Silly Stuff

Let me cap off a rough week with some passing thoughts on some items stacked up in my “to blog” file, beginning with a scholarly tidbit from London arguing that email distraction shaves 10 points off a person’s IQ, more than twice the damage inflicted by smoking cannabis. Thanks to MediaDailyNews for pointing me to a brief article on that says researchers at the University of London Institute of Psychiatry studied 1,100 volunteers to find out what made them goofier — the constant distraction of reading and answering emails, or going one toke over the line. Cyber-distraction purportedly trumped cannabis. “This constant shifting of concentration makes the brain more tired and less focused, and causes the temporary IQ fall-off,” wrote VNU reporter Iain Thompson. I did a quick search to find a second source on the study but found nothing. An item like this would be called a “brite” in the newspaper biz, a story meant to raise a smile rather than to inform. And if it sounds too silly to be true, well, it probably is. But why let facts stand in the way of a good story? Speaking of the newspaper biz, author Adam Penenberg recently wrote a piece for Wired News on the soul-searching going on at New York University, where he is an assistant journalism professor, about how to better prepare students for the media of the future. “In our classes, we discuss wikis and Wi-Fi, and invite bloggers and online reporters to share their experiences with us,” he writes. “We debate “citizen journalism” and journalistic ethics. We encourage creativity, but not at the expense of clarity.” New York University is also home to Jay Rosen, whose PressThink blog offers insightful commentary on new media. Did I day new media? Well, shame on me because, as Jim Meskauskas notes in a recent commentary for MediaPost’s Online Spin, Web-based media are no longer “new” at least in the sense of being weak or untried. He cited a survey which found that “the Internet had a daily reach of 51 percent” exceeding that of magazines, which “only had a daily reach among general audiences of 42 percent.” I looked for the original study but all I could find was a lengthier article in MediaWeek that added details. Now I don’t know whether I’m losing my search skills (probably distracted by answering emails) or organizations are forgetting that one of the newest things about new media is the ability to lead people to the complete and direct information. As long as I’m venting, let me take exception to a snarky comment in Paid Content noting that some “websites, especially consumer websites, are launching print magazines.” I’m miffed because I recently suggested that it made sense to pair print and online publications. So I felt miffed when Paid Content introduced its item by saying, “this thing (print offshoots of Web media) comes and goes in phases.” Of course, I was unaware of that this tactic had been tried and abandoned several times before until Paid Content pointed me to an article on the topic in MediaWeek. Is there anything more annoying than having to rethink a pet idea in the light of evidence to the contrary?

Tom Abate
Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media