Browsing, for real

I did something this morning that I wish I had the time to do more often. Over a cup of coffee I read a newspaper from cover to cover. Well, almost- I did skip most of the sports pages, apart from the latest article on the Ashes Test match (hee, hee, to my Australian friends). It made me remember when browsing meant something different from what it usually means today- the browser window through which we interface to the web. It also made me realise that in this age of online news and RSS feeds, we assume that the technology will make sure that the news that we want to see reaches us. But that is part of the problem- by not browsing the physical paper to see what is happening out there in the world beyond our own interests, we lose the sense of context that is so important.

This matters even for the news we are certain that we want to read. How often have I told my students that WHERE an article appears in the paper is almost as important as what is said in the text? If it is an op-ed piece, it affects stakeholder perceptions more than if it is buried in a diary piece. “Above the fold” has meaning in hard copy that just does not translate in web terms.

And, are we limiting our interests by screening out the stuff that we assume we are not interested in reading? Today, for example, I read a fascinating article on the role that PR performs for the porn industry. But my google alerts and RSS feeds didn’t pick that one up. Nor did they tell me that that Lady Gaga’s new (long anticipated) single is likely to be debuting at this year’s Grammy award ceremony. Now, my husband would say that is definitely NOT something I should be aware of, but then we don’t always agree on my taste in music! Another article that warranted a closer read- as we approach the deadline for UK university applications, applications are up by 2% on last year- which makes the nearly 40% increase in applications for my degree programme rather satisfying. Context, context is king. Just once in a while it is more important than content alone!

So, for all those people out there who profess to be PR oriented, I would encourage you to do something “retro” today. Go buy a newspaper, a cup of coffee, and learn something about the world that doesn’t come through a browser window. If you do it, share with me the revelations that come as a result. Can we really call ourselves professional if we don’t read, watch and listen for the news in the “real” world rather than relying on the virtual, anytime, anywhere world of downloads and RSS feeds?


About catherinesweet
Academic, professional, communicator, stakeholder in a dozen different disguises

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