Updated: What I Read (Not Much Has Changed)
A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon The Wire’s Media Diet column, comprising accounts from influential figures on how they, as The Wire puts it, “deal with the torrent of information pouring down on us all.” (Little did I know, this column started way back in 2010.)
As someone who possesses quite an extensive media diet, I knew I had to take on the challenge. Yes, under the circumstances, making a record of all that I consumed on a regular basis is as much of a challenge as it is a service to anyone, including myself, who finds media diets interesting. After all, with the exponential growth of the Internet of Things, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the plague that is technology. Watches can not only send and receive messages, but also call your car to drive itself to you. Wearables are tracking your every movement and activity, even while you’re sleeping. There’s so much information out there, and we somehow feel the need to continue finding ways to get more. We’re addicted. How do we filter it all? Or maybe more pertinent, what do we rely on to do the work for us?
I think that’s why I’m a huge fan of newsletters. Good ones. Ones that help to filter the mess (and, as you’ll see, maybe add to it).
As a student (and former writer for both), I subscribe to on-campus publications BU Today and The Daily Free Press. These are usually among the first newsletters I receive on a weekday. Other early-morning emails include those from the other side of the world: South China Morning Post, Shanghai Expat, and City Weekend. (Even after returning from a semester in Shanghai last spring, I can’t help my nostalgia.)
It’s not unusual for me to already have at least 10 unread and/or new newsletters before I even get out of bed (and I tend to be an early riser. On busy days, any time past 7 a.m. I consider late). As a result, part of my morning routine is sifting through what I consider the “easy” ones — the succinct newsletters that require the least number of clicks or time to read. These include Bit of News, Business Insider’s 10 Things In Tech You Need To Know Today, Sidebar, Product Hunt, New York Times’ alerts on Shanghai, and “leftovers” from the day before, which often include The Daily Beast’s Cheat Sheet, Wired, Business Insider Select, and Medium Daily Digest.
As the afternoon comes, the Mailbox notifications continue: Boston Magazine (which, by the way, desperately needs to optimize for mobile — 90 percent of emails I end up deleting due to poor mobile experience), The New Yorker, Product Design Weekly, The Atlantic’s Today’s Top Stories, The Atlantic’s CityLab, Neiman Lab, BetaBoston, Bloomberg’s Most Popular, and Dave Pell’s NextDraft.
A word about NextDraft: It’s great when I have the effort to go through it. It’s not so great when I’m on vacation or am particularly busy and require the “Later” designation to each of them. And by the time I do get to them — usually a few days later, most of the news is old but there are enough evergreen links to keep me interested. But I love it because I find myself clicking almost everything, thanks to Dave’s efforts to interestingly summarize each link, rather than just list them.
When I’m not checking newsletters, I’m scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds. I find it interesting to hear just how much people rely on Twitter for news. I’m realizing the reason I don’t rely on it as much as newsletters is because I follow such a ridiculous number of accounts that I find myself only briefly looking at the latest tweets from my main feed and only occasionally browsing through my private list of people I actually care to catch up on. Twitter definitely is not meant for people to read every single tweet that they may have missed, but Twitter for me serves more as a platform to tweet out the most interesting content from my endless newsletters, rather than one to consume daily news (Twitter’s breaking news, however, always win over other social media).
Thanks to the Twindr app, I’ve been able to cut the number of accounts I follow by more than 100, improving my follower-to-following ratio past 0.5. It’s not so much about improving ratio as it is about actually being able to handle my massive feed of tweets. And because swiping. Who doesn’t love that?
By the end of the day, the latecomers start buzzing in. I’m thinking of you, PandoDaily.
Like John Oliver, I don’t subscribe to any print newspapers or magazines, and as you’ve seen, it’s not because I don’t consume news but rather consume too much of it and prefer the mobile experience. Sure, I could subscribe to publications and read them on any of my devices, but there’s something that is so fleeting about news and how widely available it is that I haven’t been able to convince myself to shell out the money to, as bad as it may sound, support these publications. With the scary number of articles I’ve saved to Pocket and OneTab, I don’t think I’ll be craving for more longform articles anytime soon.
I spend enough time online to catch the occasional freebie — Boston Globe’s Joel Abrams, for example, gave out a few free subscriptions to the New York Times. I realize the irony of being a journalist who doesn’t pay — and therefore support — publications. But I also don’t think that is unique.
Perhaps one day. But right now, I’m okay with the seemingly endless number of newsletters I receive.
Time to return to my “Parks and Recreation” binge on Netflix.