I have developed a bad habit. I snack too much. No, I’m not talking about in real life (though that’s probably true, too). I’m talking about in my information consumption habits.
The Snacking Concept
A popular meme the past few months, popularized in part by a Wired magazine story, has been that consumers want information in "snackable" form. That is, in bite-size bits that are easily digested. And that’s precisely what I do on a daily basis. I read short emails using Gmail, skim through 140 character Twitter messages, and sort through blog posts using Google reader (most of which are but a few hundred characters in length).
Some Snacking is Good
On the one hand, these little chunks of information let me stay on top of a lot of topics at a very basic level. I’m getting some of the "serendipity" that I often worry we are missing in our hyper-organized information society that those of us who qualify as early adopters seem to be living in. For instance, I know that Britney Spears’ 16 year old sister is pregnant. I don’t particularly care, but it’s not a bad idea to be aware of pop culture at some level.
I Don’t Want to Contribute to Your Snacking Problem
The problem with snacking, though, is that it doesn’t encourage deeper dives into important topics. It’s one of the reasons why I have abandoned my old habit of putting up very short blog posts where I offer very little other than a regurgitation of someone else’s information. I still curate information, but through the use of shared links in my Google Reader, delicious tags, and Twitter messages. For this blog, I now focus on longer commentaries, for the most part, and try to offer something original — in information, perspective, or both. No more "me too" posts here. My other main writing outlet, Media Bullseye, explicitly discourages snacking and tries to provide more depth to all of its articles and commentary.
My New Information
But that solves my contribution to the snacking problem, not a solution for my own habits. That requires a bit more effort. For one, I need to do a better job of reading books. I still read a fair amount, but too often I go for easy reads designed to simply entertain or to read an important industry book to allow me to better address trends. But I also need to read longer magazine articles and other more meaty content on a more regular basis.
Here, then, is the action plan I’m going to try to follow:
1. Read More Books. I’m already on a quest for books about the history of the media industry, but I have also already started to dig into other thought-provoking books like Charlie Gasparino’s book (King of the Club) about former NYSE Chairman Richard Grasso (recommended by Brad Feld). I’m going to try to stay away from glib business books that profess to offer general advice on how to have better meetings, hire better employees, or work more efficiently. I have read enough of those to last me a lifetime. I want to read about what real people have actually done. I’m not a philosopher, I’m an entrepreneur.
2. Read Less Blogs. I started down this path by wiping out all of my blog subscriptions a few weeks ago. I have started adding back slowly, but I hope to control my eagerness to add others. It means a lot of friends aren’t on my regular reading list anymore, and that pains me, but I need to spend less time in this arena and more consuming other information. To help make sure I’m not missing interesting stuff, I am subscribing to more curators of information (notably shared items by Chris Brogan, Robert Scoble, and Bryan Person, along with Jason Hirschhorn’s excellent Media Redefined feed). I am also relying on Twitter for leads to useful posts, as well as emails from friends and colleagues.
3. Read More Article Content. Whether from newspapers, magazines, online journals, or elsewhere, I want to make sure that I am consuming more detailed written content from interesting people. In some cases I am seeking content that may challenge my existing beliefs or make me uncomfortable. In others, I’m looking for deeper dives on topics that I want to know more about. And sometimes I’ll read an article or commentary that provides information to validate my own opinion. I think a good mix is key. The toughest part here is to find the right stuff to read. Most of the curators that I rely on point to blog posts and only rarely highlight more detailed information. This is a problem that I haven’t solved yet (which means it may turn into some sort of a business — so watch out if you work for me!).
What say you? Does this lifestyle change make sense to you? What other advice might you give me or am I just completely off my rocker?