With the coming of cheap, mass publication and consumption of "information" (blogging), the reading patterns of many must be changing quite radically, if they haven't done so already. For some time now, I've been using a large-ish number of blogs, and a smaller number of del.icio.us users, as, in effect, an editorial team. (I do get to see the Guardian, but can't catch up with it daily: it accumulates and then there's a helluva backlog to get through.) I have 206 feeds (gulp) in my aggregator and 51 in my del.icio.us inbox. As with other habits, I keep intending to cut down …
Aside from a few purely information feeds, such as new Netflix releases, most of what I read online is blogs. (You can see my current subscriptions here.) I don't visit any mainstream media sites directly (and in print, I only read the Sunday New York Times and a load of magazines). If there's something relevant to my interests in the Wall Street Journal, the daily NYT or some other news site, I assume one of the blogs I read will point me to it.
This is not to say that I don't value mainstream media; I do. It's just that I'd rather choose my own editor to select the articles of highest importance to me (including those the mainstream media choose not to cover at all, or just not well). In this case that "editor" is a network of bloggers, not whomever decides what makes it to the front page of the newspaper. This works so well that I suspect I'm actually reading more articles from mainstream media, and from a broader range of it, than ever before. It's just all via blogs, which microchunk and remix the information in ways that make it more useful to me. …
What all these blogs that have earned their way to my feed list are doing is adding value to commodity information. The ones I'm reading do this in at least one of three main ways:
- Add value with a unique perspective or analysis.
- Add value with unique information.
- Add value by providing a unique filter/lens on content available elsewhere.
This is not just a smart strategy for blogs; it's a smart strategy for any content creator in an era where the tools of production and distribution are fully democratized and the marketplace is flooded with commodity competition.