February 22, 2016

Get Smarter for Just $2.50

There are two schools of thought as you develop as a professional: play into your strengths, or round out your experience.

The two approaches can lead to very different career paths. Two very different kinds of people. Do you help someone pursue the thing they're good at? Lean into their predisposition? 

Or, do you identify areas of improvement? Help them become a generalist? Encourage knowledge across a broad segment of the business functions? Encourage them to be able to accommodate a wide variety of tasks, people, and timelines...

This is a valid discussion for any employee or manager to have when thinking about their development path and how they will achieve their goals. And while this post could now launch into my feelings about 360 reviews, HR, and employee performance plans .... the topic got me to thinking ...

We read our media with the same two paths to choose from every day. 

I have long voiced my love of a printed newspaper - where you can walk up and down each column on each page and - even if only skimming - capture news that you might otherwise not be predisposed to read. I have no natural inclination to read about the stock market or the latest bills that have been passed. But, with a printed copy of the Globe and Mail I'll discover what Trudeau is up to, or what kind of investment is happening in our start-up community.

If however I head to my Facebook feed, or even theGlobeandMail.com ... I am going to enter the machine that sends me only what I'm interested in. A self-indulgent rabbit hole that will inevitably end up on a cute cat/puppy/otter video, and new workout plan, and articles on how to get more sleep.

This part of our human nature - our self-indulgence in what we consume - is singlehandedly shaping our media. And we've all been complicit. It started with our entertainment being what was free and accessible. Perez Hilton, Lainey Gossip were readily available while the our world events were hidden behind subscriptions.

No surprise, that quickly led to media outlets struggling to attract the users they needed to convince advertisers, to convince those subscribers, and the wheel of death has led to the downsizing, closing, and merging of media institutions. 

At the same time in that struggle to stay alive and relevant, some traditional outlets tried to pursue the infotainment game. Whether it was opening up comments and encouraging dialogue with readers, posting click-bait headlines, or even syndicating content from around the world with zero local relevance .... it often became drivel. And what were they trying to accomplish? Was it this hope that instead of letting you bath in your own interests, the media might actually have a valid role in getting you educated by just one article that didn't involve a puppy?

Sidebar: This Global News post about Ozzy Osbourne donated money to a kid in Kentucky might be the worst offense. 

So now, when I hear that BuzzFeed - an outstanding outlet for self-indulgent media - is redefining how they measure content and make decisions about what to produce, it's no surprise to hear, "the company is thinking about other metrics that come closer to measuring what media companies and advertisers call "engagement" which theoretically matches up with actual interest on the part of an audience." 

It's this last part that scares me. It scares me because self-indulgence is not just happening at an individual level. It's happening en-masse with millions of people every day. At a time when 12-million Canadians and 32-million Americans are barely literate, the issue is compounded. If people barely want to read the stuff they're interested in, how can you possibly educate them about things that matter?

We know that social media has already in just a short few years changed our thought patterns, short-term memory, and ability to communicate. And while Barack Obama used social media to win an election and educate the world about his platform, social media is now helping Trump gain ground based on his entertaining idiocy

At what point do we as adults, productive members of society, active participants in our community take individual responsibility to get educated? To protect the institutions (old and new) that help us to explore more than "Which Kardashian Are You" quizzes? 

Maybe you're only aware of how your content is served up to you if you work in PR or media. But if you've made it to the bottom of my rant, then I hope you'll pick up a printed copy of your newspaper and think of it as a journey into your own personal development. 



Post a Comment