Often in class, I’ll informally poll students about how they get their news – and the answers are often surprising. Sometimes, no one reads news unless it crosses their Facebook feed. Other times, students favor broadcast television news or picking up the newspaper (usually the New York Times) from any of the various places where it’s free on campus. Still, in other classes, students are getting their news from the websites of popular “old guard” media such as CNN, CBS, the New York Times, or Newsday.
In most of these cases, though, the reader is picking an outlet and relying on that one vision to get their news. I’ll often push things such as RSS readers and Flipboard, but sometimes old habits are hard to break.
So here’s the question for you all: How do you consume your news? Is it a snack here and there during the day? A Thanksgiving-style gorging at night? An intravenous drip? Let me know in the comments below. I’m interested to hear about some new-age method’s everyone’s using.
I’ll start by sharing mine.
The RSS feed
The primary way I get my news is through RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. I’m not much of a television watcher, and so in most spare moments during the day, instead of sitting down on the couch with a TV remote, I’ll more often pull up my iPad and scroll through the several different categories I’ve set up: News, Tech, Photography, Journalism, amongst others. I’ve compiled relevant sites into each of these categories – getting my news from CNN, Newser, New York Times and The Guardian. I could put more, but then I tend to get repeat headlines, much like what happens in my tech folder with all of the tech sites I have on there.Some of the apps and sites I’ve found to be quite helpful in this regard are Feedler for the iPad, the default News reader on Android phones, and of course Google Reader itself. The great thing about the phone/iPad apps are that they pull directly from what I input in Google reader, making my news appear uniform whether I am on the computer, on my iPad or on the phone.
Yes, there are many times where going to a site and looking at how an editor chose to arrange the stories is important; but there are many times where getting the news fast matters more – RSS feeds are the most basic way to make that happen.
Head on over to Google Reader to get started and then click on “RSS” feeds for websites to subscribe (usually an orange icon with arches radiating out of it – just like the one I have below my search box at the top of this site).
I’ve set up Google Alerts for my name and for Stony Brook University. While I could have these delivered more frequently, I have them set for once a week. Daily would become too cumbersome. That said, this way I can be assured I’ll never miss anything that may be published about me or my university.
If there’s a subject you’re interested in, make sure you set up a Google Alert for it so that you don’t miss new news about it.
I’ve long thought that tablets encourage consuming information more than producing it – but that’s not such a bad thing. Yes, there are apps that are the standard tablet fare – web sites essentially regurgitated in a stripped down form on a tablet (I’m looking at you, USA Today and New York Times).
It’s frustrating to know that I could just open up Safari on the iPad and go to the website of the same news organization and get more information than I’m getting from its iPad app.
That said, there are many apps that leverage the iPad and Android tablets for news consumption very well, aside from the basic aforementioned RSS readers.
For starters, check out “The Daily” on the iPad (and now Android, too apparently). Yes, I know I’ve trashed it again and again, and while the writing and journalism still aren’t up to its competitors, it’s got a lot to offer at a bargain basement price (99 cents per week or $39.99 for the whole year). Now that the bugs have (mostly) been smoked out of the latest releases, you can check out a publication that is clearly rooted in print (news magazine) journalism while providing some nice tablet-only interactive graphics and sections.
Another one of my more recent favorites (and Apple’s too – it was 2010 App of the Year) is Flipboard. After one of our recent graudates got a job there last year, I decided to give it a try – and I had no idea what I was missing. Plug in your Twitter feed, Google Reader account, Facebook profile or any of the other supported Flipboard partners, and you have an instant magazine-style feed of everything your friends and contacts are sharing. Chances are, if someone else found it interesting, so will you, and so this app really gives those articles prominence.
That said it’s a double-edged sword – plugged into my Facebook account, I get weird random photos and odd status updates flowing in, rendering it quite useless. I suppose that’s a reflection of my friends? Sure, I can silence specific people for Flipboard, but that’s a labor intensive process with the amount of contacts I have. Far more useful is my Twitter feed – plugged into Flipboard, I see many articles and stories I may have missed otherwise – a sign that I’m better at curating my Twitter contacts than I am my Facebook friends. It also makes a good case for why you should keep all of your online services professional.
Unfortunately, for now Flipboard is only for Apple devices.
And my favorite way to consume the news – NPR or National Public Radio.
Aside from having a fantastic website, true to its roots you can still find NPR on radio stations across the country. It’s with me on my morning commute and on my drive home from work. In the 25-30 minute car ride, I can get the broad strokes of what happened in the day easily, and then in my spare time, I can check out the stellar app for the iPad to listen to anything else I want to hear from NPR.
Sadly the Android counterpart is a crash-happy mess. I’ve tried it on two Android phones (an original Motorola Droid and the HTC Incredible 2 – both well-spec’ed for their era) and in neither case did it work well. For my trips to the gym, I usually end up downloading the podcasts in MP3 form and load them into Dropbox to listen. It requires some advance planning, but it beats the app.
What’s your news routine?
So there’s my news consumption routine. I suppose it’s one of constant bombardment. What’s yours? Please share in the comments below – maybe we can all pick up a few new tools!