On Content

I was listening to NPR on my way home last night, and had a startling realization about content in our digital world: the amount is simply staggering.

Now, I know I’m not the first person to realize this, and that in fact I’m probably quite late to the party, but this is one of those realizations that until you have it on your own, you simply cannot fully understand the magnitude and implications.

I think NPR is an interesting example to explore the content question.

To begin, NPR produces two regular, daily radio shows, each 2 hours of unique content, each day (2 shows * 2 hours *5 days = 20 hours of content/week).  There are 2 more hours on each weekend day, and now we’re up to 24 – just for the news shows.

Assume that you also check NPR.org, which carries not only the content from the aforementioned shows, but also additional content and reports that either supplement the on-air content, or are entirely independent.  The additional content hosted there likely amounts to an additional hour of consumption time each day, bringing us to 29 hours.

Perhaps you follow one of NPR’s many twitter feeds: there’s the NPR News feed, NPR Politics, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and All Songs Considered.  Following each of these feeds, and reading the articles linked to on each, will consume another hour each weekday, bringing us up to 34 hours.

We have now reached the point where consuming the main-stream content of just one mid-sized content producer is a full-time job.  Now, add in other major content producers like the New York Times, Wired Magazine,  television, and your favorite blogs, and consuming content becomes an enormously overwhelming task.

While there are ways to help speed the consumption process (Google Reader, or DVRs), there comes a point when one begins to wonder if consuming all of this content is: a) realistic, and b) worth it.  Are you getting a benefit out of the time you spend consuming these things?  Could you consume other things (novels, magazines, etc.) during that time and get more out of those alternatives?

Or – should you work to eliminate your consumption in general, opting instead for non-consuming activities, like spending time with family and friends?

Each person must develop their own answer, but as content becomes easier to both produce and obtain (see the App Store on iTunes) the question will become more and more pressing.

Personally, I’m working to achieve the point where I consume only 1 hour of content each day, be it through the radio, the web, or Google Reader.

I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.

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One thought on “On Content

  1. I’m trying really hard to streamline. I feel a lot of responsibility to keep up with what’s going on in the world, but man, it’s so hard! Eventually I feel guilty for not watching the news or reading a smart magazine or newspaper – I’m a terrible citizen.

    However, I’ve decided that yes, it is good to have a grip on the goings on of the world, but it’s most effective to elicit change in your personal sphere. So what if I didn’t read the NYT today – maybe I helped a friend solve a problem or spent some time at a local food stand.

    In the long run, all that information will stagnate and be cold, but our life’s experiences (and our memories) will always be warm and meaningful.

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