It seems a day doesn't pass without hearing about another newspaper or periodical having financial troubles or going under. Clearly, it's not that there's a shortage of news (and please, if I hear about Ashton Kutcher and his Tweets one more time, well, I don't know what I'll do).
What's happening isn't a decline in the news, but a revolution in how information is being disseminated. Keeping up with information, whether it's about the meetings industry, your company's market segment, or world events, has become both easier (because of the number of online sources) and more difficult (which one or two…or 100 or 200 sources does one turn to?).
So let's take a look some cool resources for managing the flood of online news.
This conversation can't take place without a review of RSS, or Really Simple Syndication. It is the Web's delivery service. Newspapers, blogs, hotels, meetings organizations — everyone can create a news feed on their Web site to which individuals can subscribe. If you want a great, quick tutorial about RSS, check out a Web site called Common Craft, which has created short videos to help people understand it: www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english. If you see the square orange RSS logo with white curved lines in the URL (or anywhere on the page), you know there's a subscription waiting to happen.
If you want to see RSS in action, look no further than the most prolific news site in existence. Google News searches more than 25,000 news sites and posts the headlines in a format that is continuously updated. Not only that, it is customizable. (Want to follow any topic? Just set up a personalized section.) And it's searchable — it is Google after all.
While you're on the Google News site, click on the News Alerts link on the left side of the page. This feature allows you to create an alert, sent either to your e-mail or your own RSS reader (more on that in a sec), for news on any search terms you choose. Looking for information about a client, or about a competitor? Google Alert is your tool.
Now, about collecting all this cool information: You will be best served using an RSS reader to bring it all together. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of options, but to keep it simple, try iGoogle, one of Google's RSS readers. You'll need to establish a Gmail account, but once you do, you can take the feeds to which you are subscribing, and create your own home page to receive them all. If you're a purist, and still want your news to look like a newspaper (or at least a magazine), there's a cool tool called Tabbloid. Set up an account (it's free), select your favorite feeds, and every day you'll receive a PDF file with your feeds in a format that looks just like a magazine. Pretty slick. It dawned on me that if your organization creates a feed (and it should) or even has a few blogs, how about creating one for your organization's news, and then let your members link to it and download it from your Web site?
If you tend to be a bit geekier, check out Amazon's wireless reading device, Kindle. You can use a service such as Kindlefeeder to combine your favorite feeds and have them sent to your Kindle in an easy-to-read format.
Any discussion about the Web wouldn't be complete without a Web 2.0 tool to consider. The leader in this area is Digg. All of the stories on Digg are posted and voted upon by the community. While you might not get the stories that you'd see on the first page of a traditional paper, you'll see how the community is driving the important stories.
Take a look at these tools, and you'll clearly have your news fix. Oh yeah — you can still go to that famous paper, the New York Days, um no, the New York Sometimes, no, that's not it either. Better just go and feed or Digg those stories that you're looking to read.
James Spellos, CMP, is founder and president of Meeting U., a New York-based company that provides training and consulting to meeting professionals. He also is a frequent speaker on technology at meeting industry conferences. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.