How to Manage Information Overload: 6 Ways Discovery Engines Help

Posted by Romain Goday on Dec 23, 2011 7:27:00 AM

how to manage information overload with content discovery enginesWho Suffers More From Information Overload?

For professionals who need to stay aware of new developments regarding their topics of interest in order to do their job, information overload is an increasingly serious problem.  While “information overload” has existed for years, it is becoming increasingly acute – the volume of information published on the Web now doubles every two years.  This growth will only continue and the difficulty of staying on top of the flow of information will only get worse.  In parallel, “information anxiety”, the fear that you are missing something terribly important, will trouble professionals who need to stay up-to-date on Web information in order to do their jobs.

Managing Information Overload With Discovery Engines

Content discovery engines provide advantages not available with other tools such as social networks, RSS readers, alerts, subscriptions, etc., and can help in better manage information overload. They:

  1. Follow topics, not people: Most of the information we consume today comes from who we follow online: journalists, bloggers, curators, experts, friends, and so on. Following people requires consciously filtering out irrelevant content. Subscribing to the feed of an expert in tech for example, will also mean that we will be flooded with irrelevant updates that belong to this person’s other areas of interest or personal life. This noise is becoming increasingly louder due to the ease of content sharing with social media and mobile technology. Content discovery engines help manage information overload because they are focused on topics, rather than people.
  1. Go directly to the Source and avoid distractions:  Discovery engines reduce the distractions experienced by the users. Social networks and publishing platforms are not a good place for information professionals to be productive. Such platforms want users to stay on their sites as long as possible. Their revenue depends on it. It is very challenging to have the discipline required to avoid the distractions fashioned by their marketing experts: attractive titles, utilization of heat maps, appealing images, calls to action, and so on.
  1. Monitor one channel instead of twenty-five: The focus on specific topics that characterizes discovery engines allows users to stay informed in one single place. An important aspect of information overload results from the need to remember and access a multitude of channels to monitor what has been published. Dealing with more channels increases the workload and the difficulty of information consumption.
  1. Discover the unexpected:  Discovery engines enable the discovery of the unexpected. This is very different from search, where the user is looking for a precise answer. Discovery is about being aware of what is happening in relation to a topic of interest during a given time frame. A discovery engine allows users to learn what they don’t know about a topic and observe events that, for them, are unexpected. 
  1. Benefit from others’ curation efforts:  Most content discovery engines engage users in the curation process. This can accelerate the identification of the most valuable content before having to read it. Insights can be gained on whether a piece of content is worth consuming based on a number of user-generated indicators such as tags, comments, ratings, summaries and so on.
  1. Reduce information anxiety: With RSS readers and social networks, it is very easy to loose sight of what is really important.  With a discovery engine, the broad scope of sources (news feeds, blogs, social media, etc.) combined with the presentation of information based upon emergence and importance, the gnawing sense that something critical has been missed is reduced.

There is no doubt that discovery engines are going to be responsible for a larger part of the information consumption process as the information overload problem continues to hamper the efforts by professionals to stay aware of what’s going on regarding their topics-of-interest. Managing information overload requires tools that deliver “awareness” of topics and filter out irrelevant information will become indispensable. The challenge is do to so without loosing the ability to make unexpected discoveries. Content discovery engines are addressing this need with a multitude of approaches. The market remains very fragmented but we can expect important players to emerge in the next few years.

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Related articles:

Managing Information Overload: 5 Reasons a Chief Content Officer Can Help

Content Curation: 5 Different Approaches

6 Traits of Highly Effective Discovery Engines

Content Curation: Why Detecting Emerging Patterns is Crucial

Search and Discovery: How They Complement Each Other

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Topics: Information Overload, Content Discovery