IQ News: Point of View – A Net News Junkie Tells All




How To Cope With Information Overload.
It may be the central quandary of the Information Age: as the amount of information available grows, the ability to absorb that information–not to mention the seeming necessity of doing so–becomes ever more of a strain.
Take following the advertising industry as one example of how much has changed. It used to be easy. There was the advertising column in The New York Times and the advertising trades. Gradually, the choices widened as USA Today, The Wall Street Journal and others began to show more interest in media and marketing.
But if keeping up with those publications required 10 minutes on the train over a cup of coffee, the Internet changed everything. There are now at least 15 magazines that cover the Internet and online media, and, of course, each of these has a Web site, some of which update such information-junkie favorites as the Microsoft antitrust trial several times a day. The amount of information can quickly overwhelm you. But that doesn’t quiet that voice in your head telling you that it might be good for your career to keep on top of what’s going on in online media.
Fortunately, you’re reading the work of an information junkie, one of the few in their right minds who reads all of this. And even more fortunately, I’ve decided to outline the methods I use to support my news habit.
It all starts with your portal of choice (in the off-chance you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to what is often a Web user’s default homepage. Formerly known as search engines, the sites now serve as windows on the Web, offering up news, weather, stock quotes and other must-have information). For a lot of us, that portal of choice is Yahoo!. Located at Yahoo.com, it, like many of its competitors, has a personalization feature, accessible by clicking on “My Yahoo!” at the top of the homepage. It also provides a free daily update on cool sites at the online version of the Ziff-Davis-produced print magazine Yahoo! Internet Life, yil.com. I can’t say enough about Yahoo!, a site so good that it’s a lifestyle.
However, I use Microsoft’s latest portal entry at http://home.microsoft.com for its simplicity. Like most portals, you can customize it to include news, weather and sports from online media services such as ESPN, MSNBC and The New York Times, and it will keep track of your stock portfolio by providing updated quotes. The site provides audio and video clips of news and it can be customized so that, for example, you can receive, as I do, inning-by-inning updates of New York Yankees games as they’re being played.
There are numerous other portals out there all covering the same waterfront–Excite, Netscape’s Netcenter, NBC’s Snap, and the just-launched “Go” from Disney, to name a few. And it may be trial and error to discover which one, or ones, floats your boat. For instance, Netcenter allows you to customize your own site to receive daily coverage of the Internet, and others have their own particular attributes.
As you scout for an online news service that meets your needs, it’s important to remember how truly individual online tastes can be. Despite the critical drubbing that PointCast (www.pointcast.com) has taken in its recent past, I confess that I love PointCast as an informational screen saver. Yes, it’s a bandwidth hog, and push technology may be last year’s–or maybe the year before’s–hype, but if it’s running over your company’s T-1 line instead of your telephone line, it’s of no concern to you. It’s free and provides a wealth of information in a dozen category-specific channels such as news, lifestyle and sports. The channels rotate through your screensaver, or can be accessed at any time by clicking through to them. My only gripe with PointCast is its reliance on Reuters for general news, which always seems to be a bit behind the rest of the world.
While we’re on the subject of push technology, there are a number of online news services that you can easily subscribe to. Most are free, and are just as easy to unsubscribe to if your e-mail box gets too full. I think the most comprehensive is NY (www.atnewyork.com), which covers the New York Internet scene on a weekly basis.
Another favorite site of mine, if for nothing else than its irreverent editor, Michael Tchong, is Iconocast, which covers online advertising and media weekly. Available free at www.iconocast.com, it’s full of interesting and timely tidbits about the Web scene, as well as Tchong’s column, The Jacobyte. Imagine Hunter S. Thompson online (now there’s a scary thought) and you’ve got some idea of what The Jacobyte is all about. For instance, these days he’s offering prizes to people who send him juicy rumors about the online world, and, to The Jacobyte, publishing a copy of the e-mail sent to ZD employees informing them that their lavish Christmas parties have been canceled–complete with off-color commentary–is completely within the rules. It may be a little close to personal journalism, but it does have personality.
But the easiest place to go for a comprehensive listing of available online newsletters may be the Association for Interactive Media at www.interactivehq.org. Their site provides free online subscriptions to a number of information-rich newsletters including a listing of open Internet positions at companies on both coasts.
As a worker bee in the Information Age, you may also feel compelled to follow investments. For that, I find that ZD’s online publication, The Day Ahead, provides a neat listing of IPOs and what’s going on in the Internet community of investments. Subscribe by going to www.zdnet.com/zdii/lists/thedayahead/subscribe.html. If you just need to look up information about almost any public company try www.hoovers.com. It’s all there. For free.
For real in-depth intelligence on emerging Internet companies, Red Herring Online is the place to be, at http://redherring.com. It covers the “Business of Technology” with daily material and has recently been totally revamped.
Lastly, there are two newsletters that, while pricey, provide outstanding in-depth information on the Internet industry. The first is online guru Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 (www.edventure.com/release1/release1.html), which goes for $695 and comes out monthly. You’ll also get an invite to her PC Forums which (from what I gather) are quite a scene for the digerati.
George Gilder is also in that league, although at half the price: $295 for 12 issues at www.gildertech.com/html/gtr.html. Gilder is a contributing editor to Forbes ASAP, Forbes’ digital publication. Dense and a bit cerebral, it’s best to sample his newsletter before you subscribe.
Armed with all this information, you may be able to storm the ramparts of your organization. Or maybe you’ll just feel that you’re finally up to speed on the digital news. Happy surfing!
Douglas Ritter is assistant vice president, marketing communications of GTE Business Development and Integration in Irving, Calif.