Every day, the editorial staff at the UK wonders: What are we writing about, why are we writing about it, and how are we writing about it? A weekly look behind the scenes.
I was surfing the ‘net during some downtime recently when I stumbled upon the following phrase: ‘The twentieth century will go down in history as not just the century of excessive violence, but also the century of the information explosion.’
I found this on the Volkskrant website, dated 6 March 1998. That is a little over 19 years ago, and that particular newspaper hadn’t been online for very long at that point.
‘Information explosion’: Today’s news consumer probably finds that notion amusing, because a lot has happened in terms of information in the past two decades. The explosion happened again, and again, and again.
Back then, email already existed, to name just one example. But we didn’t get the amount that currently clogs up our inboxes: The average Dutch person receives approximately 80 emails a week – not including babies, toddlers, and other people who don’t actually have an account. And in 1998, no one had ever heard of Facebook (launched in 2004), Twitter (2006), or Instagram (2010). They had that to look forward to. And much more.
Consider this: In 2017, the average weekly newspaper contains more information than the average person in the 17th century absorbed in their entire life.
This is a staggering piece of information. It shows how many stimuli and how much information we (are forced to) take in every single day, while our brains probably haven’t evolved all that much over the past few centuries. We are inundated with information; everyone wants to get everyone else’s attention.
It can be pretty exhausting. For me, too.
So it’s no surprise that today’s news consumer doesn’t really read the news from beginning to end. Rather, they ‘scan’ it.
A modern reader scans headlines, looks at photos and reads captions, summaries, leads, and intros, and only then decides what is relevant, interesting or newsworthy. Or not. I too am constantly looking for a pleasant (read: lazy) way to be seduced.
The UK also offers this takeaway menu. We do this in the form of a widget in My University (see picture below). It shows the headlines and the summaries: all the RUG news at a glance.
What’s a little awkward is that every My University user has to manually install the UK widget. But once that very simple task is done, the most important UK news concerning the RUG and higher education will come to you. Are you interested in a subject? Give it a click! Does it fail to get your attention? Then by all means, don’t click.
Call it the takeaway UK.
Rob Siebelink, editor-in-chief