one, my attention span is fried. I can be reading something and will lose interest in the middle, start to skip around and eventually click off. Since most of this is delivered and read electronically I am always subject to alerts or notifications which will divert me elsewhere, sometimes never to go back to what I was reading.
I’ve become intellectually restless. Bits and pieces of downtime, waiting for my food at a take-out counter, waiting at a railroad crossing, waiting for someone to get out of the bathroom, find me reaching for my phone and reading, browsing, clicking.
But I’ve also learned to savor some dead time that I used to find tedious or boring. A plane or train ride, waiting in the music studio for my son to finish his piano lesson, is now less about waiting and more about unplugging. That’s when the aforementioned mountain of hard print books come into play. I can sit and read without the distraction of electronic content chaos.