William Patterson The News Issue - A VIP Editorial
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By William Patterson

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I now know what’s wrong with me, at least in one facet of my life (cue laughter). For several years I have noticed that I am losing my ability to focus on the written word. At work when someone presents me with a research report I immediately glaze over, rarely getting past the second page. At home I sometimes sit down to read a book and I find myself almost immediately distracted, quickly looking for an excuse to get up after I settle in my favourite chair. I can’t read the Sunday edition of the New York Times cover-to-cover anymore. I often just read the article summaries and pledge to read the rest later.

I actually did read a book recently (on my Nook no less). Well, I really just scanned it. It was Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows.” Carr, the former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, says the internet is doing some interesting things to our brains, essentially rewiring them, turning us into computers of sorts with the ability to take in huge amounts of data and information. According to Carr, we are no longer attuned to deep intellectual reading. We have been remapped in the mould of Frederick Winslow Taylor, who epitomised the Industrial Revolution by breaking down the tasks of factory workers into precise and efficient steps, thereby creating the science of industrial manufacturing. Digitised information has turned many of us into the ultimate in industrialists, our brains efficiently connected to the internet. It might explain the shallowness of my reading habits.

There is good news in all of this, because the marketplace under consideration for this edition, News and Business information sources, definitely lends itself to the quick-hit type of reading and retrieval that many information professionals (and our end users) are now used to. On the so-called “Big Two” front, Factiva and LexisNexis promote speed and efficiency, which have quickly become the legacy of the internet age. They allow us to take advantage of our rewired brains and become more productive as researchers, offering up easy-to-use interfaces that allow us to slice and dice information almost any way we would like to. And if the biggies aren’t enough for you, there are plenty of quality supplemental options emerging.

I work for an organisation that puts Factiva on the desktop for over 160,000 practitioners worldwide, which is something that fits my rewired brain perfectly. Heidi Longaberger’s review of Factiva.com highlights the work that Factiva has done to improve the “Cadillac” of news and business information delivery. They have simplified the interface and made it more intuitive, appealing to a generation of knowledge workers who are comfortable using web databases. They have also added some cool new tools like Factiva Snapshot, which is still in beta.

Not to be short-changed, the folks at LexisNexis have been busy as well. It is clear that, in launching NexisUK, LexisNexis is making statement on the importance of global solutions. Jan Knight’s thorough review of the product should get those of you in UK market excited.

While it is hard to imagine a world without the Big Two, it is healthy to have competition and the introduction of new alternative news sources do just that. The number of choices today for news sources can be absolutely mind boggling, and it is fair to say that there in an option for just about every searcher out there. Penny Crossland’s review of alternative news sources points out just that and offers some interesting choices.

William Patterson

Bill is currently the Operations Leader for PwC’s Research & Analysis (R&A) team. The R&A team of sector-aligned analysts focuses on helping PwC win work, create differentiation, and drive informed decision-making.

This editorial appears in VIP Magazine No. 96, November 2011. Purchase online >>

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