Herein lies a problem, however. While I just found a new content site that combines a beautiful interface with a stimulating blend of opinion, I have to access articles from on their site which is a huge problem. This morning I read an article in The Globe and Mail called ‘Information-Rich, Attention-Poor,’ that sums up the situation very succinctly. The quantity of information I have readily available is almost infinite, however, my attention is scarce. All the multitasking and browser tabs in the world isn’t going to make me more thoughtful or well read when I can only devote a minute or two to any particular news item.
The Atlantic just made this problem even worse by creating a site I want to visit, but probably won’t because I don’t have time. Adding a new content source to my daily routine has zero transaction costs, but takes effort and some repetition to become a habit. What’s needed is a new delivery system that takes any work out of the process.
Earlier this week I had an article published in VentureBeat about Busk, a startup I encountered while I was in São Paulo this July. Busk uses real-time search technology to deliver news content based on tagged keywords and topics. Any mention of the word cricket, for instance, would search a database of 15,000 manually-added news sources and 100,000,000 articles to bring back every mention of the word cricket. Not too bad.
While this solves one problem, it doesn’t fully address the addition of a single source to my daily reading diet. One solution would be to change my home page, but in doing so, I lose the page that I used to have there. Similarly, with an RSS reader, such as Google Reader or Feedly, I have to check them whenever I want to know about the latest articles posted. As it turns out, Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages are becoming my preferred method of receiving news. I filter most of what I know about the world through these two sites. Anything worth knowing finds its way to me. To put it another way, I’ve become accustomed to the news seeking me out, instead of going to it.
While Facebook and Twitter are good at presenting information in a ‘river of news’ format, it’s far from perfect. For instance, I have to be logged in to either site and separate hard news from social fact. While I don’t have much of a problem with it now, this is due to the scarcity of news sources I receive on Facebook and the sheer volume of duplicated news on Twitter. If I was more serious about it, I would need a more robust solution and so far I’m not aware of one that does the job. I’m sure there is a product out there that stays on top of interesting news sources–preserving the user interface without commodifying the information–and adds new sources without pain. If you’re out there somewhere, I hope we meet soon!