Is Online Content Crippling Understanding?

Last week I found myself flipping through a copy of Marketing.  There were some interesting articles, and even a couple of case studies that made me dive into my bag for a pen so I could scribble down the details so that I could look up more about them online.  I wouldn’t say I was really “reading” the magazine, just flipping through it.  Killing some time at a train station and someone had abandoned it on a seat.

And yet, these few minutes have become the focus of a blog post.

Marketing magazine

It wasn’t until a few hours later, after I casually tossed the magazine in the recycling, that I realised how much I’d missed reading physical paper.

I’m used to consuming my content online.  As a social media professional, I’m never far away from an internet connection – my computer, my laptop, my mobile phone, even my e-reader are all ready land me neck-deep in information in a few taps, clicks and swipes. I flick through BBC News Online, The Guardian Online, sometimes I dip into Mashable, my RSS feed causes my choice of content to land straight in my inbox, I even Stumble.  But rarely do I pick up a magazine…

But, in the last 2 days alone this lonely abandoned copy of Marketing has come up in conversation with three different people.  I’ve found myself quoting interviews, discussing a key trend, discussing training avenues and even industry news… and I have to wonder whether the fact that I am able to remember this so clearly is because it has become so unfamiliar.

We live in a word that is all about convenience.  It’s now possible to share your reading habits “frictionlessly” across your social networks – in some ways the role of the advocate has diminished; you don’t even have to recommend what you’re consuming, the very fact that you consuming are is enough.  You can totter about the internet, stumbling from one piece of content to another by a simple click of the mouse.  There’s no need to direction, linear reading patterns or particular focus – and I am now wondering whether this is at the detriment of our understanding.  Or at least the depth of it.   We skip over content without pausing to think, because subconsciously we know that somewhere in the vast world-wide-web, there will be an article that is more interesting, or more relevant, or more to the point… I can’t be the only one to see a new post notification from a site you follow land in your inbox, and to delete it straight away without even reading the content?  I know the article will still be there later.

We are now able to subscribe to the people whose opinions we deem interesting.  We filter out so much before we even let it have a chance to have an impact on us as readers.

So I have to wonder…

Is accessing content too easy?

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What’s black, white and read about all over?

You can’t have failed to have noticed the arrival of two immigrants this week as they settle into their new home in Scotland; the little faces of Tian Tian and Yang Guang have been selling papers.

Yang Guang settles into his new home

Ever since the news broke that the two bears would be setting up home in Edinburgh Zoo the panda PR machine went into over drive.  Just since leaving China the two eight year olds have been in the hands of two separate PR agencies.  And they’ve been working them hard – this week the media has been fed with so many panda images you would be forgiven for thinking that your television was still a black and white set.

The FedEx Panda Express

Last year I was lucky enough to visit China, and having stayed in Chengdu, the home of the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre, I can completely understand why the media is a-buzz with what the pair’s arrival could mean for Scottish tourism.  Chengdu is a city that is built around it’s relationship with pandas – even the traffic signs are in the shape of the fuzzy creatures – so it makes me wonder what Scotland could have in store.  The duo’s arrival on the “FedEx Panda Express” was just the beginning of the marketing  and PR opportunities that the giant pandas inhabitants of Edinburgh Zoo will offer Scotland over the next decade.

I love them, but I won’t forget that pandas are PR animals.

Me at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre, Chengdu, China

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