Strategies for information overload

One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed in blogging is picking up on news from my RSS feeds in Bloglines – directing others to interesting posts and reflecting on matters I find of interest.

However, being busy with marking CIPR assignments and getting ready for the new student intake means that I’ve been unable to keep up with what’s going on in blogosphere.  Sitting here this evening catching up, I notice that I’m not alone.

For example, at SacredFacts, Richard Sambrook reports information overload and time wasted finding what he might want to read among his feeds.  He wonders if technology is the solution in making recommendations from items in his feeds.

Do we need technology or human interpretation to act as “agents” in selecting and filtering the vast amount of information online?  Of course, one could argue, one reason why journalists exist in the first place is to source information and then act as mediators in filtering the essential news and insight.

What the Internet offers is access to original sources as well as a wider range of mediators than we might encounter when buying newspapers, listening to radio or watching television. 

I think this brings us round to the importance of finding reliable “agents”, who we can trust to bring us news and views of interest and relevance. 

Traditional media has an advantage already with the likes of the BBC already acting online in the same role as offline mediator of news information.

It seems likely that the role of intermediaries will only become more important in future – although I would like them to offer links to original sources so we can check the mediator’s interpretation for ourselves.

What does this mean for PR practitioners?  I think it offers an opportunity to utilise our skills and knowledge of working with influencers – but the challenge is identifying which of the millions of “agents” are most trusted by those with whom we wish to engage.

I believe this reinforces the need for interpersonal skills rather than simply an ability to utlise technology.  We can, of course, create online information and “optimise” tools such as press releases in respect of including links, multimedia etc (I’m less convinced of the need for enabling comments in the mode of the “social media press release”).

But ultimately, I believe a human strategy rather than more and more technology will be vital in connecting organisations with influencers and through them to the overloaded reader.