As a student in Journalism 101, I was required to read each day's New York Times cover to cover. The professor didn't have to tell us why; newspapers were still how most Americans got their news, and the Times was the unquestioned gold standard.
A month into the course, a guest lecturer came in from a local news outlet. He taught us about an exciting new medium called the weblog. Despite fancying ourselves relatively tech-savvy, my classmates and I hadn't even heard of blogs. No one in the room had a clue as to what role they'd play over the coming years.
No, I did not go to school in the roaring 20's. This was 2005, and in less than ten years the media landscape has drastically altered. When I was a freshman in college, newspapers were still profitable. LinkedIn was a year old and largely unknown outside of Silicon Valley. Facebook had just launched, and Twitter wouldn't be founded for another two years. I wrote my senior thesis on political blogs' role in the presidential nomination process. In sum: they didn't have much of one. Things are slightly different now.
We're in the middle of an information revolution; one that presents both challenges and opportunities.
Unlike our parents' generation, you can't get simply read the morning paper and call it a day. An astounding amount of information is readily available in multiple formats, and in advertising, it is crucial to craft and constantly re-think your content consumption strategy.
The professional necessity for such an approach is twofold: first, our industry makes money by partnering with information mediums. Whether you're on the "buy" or "sell" side of the business, it's impossible to recognize opportunities without being extremely familiar with how users consume content. You need to know the ins and outs of major and emerging platforms, and the best way to do this is by actually making them a part of your own information consumption habits.
Secondly, as the New York Times writer Thomas Friedman noted recently, today's professional can no longer ride their college or postgrad education for their entire career. Nor will your initial on-the-job training be sufficient for success. You're expected to know more areas of your field in greater depth. We're a knowledge-based economy. New technologies ensure that if you don't work hard at knowing more (about your clients or your industry) you'll be beaten by someone who does.
Because this landscape is constantly evolving, what you did last year doesn't necessarily work this year. Routines are great, but time is scarce. You need to maximize the efficiency of your content consumption. Consider: how do you learn best? What time of the day best suits you? What outlets give you the best info? Figure that out. Then, six months later, do it again.
But, unlike my existence as a Browns fan, it's not all doom and gloom. The opportunities for growth are incredible; we have the ability to learn more in our lifetimes than anyone could have imagined even twenty years ago.
For example: I only took one economics class in college. I loved it, but graduated soon after. I now listen to lectures, free of charge, from the same Stanford professor who authored one of the course's books. Commutes to work are made more pleasant by reading a digest of his blog posts. What could have been a flash in the pan is now something that adds tremendous value to my life.MOOC's (massive open online courses) provide opportunities to learn introductory and advanced classes from premier professors, helping you acquire or enhance career-advancing skills. Twitter puts you a click away from the opinion of top legal scholars. LinkedIn%u2019s Influencer program features, among other things, career advice from some of the world's top businesspeople.
In three years, the way we consume information will be different than it is today. Monitor this shifting landscape, adapt as necessary, and enjoy!
About the Author
Brian Ruddock is a New York-based account manager for LinkedIn's North America Marketing Solutions business. He provides strategic recommendations and daily support for a number of enterprise technology and telecommunications accounts, including IBM and Verizon. Prior to LinkedIn, Brian worked for an agency-focused Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team at Yahoo. Brian graduated from the University of Richmond in 2008 with a BA in Political Science.