I read a lot of articles every day.  OK, the truth be told, I skim a lot of articles every day (usually over 1,000).  I read far fewer.  A few things struck  me as I rolled through my RSS reader this morning (I use Feedly).  The first is the repetitive nature of reporting.  Once something is said on one site it seems to show up within a few minutes on another.  The repetition isn’t limited to cross-site activity either.  Many sites will publish the same material again an hour after they first do so.  I’m not sure if they’re A/B testing headlines or what but to me, it’s just clutter and noise.

Another thing that struck me is the sensationalist nature of many of the headlines.  I totally understand the need to stand out in the cluttered media worlds through which my feed orbits, but there is a huge problem with it: distraction.  The headline might be screaming “fire” but as you dig into the article you inevitably find that it discusses the possibly of a fire if several unlikely scenarios occur.  The real issue for many of us is less about the time we waste reading the article than it is the repercussions that ensue from people who don’t.

Think about how often a higher up in your company or a client reads the headline (or worse yet, hears about it from someone else) and pings you for information.  Maybe it’s a chain of emails (each of which takes time to craft) or maybe it’s a phone call or two.  It’s a fire drill that takes time away from the things on which we should be focused.  They’re neither urgent nor important. They’re a distraction.

I don’t love the screaming headlines.  They lead to fire drills which lead to distracted, nervous businesspeople.  It’s a truism that we can’t chase everything nor solve every perceived or potential problem.  I try to scrape off the hype, find the facts, measure them against my current goals, strategies, and tactics.  At that point, I can either toss it (which is usually what happens) or update my thinking.  I don’t get distracted.  You?

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

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