The New York Times, Kim Kardashian and the Information Apocalypse

It all began on Saturday morning.

The New York Times didn't come.

When I wake up each morning, there's a print copy of the New York Times at my door. Before I dive into the swirling information vortex that is my day, I read the paper. But lately, I find myself asking 'why?' I'm not one of these hard-copy romantics. I don't have any historic love for paper over screens, or the need to hold an object in my hand.

But the other day, the paper didn't come.

And so, I was forced to change my info-rhythm. No big deal, I thought I'd just read the NY Times on my iPad. Now, perhaps it was an unfortunate day to go 'cold turkey' on single source, handheld, print, but I took the plunge.

I opened my iPad before coffee, and found myself staring straight at Kim Kardashian's naked rear-end. It was everywhere, my Facebook feed, my Twitter follows, even on LinkedIn. Now, maybe that's your idea of breakfast reading, but it was for me a large distraction. My daily ritual of stepping to the world of ideas was turned upside down.

It lead me to think about the difference between a single thread information delivery device, like the print edition of the NY Times (or any other print publication, or book for that matter) and the multi-threaded nature of a connected device.

Perhaps with discipline, I could learn to open the NY Times app, and not Facebook. But then there are IM's and emails that have come in from the night before, each hopping and flashing demanding attention. All of them urgent. All of them important to their sender, but each of them without context.

The thing is, patterns matter. The way we shape our days, the rhythm of our lives, the way our brains are trained to gather, organize, and process information. And until the arrival of the information apocalypse - we were almost keeping up.

But the shear volume of information has swamped our ability to engage it thoughtfully, and the pressure of advertisers to make the web a mass medium has driven information publishers into faster, broader, coarser information outbursts.

I wonder how Tim Berners-Lee feels about Kim Kardashian's naked attempt to 'break the web'. Is the swarm of attention-grabbing info-bites the place he imagined when he thought about what the prefix 'www' could bring us?

The good news is, our current state of raw information delivery won't be the end of the road for our emerging digital lives. The next step, after information overload, is coherent information organization. An emerging layer above the raw web called Curation. Curation isn't simply a filter or a category, is a holistic way of thinking about information organization.

Curated information will meet our needs in new ways, based on a simple principal that in a world of information abundance, people don't want more, they want less. Human scale information, organized and delivered to meet their needs.

  • Information isn't all equal, and timing matters.

  • People or organizations that flood my feeds with irrelevant content will be relegated to the 'black hole' of isolation, take out of my field of vision.
  • Respecting people's time and attention earns you points in the new information economy.
  • Junk information, tracking pixels, cookies, and ads that h
  • aunt me risk turning loyal customers into users of intelligent ad blockers and filters.

    What it comes down to is I want to be able to fit my content consumption to my needs. Hard news when I want it. Info from friends and family about their adventures, when I'm in a more social frame of mind, and light fluffy news if and when I want that. But the nature of the nitchified web, advertisers can't continue to expect to operate mass-media principals.

    The drive as advertisers to struggle to reach mass audience as the web becomes more specialized is turning each of my distinct tools and services into content that is trying to be all things to all people all the time. That simply isn't going to remain a principal that works.

    Yes, Kim Kardashian broke the web. But she did something good as well. She woke up a small but emerging community of information consumers who don't want her oiled posterior to be the web we leave for our children.