An addicted insider’s account of our real lives in the era of the realtime, social web.

Confession #39: Curation Nation: We Can’t Stop Sharing News

Years ago during a rare appearance on Showtime at the Apollo, comedian Bobby Slayton joked about a scene in West Side Story when Tony runs through Spanish Harlem yelling, “Maria, Maria, Maria.”

And only one girl comes to the window.

Today, the same joke could be made about a guy who runs through the internet yelling, “Managing Editor, Managing Editor.”

Hidden in the latest unemployment numbers is the fact that a huge percentage of Americans have a second job that includes hunting, gathering and sharing the news of the day.

According to the latest Pew Internet Survey:

75% of online news consumers say they get news forwarded through email or posts on social networking sites and 52% say they share links to news with others via those means.

Welcome to Curation Nation.

An incredible number of people are canvasing multiple sources – “Some 46% of Americans say they get news from four to six media platforms on a typical day” – finding stories they perceive to be relevant and then regurgitating blurbs and links via email, blogs, Twitter and Facebook.

There are few elements to consider when it comes to the latest news about news-sharing that I am now sharing with you.

First, we definitely have a if a tree falls in the forest situation going on here. There’s simply not enough applicable news to warrant the endless friend to friend sharing. If the Canadian hockey team wins Olympic gold or Obama scores a Nobel prize and you don’t tweet about it, did it really happen?

Yes it did. And we all already know about it. And you know we already know about it and yet you shared it anyway. That makes it a compulsion. Believe me, I know.

You have a job, a family and a host of other responsibilities, and yet you’ve found time to disseminate more news than Murrow, Hearst and Sulzberger, combined.

Second, we need to mull over the experience of those on the receiving end of this constant stream of news – a stream that merges both broadly public news and more intimate messages aimed at a smaller audience. We are visiting several sites a day to gather news. Then we share links to those news stories with one another. Then those shared links are re-shared and the cycle continues. It’s all fine, but it doesn’t leave much time for thinking.

Thinking outside the stream is the new thinking outside the box.

Third, it makes total sense that, in this post-front stoop era, we’re all desperately seeking a sense of community around the topics of the day. According to Pew, “72% of American news consumers say they follow the news because they enjoy talking with others about what is happening in the world.” Yet, we’re not discussing anything that is happening anywhere near our own front yards. Local news is nowhere close to the top of the list of topics we’re sharing. Again, I’m not pointing fingers. Five minutes before publishing this post I shared some news from South Dakota.

Here are a few other interesting tidbits from the Pew Internet report on participatory news:

  • 33% of cell phone owners now access news on their cell phones.
  • 78% of Americans say they get news from a local TV station.
  • 61% say they get some kind of news online
  • 50% say they read news in a local newspaper
  • 17% say they read news in a national newspaper
  • 92% get news from multiple platforms on a typical day
  • 2% rely exclusively on the internet for their daily news
  • 65% do not have a favorite online news source

And the most popular online news topic: Weather.

I Can’t Turn Off The News

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My name is Dave Pell, internet superhero. This blog provides an addicted insider's account of what's happening to us in the era of the realtime, social web. You can read more about the site, grab the rss feed, follow me on twitter, join the Facebook page, or get email updates.