A Little Help, Please?

Are you suffering from information overload?  It seems to be a common plight in this day and age.  One of the things I love most about working in PR is the fast pace of the work, the way the ever-changing news landscape keeps me on my toes.  However, sometimes I feel just plain overwhelmed. There are endless possibilities of articles and blogs to read, outlets to explore, topics to research from just one more angle.   Every second, there is more information, more accessible, and changing more quickly than ever before.

People say this is what’s killing the newspaper, but I see opportunity.  Whether it’s the right opportunity for newspapers to take, well, that’s up to them.  I have two needs:
-          Analyze what’s most important
-          Summarize the pulse of the masses so I don’t miss anything.

As Tom Hayes and Michael S. Malone pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed, The Ten-Year Century, “When a computer chip goes through as many computations in a single second as there are human heartbeats in 10 lifetimes, a 10-year year century seems positively pokey. But we humans have a slower metabolism, which will make this rapid fire of events ever more difficult to comprehend, much less manage.”

Microsoft’s recent series of Bing commercials does a great job of humorously portraying the hazards of information overload.

When technology – Web sites, blogs, twitter, social networks, and the like – churns through news like a chip going through computations, what’s the value of a daily paper?

For those of us with a more sluggish metabolism, I believe it could be a lot.  I say could, because I don’t think we’re quite there yet.  Perhaps it’s because newspapers – like the rest of us,find it hard to keep pace with change, or perhaps the information overload hasn’t become as bad as it soon will.

There are plenty of technologies (and surely more will come) that can aggregate, summarize, and filter content.  But as information becomes increasingly unmanageable, maybe the good old daily paper can help us cope.  Obviously, newspapers have a ways to go, as Howard Kurtz recently made clear in a Washington Post column on the inability of journalists to make the truth heard above the din.

Hayes and Malone sum up their piece with this astute prediction: “Without the luxury of time, trust will be the new currency of our times, whether in news sources, economic systems, political figures, even spiritual leaders. As change accelerates, it will remain one true constant.”

In the game of new media vs. old media, trust is one thing the old guard has on its side.  What do you think is the best way to wield it?

- Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan