This weekend, I read the newspaper. What I mean by that is I read the physical newspaper, which is something that I have not done regularly in a nearly a decade. While reading, I remembered how skimming through the physical newspaper lends itself to inadvertently reading about different subjects.
For example, in the past, I would read the newspaper’s content by skimming through some stories, skipping some sections and for the most part taking in the entire paper. What could begin with reading a front page story about a national issue could easily lead to a back page story about Somali insurgents, or Central Asian politics.
I traded in this experience, as have many of my generation, for the customized, editor-free approach to reading the news that Google Reader and RSS feeds have enabled. Now, my news feeds are tailored to my interests, political leanings and professional focus. While my Reader and RSS feed give me greater depth of knowledge into the subjects I am interested in, it seems to come at the expense of less knowledge in a wider range of subjects.
With these changes in content delivery in mind, I became very interested in two new products that attempt to address how our news is formatted – Time Inc.’s new line of digital magazines and a new iPad application called Flipboard.
In attempt to reconnect digital readers to the old print layout of magazines, Sports Illustrated (SI) and publisher Time Inc. (magazine publishers in general, for that matter) are taking their layouts and content and, in the words of Peter Kafka, “porting their printed product to digital form, adding some audio and video, as well as selected links to the Web.” (Read more here).
On the other hand, the much-buzzed about Flipboard, (here) assembles your social media content on the iPad in a way that is similar to reading physical publications – by creating an interface that is similar to that of a magazine.
In presenting readers with digital content laid out like a magazine, Time is fighting an uphill battle against news consumption trends, particularly among young customers who didn’t grow up reading in the magazine format. Conversely, the repackaging of social media content into a magazine layout is like stuffing an MP3 player into the body of a turntable and misses the real reason why magazine/print media readers still choose the actual physical copy of publications.
How do you weigh in on this subject? Does Time Inc. have the solution to sagging sales? Will Flipboard speed the traditional media’s demise?
Let me start by saying, I’m a big fan of RSS readers, etc. thanks to their very tangible benefits. My iGoogle page is still the first site I go to when I get online everyday and I’ve started using TheDailyInfluence as well (this is an Ogilvy PR Reader we created with NetVibes and is a good site to consider if you want to jump start an RSS Reader).
Earlier this month, Mashable posted a story on RSS readers and their possible decline, but the poll at the end of the story showed that more than 70% of respondents still use some form of reader daily (as of May 27th). Only 1% use something else, 5% never use a reader and 16% use it less than they used to.
The one thing I’d pose and recommend for my peers and colleagues in the industry is to not live and die by your reader and set some personal ground rules. Early on I found myself so reliant on the convenience of the site that I stopped visiting the main pages of the publications I enjoyed reading. RSS readers are certainly addictive thanks to their efficiency, ease of use, how comprehensive they have become, how flexible the platforms are and lets just say how flat out convenient it is to get the news from the sources I really care about (or the topics I care most about) on one screen at one time.
But, they don’t replace the good old fashioned need to visit a website. I’ve seen quite a few PR professionals fall into the trap of just relying on their RSS reader and don’t spend the time learning about the publications, sites and, dare I say, hard-copy issues that are critical to their clients.
There is still a lot of value in spending time reading publication sites and blogs and bouncing around from section to section. Not only do you learn about news, trends and discussions that are outside of your specific areas of interest, but often times you find something you wouldn’t normally expect to see that is relevant to your interests — maybe a new section or a new feature added to the site or a new contributor or just an interesting story you wouldn’t have read otherwise.
I found myself so reliant I created three personal rules of using my RSS reader that I thought I’d share:
1- Keep my RSS Reader open all day, but only check it 3 times per day max. (Morning, Lunch, Evening)
2- Visit at least 5 news sites directly per day
3- Read at least 3 unusual stories or new sections per day
Happy RSS Reading and let me know what works for you?