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I have to admit that I’m a bit of a hypocrite.

One of the reasons I built my online news aggregation platform Reportory two years ago was my great frustration in paying for multiple, nonpersonalized (neither the content nor the ads) wasteful print newspapers and news magazines. I cancelled all of my print subscriptions and spent hundreds if not thousands of hours researching — and ultimately building — technology that could aggregate relevant content for me into a concise and digestible format.

I mention that last part largely because I lived in Google Reader for five years. I get the premise of an RSS feed. But I am a zero-inbox kind of gal and that practice carried over to my RSS reader. I never wanted all content from every publication, nor did I know what relevant content was out there for me to consume.

My intent was to go beyond just pulling in one complete feed to instead piece-mealing the publication down to the article level. Then I would rebuild it into customized digests based on relevant topics and keywords. It would be a value-add — both in terms of money and time saved — to the reader.

Here is why I now feel like a hypocrite: These publications were delivered to my mailbox or driveway this week: The Economist, Conde Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, Entrepreneur, Wired, Fast Company, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure and Fortune. I cringe just writing that. I now have more print publications delivered to me than before. But here’s the reason: They’re all free. I don’t pay for any of them.

A while back I received a flyer promoting Mags for Miles, which would give me free subscriptions in exchange for my unused airline miles. I suppose, technically, I’m paying for all of these publications with my unused miles, but let’s face it: Miles are nearly impossible to reuse these days.

Now I am worse off than before in what Michael Bloomberg coins, “the tyranny of the pile.”

Now I am worse off than before in what Michael Bloomberg coins, “the tyranny of the pile.”

While I sat Sunday morning casually going through this pile, I couldn’t stop thinking about content overload in every sense of my life. In The Wall Street Journal I read about the surge of podcasts and thought of how I struggle to find relevant ones outside of my go-to Serial and Startup. I also read about Dish’s new Sling service and HBO Now, and thought of what I’m paying monthly for Dish ($39.99), Netflix ($9.99) and Showtime ($9.99). I chide myself that I need to consolidate and rectify that immediately.

In Businessweek I read about Verizon’s new video initiative Go90, which is aggregating existing services and commissioning more than 50 exclusive new series. According to the article, rivals Netflix and YouTube Red also are knee-deep in content creation. Flashback to the prior evening when my husband and I spent 15 minutes searching for a new show to watch on Apple TV before giving up and returning to our otherwise go-to, Homeland. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an app that lets me insert my interests and helps surface recommended shows?” I ask. Yep, they exist, in addition to each company’s own proprietary recommendation engine. All the while I’m listening to Pandora and pondering the difficulties of aggregating music content. Pandora recently put itself up for sale. Does a similar fate loom for Spotify and Tidal, I wonder?

You get my point — we are drowning in content.

It’s not easy or cheap to make content. Nor is it easy or cheap to aggregate and rebundle content.

There’s no easy answer. Media organizations continue to invest in developing new content. Technology companies continue to spend money developing technology to better display said content. But wait, these tech companies are now also content creators adding to the increasing deluge of content, and further blurring the line between what delineates a media company and a tech company.

Advertisers continue to throw money at creating catchy content hoping something sticks. Marketers continue to spend billions developing content in an effort to increase share of voice. And consumers continue to publish more content in self-publishing ecosystems such as Medium, Twitter and Facebook, all the while also trying to consume as much of this content as possible in their busy days.

It’s a messy, overwhelming world of content we live in. And now this article, questioning this very issue, adds to the tyranny of the pile.

Tracy Clark  
 
Nonresidential fellow



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