August 03, 2010

And how do you take your news?


A recent Pew study revealed that 50% of those surveyed rely on people around them to keep up with their news. It makes sense - we all link to articles that are of interest to us, and even recommend that clients link to relevant information to engage with potential customers in their social network.

But the word "rely" made me nervous. Sure, when this news clip from Alabama popped up in my Facebook news feed, I thought it was entertaining (honestly, how did that reporter keep a straight face) but I certainly can't rely on my news feed for my news, or I would have a very narrow, albeit humorous, view of our world's current events.

As part of a generation where guys are even popping the question via social media, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that this is how we're keeping current on news now as well. And the platform is proving successful, with things like The Flipboard iPad app, which personalizes your news experience based on what your friends share.

This makes "getting the news" streamlined and perhaps easier, but I fear for the content and the experience that we'll lose in the process. A couple of weeks ago, I saw on a friend's Facebook status that legendary Coach Dean Smith is "likely suffering from Alzheimer's." This may not be a big deal to a lot of people, but I grew up in a basketball town screaming at the television with my parents and dreaming of my first trip to the Dean Dome as a student, ever since I was old enough to understand the game. 

Getting a local NC paper from a friend in the mail, with an article that covered the legacy of Coach Smith at length meant a lot more, and told me more of a story - something I would have never experienced from only sharing news socially. I think this new trend leaves out some of the most important topics, and a lot of the experience.

Our intern, who is only a few short years younger than me, had an entirely different take on how taking news in via his iPad actually enriches the experience.

Maybe there's benefits to both. What's your take?



Daniel - thanks for the post! Our intern, Geoff, actually provided the counter argument to my argument and I agree - it is a double-edged sword.

I would have to agree with you Kate, the idea that 50% of people "rely" on the others around them to inform them can make one feel uneasy.

Certainly the benefit of social media is that one can customize a news feed and follow their interests. But as you hinted at, if it's the only source of information it can certainly skew ones perception of the world. We've seen recently the damage that can happen when only a small portion of the story was known with the Sherrod debacle. It's the same kind of idea. If one only sees part of a whole situation, its easy to miss the truth.

I also think credibility is an issue. With everyone being a horn blower on twitter, it is easy for an idea to catch fire. It wasn't more than a week ago Bill Cosby had to reassure us all via "Larry King Live" that he was in fact "not dead" after his apparent death had spread over twitter. Now not to say twitter doesn't have its gems, especially if you love Justin Beiber, but only obtaining information about the world around you from your facebook/twitter friends will simply leave you with a bunch of funny quotes for s*#!mydadsays.

I'd also have to agree (again) that it's missing content. A 140 word post can't come close to covering the detail that some stories deserve. But in today's information age our attention spans have dwindled, and unfortunately most (not all) are not looking for the "whole story".

Now having said that the benefit of obtaining (non mainstream) news from social media can be quite useful for a niche market. Say you're overly interested in fly fishing. You can customize a twitter feed to follow fishing buddies, the latest products, water reports and so on, that one would usually have to surf to find. This is extremely useful for a company who specializes in quality fly rods to connect to its customer, update them on products, and start a conversation and let it grow, allowing Joe Fisherman to post a link and stamp of approval for all his friends to see.

So it seems to be a bit of a double edged sword. Obtaining news interesting to you (such as the sad Coach Dean Smith story) is a benefit of social media. But only taking the word of others around you as news, that kills Jello loving celebrities.

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